Cincinnati’s Provident Bank, which has been on a hiring spree for its Sarasota, Fla., private client group in recent months, sees the whole state as its market, according to its latest hire.

“Provident is serious about this unit. They impressed me with the places they were hiring from and how serious they are about growing their wealthy client base,” said Maureen Hurst Woodward, who came to the Provident Financial Group Inc. unit last week from PNC Bank in Pittsburgh.

“Florida has a very strong high-net-worth community, and it is a matter of catching them and impressing them with what we have to offer,” Ms. Woodward said. “We are really looking to build a team of financial advisers in Florida. We have the expertise here to cultivate a strong high-net-worth customer base.

“We intend to start in the Sarasota area and extend throughout Florida.”

Ms. Woodward, 48, has worked in the financial industry for 26 years, the last seven as a PNC executive vice president focused on marketing to the wealthy. She was attracted to Provident because of its strong private-banking growth strategy.

Ms. Woodward was the third new person to join the private client group in the past two months. Provident began beefing up its Florida private banking group in October when it hired two Wachovia Corp. veterans, W. David McShane as senior vice president and managing director of the private client group and Shane Williams as a vice president.

Mr. McShane has 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He spent the past nine years as an executive vice president for Wachovia Bank. Mr. Williams has 12 years’ experience and spent the past five years at Wachovia.

Ms. Woodward said that strong people like Mr. McShane and Mr. Williams give the unit a solid foundation for growth.

Provident Bank has $19.2 billion of assets under management. The Sarasota private bank operations were established in 1997, when Provident acquired South Hillsborough Community Bank and Enterprise National Bank. Provident has branches in Manatee and Hillsborough counties that offer commercial and retail lending as well as trust and savings products and services.

“We have what people in this area want, and that is a local presence. Our clients are retired individuals who want strong private client services, but more important, they want to be able to look across the desk at an adviser,” she said. “A face-to-face encounter provides a comfort level that an ‘800’ number cannot.”

The private client group offers custom credit and mortgage services as well as investment management, personal trust, and estate-planning services.

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