Beginning Tuesday, FirstMerit Bank is now Huntington National Bank.
The $3.4 billion stock and cash acquisition of Akron-based FirstMerit received its final federal approval and the bank said it has closed the deal.
The banks are now operating as one company.
In Akron, it is unclear how many FirstMerit employees will be working for Huntington or have received notices that their jobs in the downtown Akron FirstMerit headquarters have been eliminated. An undisclosed number of employees at both companies began receiving both job offers and layoff notices two weeks ago. Bank officials said they would not be disclosing specific numbers and said because affected employees will be eligible to apply for new positions, it was difficult to say how many would be affected.
Huntington officials have said that no branch employees for either bank would lose their jobs. The downtown Akron former FirstMerit headquarters has mostly executive, administrative and back-office positions.
In the merger agreement, Huntington officials promised that the employment number within Akron city limits, including branches, would equal 1,200 employees within two years — the same number of employees at the time of the deal. Akron would also gain a call center or operations center as part of the merger agreement.
In a phone interview, Huntington Chief Executive Officer Stephen Steinour said the net loss of jobs in Akron in the next 90 days is “in the dozens,” but depending on how many people decide to apply for or get other Huntington positions, long term, a worst-case scenario could be job losses in the hundreds in the Akron area because some job eliminations are not until later this year or beyond.
However, Steinour also revealed for the first time that it is Huntington’s goal to beat the Akron employment promise number by the end of next year — a year earlier than originally stated.
“We will beat that specific goal for sure sometime next year, but in addition to that goal and something we don’t have a commitment for — but I’m telling you to help the community understand — we will have more than 1,200 jobs in Akron as we go into 2018,” Steinour said.
Additionally, today begins the first phase of a new call center on one floor of the shorter of the two downtown Akron buildings, Steinour said.
“The call center will ultimately move to the operations center [on Opportunity Parkway], but the operations center is full today,” he said. “We will start transitioning people who would take these jobs versus leave the company.”
“We are trying to do everything we can to mitigate turnover,” he said.
Steinour said he did not have a total number of jobs for the call center once it is fully staffed and said it would come in phases. Small FirstMerit call centers in Akron and Flint, Mich., will remain and the new jobs are coming from two other Huntington phone bank sites, one in Columbus and one in another location that Steinour declined to disclose.
Akron will become a regional headquarters and Nick Browning, who served as FirstMerit regional president, will become Huntington’s Akron regional president. Paperwork has also been filed to start up a Huntington Foundation for Akron, with $2 million a year for 10 years to boost the local community, as outlined in the merger agreement.
“There’s a lot we hope to benefit Akron with as a consequence of that foundation,” Steinour said.
Steinour said Akron is important to Huntington.
“We are making a very substantial commitment to the community and to our combined customers in Akron. The $20 million [foundation money] is indicative of it. We expect to have more than 1,200 employees in Akron to reflect the commitment and the belief that Akron is an important part of our future going forward,” he said.
Huntington’s acquisition of FirstMerit grows the company to approximately $100 billion in assets.
It makes it the largest bank in Ohio by deposits, with nearly 1,000 branches across Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
FirstMerit CEO Paul Greig will retire and serve as a consultant for the bank for three years.
The bank said both Huntington and FirstMerit customer relationships will continue as business as usual through the remainder of the year. Customers will be informed about pending branch closures and consolidations and account conversions in 2017. Branch consolidations and closures are not expected until early 2017.
The bank previously announced that it was proposing to close 107 Huntington and FirstMerit branches in five states as part of the merger — including 20 in the Akron area.
In order to gain federal approval, FirstMerit also sold 13 branches in Stark and Ashtabula counties to First Commonwealth Financial.
Huntington spokesman Brent Wilder said Huntington branch merchandise will go up immediately and FirstMerit signage outside buildings will convert in the fall to new Huntington signs, which will remain covered up until the branches convert early next year.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty