When Louisville-based Republic Bancorp (NASDAQ: RBCAA) decided in 2006 to expand beyond its Louisville and Lexington base into the Northern Kentucky market, it did so the old fashioned way, says Thomas R. Saelinger, Republic’s market president for Northern Kentucky.

“We grew account by account, customer by customer,” says Saelinger. “We didn’t buy a bank or buy anyone’s problems. Historically, we’ve grown organically and been pretty conservative.”

Republic’s Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati operation now has $55 million in deposits with more than $100 million in asset loans with four branches in Blue Ash, Independence, Covington and Florence. Overall, Republic, founded in 1982, has more than $3 billion in assets with 40 offices.

Bank Director magazine has ranked Republic the best run bank of all 484 publicly traded banks in the U.S. It has been in the top 10 for the last several years. The position is based on financial measures ranking the profitability of Republic. Its core return on tangible common equity is 21.79 percent while its ratio of average tangible common equity to tangible assets was 11.34 percent. The median for its competitors is 3.94 and 7.97 percent, respectively.

Stick to Basics

Saelinger says those numbers are driven by Republic’s culture.

“In the past, while some other regional banks leveraged themselves with acquisitions or became involved in derivatives, we stuck to the basics of banking — growing deposits and making quality loans.”

Saelinger says the numbers reflect how Republic treats its clients. He quoted his boss, Republic President and CEO Steve Trager who said in a recent publication, “I think it’s all about humility, being nice to people and treating people right. It’s making sure that we are accessible and work hard, and we do. We treat people right, and that includes our customers, our associates and the communities that we serve.”

Saelinger says that means sticking to simple things.

Listen to Customers

“It sounds simple, but we return phone calls, we make credit decisions in a timely manner, we know clients by name as they walk in the door,” he says. “We treat our people right and treat clients right.”

“We listen to our customers. Some banks have lost that personal touch.”

That extends to the decision to hire Saelinger. Saelinger wasn’t brought in from Louisville, but was hired because of his knowledge of the area. He has spent 20 years in banking positions with other firms. He grew up in Cold Spring, earned a BA and MBA from Xavier University and lives in Villa Hills.

He is a board member with the Northern Kentucky University Foundation and is the District Chair for the Northern Kentucky Boy Scouts.

“It sounds simple but we return phone calls, we make credit decisions in a timely manner, we know clients by name as they walk in the door. We treat our people right and treat clients right.”