Three months after signing on, Kenneth R. Griffith is making an impact at Star Banc Corp.

The president of Star Banc Finance Inc., a consumer finance subsidiary of Star Banc Corp., Cincinnati, has been making headway into the competitive Midwest market for loans to borrowers with less-than-stellar credit histories.

Launched April 1, the new unit already has $12 million in outstandings - and has not yet introduced most of its products.

"I don't see us niching solely in one area," Mr. Griffith said. "We have tried to position ourselves between the banks and traditional finance companies both in rate and credit standards."

He said Star would aim for borrowers with B-minus to C-plus credit ratings.

Mr. Griffith, who likes to be called Randy, joined Star from Security Pacific Financial Services Inc., the subsidiary of BancAmerica Corp., in March. He had been an executive vice president of national operations at Security Pacific.

Star is now making loans on new and used cars to borrowers with tainted credit histories. An unsecured personal loan product was introduced a couple of weeks ago. Home equity loans, home improvement loans, and additional personal loans will be launched next month.

Analysts are generally high on Star Banc. Anthony R. Lombardi, with Dean Witter Reynolds in New York, said the new finance company was yet another means of increasing the already profitable bank's earnings - with much lighter regulatory handcuffs.

Star Banc's holding company is the nation's 65th-largest consumer lender. At the end of last year it held $2.9 billion of consumer loans, a 16.2% increase since 1993.

But consumer loans are making up less of a percentage of its total loans. Its store of home equity lines of credit fell 3% last year to $154 million.

But the new consumer finance unit faces tough competition, especially in Ohio. Banc One Corp., Columbus, Ohio, and Keycorp, headquartered in Cleveland, are among the 10 largest bank holding companies in consumer lending.

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