First Financial Bank isn’t Cincinnati’s largest bank—or its smallest—and that’s fine with Paul Silva, the bank’s president of the Greater Cincinnati-Kentucky region.

“Our goal is to keep the feel of being a community bank, and add all the products that large banks offer,” says Silva, who was picked to lead the bank’s area commercial, retail and wealth management operations last fall.

“I think we’ve positioned ourselves in this market where we are unique,” he says.

A Sharonville native who joined First Financial in 2010 after serving as president of Merchants Bank & Trust, Silva’s promotion coincided with First Financial adopting a more market-driven approach—focusing not just on commercial lending but wealth management and retail banking as well.

First Financial customers spurred the change, Silva says.

“They wanted one contact at the bank who could introduce all the products and speak about them,” he says. “It’s working very well.”

First Financial, which has about 40 offices in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, has also tweaked several of its services. They include:

- A re-energized business-leasing program with new features. “It’s a good lead product when we call on small and medium-sized businesses, if they have equipment needs,” Silva says.

- An enhanced SBA loan guarantee program with a specialist who focuses on those types of loans.

- Additional cash flow and asset-based lending products in its structured financing unit.

Although his job involves a certain amount of paperwork, Silva says he spends most of his day out calling on clients. It’s an aspect of his job that he loves.

“It gives us an edge to have the president of the region come meet with clients,” he says. “It tells the client they are important to us. Not every bank in the region can do that.”

He says the approach is paying off in customer awareness. “Now when we walk in people say: ‘Yeah, I’ve heard of you guys. I know you’re different.’”

And because he is the market president, he can often give customers a decision on the spot.

“That expedites getting things done and that sends a message to the client that they are at the center of what we do,” he says. “It’s easy to say but more difficult to execute and we’re good at executing.”

Silva graduated from Moeller High School and Mount St. Joseph College and earned an MBA from Xavier University.

He got into banking through a co-op position at the former First National Bank of Cincinnati while at Mount St. Joseph.

“Banking is unique. In whatever skill set you have, there’s something in banking. If you’re an analytical person, you could work in the credit department. Or if you like sales, you could be in a new business role or retail banking. There is something for everyone in banking.”

Silva remains active at Mount St. Joseph, serving on the advisory board of its business school and serving as adjunct professor, teaching a couple of night classes in the business program.

“I started out doing it for fun, but it’s a lot more work than I thought. But I enjoy it,” he says.