Heartland Financial in Dubuque, Iowa, has split the positions of president and chief executive, the company announced Wednesday.

The $5.9 billion-asset Heartland recruited Bruce Lee, the former chief credit officer at Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati, to serve as president. His appointment takes effect on Jan. 2.

Lee held several leadership roles during his 12-year career at the $132 billion-asset Fifth Third, including overseeing the company's special assets group during the financial crisis. He also previously served as an executive vice president at the $1.1 billion-asset Capital Bank in Sylvania, Ohio, which was acquired by Fifth Third in 2001.

Lynn Fuller will remain as Heartland's chairman and CEO.

Fuller said that the company needs to beef up its management team as it continues to expand. Heartland, a multibank holding company, has acquired four banks in the last two years and it recently announced that it was buying the $520 million-asset Community Banc-Corp. of Sheboygan in Wisconsin for $52 million.

"As Heartland continues its steady growth in assets toward $10 billion and beyond, we recognize the need to add management talent," Fuller said in a press release Wednesday. "Bruce brings experience in managing the most important functions of a regional bank holding company, along with community banking experience."

Heartland has 76 branches in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

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