First Financial Bancorp in Cincinnati has launched a new division to cater to the growing demand for specialty business banking.

The $6.5 billion-asset company announced Wednesday it has named Brad Ringwald as president of the newly created First Financial Business Capital division.

Ringwald, who has been a commercial banker for 18 years, joined First Financial in 2006. He previously launched and led First Financial Equipment Finance, the bank's first specialty financing division.

First Financial Business Capital was created to accommodate the significant growth in demand for specialty financing during the past few years. The division is focused on cash flow and asset-based loans to lower-middle market companies — those with revenue between $10 million and $75 million — throughout the Midwest, Ringwald said in an email.

"Our end of period loan balances in specialty banking increased 87% from 2012 to 2013, and through the second quarter in 2014 are up 25% on an annualized basis," Ringwald said.

The company has been expanding its specialty product offering this year by "adding experienced leadership for both specialty lines of business and creating infrastructure for scalability," Ringwald said. Those efforts should allow First Financial to do business across the Midwest.

The bank's specialty financing leadership also includes newly appointed directors Steve Fields and Stephen Wood. Fields has more than 30 years of experience in asset-based and cash-flow lending to midsize firms. Most recently he headed business development for commercial finance firm Alliance Business Lending, but spent most of his career at U.S. Bancorp. Wood, previously a commercial real estate credit officer with the bank who has 35 years of banking experience, is now director of First Financial Equipment Finance.

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