Keep the Customer at the Center

Life is filled with financial decisions and opportunities, big and small. No one wants to feel that they’ve fallen behind; no one wants to feel strapped or trapped. The more individuals, families and small businesses are empowered and financially healthy, the more our communities thrive.

Improving Lives of Consumers

We are committed to providing better financial solutions for all the people we serve. To improve lives, we are constantly listening, searching and discovering new ways to make a difference. When we innovate on our customers’ behalf, the result is products like the Fifth Third Momentum™ app to help with student loan debt, and our Down Payment Assistance Program, which makes achieving homeownership possible.

Easing the Burden of Student Debt

The Fifth Third Momentum app, launched in 2017, enables customers to round up their debit card purchases to help pay down their student loans. Through December 2018, Fifth Third Momentum already had helped customers pay down $1.6 million in debt. We developed the program and its innovative app because student debt is such a signifcant hurdle for millennials. A 2018 report on Student Loan Hero stated that the average debt for a 2017 graduate was $39,400, an amount that increased 6 percent from the prior year1.

Additionally, we joined forces in 2018 with CommonBond to help customers pay down their student loans through innovative refinancing solutions. CommonBond is known for its advanced technology, competitive rates and award-winning customer service. It also has a one-for-one social mission: For every loan funded through CommonBond, the company also funds the education of a child in need.

“We are thrilled to team up with Fifth Third to offer CommonBond student loan refinancing to Fifth Third customers,” said David Klein, CEO and co-founder of CommonBond. “We are combining the best of financial technology and banking to make personal finance better for consumers. Both companies value delivering great financial products to customers, building long-lasting brands that matter, and having outsized impact on communities across the U.S.”

Special Feature

Fifth Third Pays off Nurse's $185k Student Loan

We surprised a Chicago nurse in December 2018 by paying of her $185,000 student loan. “I never imagined a life without student loan debt,” said Jasmin Ford, who works six days a week, often double shifts of 16 hours a day, and juggles childcare for her son, Caleb. “I just presumed monthly payments for a lifetime. Now, thanks to Fifth Third, I can put those payments into college savings for my son so he won’t have to go into debt like I did.”

Jasmine is the first in her family to go to college. She earned her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2015 and works in the psychiatric department of a Chicago-area hospital.

“Jasmin’s story exemplifes the choice many Americans face when they strive to build a better life for themselves and their families through higher education,” said Mike Crawford, who led the Bank’s research of millennials and their fnancial needs. “We recognize that for many people the only available path to a fulflling career with a promising future includes being saddled with debt. This is a woman who chose to lift herself out of poverty in a career dedicated to helping others.”

That’s why we launched the Fifth Third Momentum app: to help customers pay down their student loan balances faster. By helping address that issue, we know that we can have a profound and lasting effect on communities and the economy.

Jasmin Ford and Mike Crawford

Making Homeownership a Reality

When we made our Community Commitment, we pledged to facilitate homeownership for low- and moderate-income individuals and within low- and moderate-income communities. Our down payment assistance program (DPA)* grew out of that mission, and in 2018, we reached the milestone of $5 million in assistance provided throughout our 10-state geographic footprint.

Our DPA program ofers 3 percent of the purchase price in down payment assistance, up to $3,600 for low-income borrowers or those purchasing in a designated low-income area and fnanced through us. The program may be combined with state and local programs to help consumers take advantage of grants and other resources for their home purchase.

Mortgage Loan Originator Carrie Johnson, who works in our Central Ohio market based in Columbus, understands the key role we play in helping customers make the important decision to become a frst-time homeowner. “I had a customer who intended to take a loan from his 401(k) plan to purchase his frst home,” Carrie said. “After we met, I noted that the home he wanted to purchase was located in a low-income census tract, which qualifed him for our DPA program. My customer was extremely happy that he didn’t have to tap into his 401(k) to achieve homeownership. And, our DPA program combined with other programs, meant he didn’t have to bring any funds to the closing table. It’s a wonderful feeling to have the resources and programs available that can help people accomplish their goals.”

Employees volunteering at eBuses in Columbus

Fifth Third often brings homeownership training to communities via its eBuses. Here, Central Ohio’s Melissa Blount-Garner (center) stands alongside other employee volunteers working on the bus during the National Urban League Conference in Columbus.

Building Wealth for the Future

Financial education can make a lasting impact on the lives we touch. We are dedicated to improving financial wellness at all stages of the life cycle. We equip individuals with the skills they need through our Fifth Third L.I.F.E. (Lives Improved through Financial Empowerment®) programs. Offered throughout our Consumer Bank footprint, our employee volunteers, trained educators and community organizations collaborate to create financial stability in neighborhoods one session at a time.

Building a Bright Future

Our newest LIFE program, Fifth Third Finance Academy, was first offered to high school juniors during the 2017-2018 school year. Finance Academy includes courses on financial education and entrepreneurship and was delivered to nearly 150,000 students. Pre- and post-course testing data showed an average 74 percent gain in knowledge in topics like saving, banking, owning versus renting and insurance.

Fifth Third Young Bankers Club® is a L.I.F.E. program we offer at no cost in the communities we serve. Since 2004, our employee teachers have educated kids in fifth-grade classrooms to establish good fnancial habits at the outset. In 2018, we were proud to graduate over 3,000 students from our program. Other LIFE programs include Fifth Third Empower U®, our adult financial education curriculum; SmartPath, a collaboration with the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, for grades 1-6 in Ohio, Michigan and Florida; and our Next Job workforce solution program.

In addition to our L.I.F.E. programs, we build financial wellness in our communities through our offerings of free workshops that help adults and families with money-related matters. We collaborate with local organizations to educate the community about homeownership, identity protection, college education savings and financing, and estate and retirement planning. We also use our Fifth Third Financial Empowerment Mobiles, or eBuses, to drive directly into neighborhoods and offer individual, personalized assistance like credit counseling, job search training and tax preparation.

"I dream of becoming a successful African-American entrepreneur. With the help of Finance Academy, I have learned the importance of a budget and how I should start one. Finance Academy has also furthered my understanding of banks and how they work. Additionally, this will help me manage my money when I get older and start pursuing my dreams as an entrepreneur."

— Kiara Fuller, Student
Finance Academy, Illinois

finance academy logo

financial empower ebus logo

Young Bankers Logo

EmpowerU Logo

Special Feature

Helping Customers During Tax Season

customers helped at an eBus event

For consumers with little to no access to banking services, it can be hard to find help with tax return preparation. That’s why our bankers collaborated with local organizations across our footprint to deliver Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Our employees conducted free tax services in financial centers, on board our fnancial empowerment mobiles (eBuses) and at national tax preparation centers in underserved communities.

The VITA program ofers free tax help to those who make $54,000 or less per year and need support in preparing their tax returns. Volunteers are certifed by the Internal Revenue Service and provide free income tax return preparation with electronic fling to those who meet the criteria. Volunteers also help community members receive special tax credits for which they qualify.

In North Carolina, an event we held with the Urban League resulted in an average tax refund of $1,482.“ The Fifth Third eBus was a great resource for clients of the Urban League of the Central Carolinas,” said Teddy McDaniel, Urban League president and CEO. “The Fifth Third team was very thorough with one-on-one counseling, advising and tax preparation assistance. The eBus served as an excellent enhancement to our financial education series for clients on the path to economic self-suffciency. We look forward to the eBus returning in the near future.”

In Tennessee, we worked with the AARP Donelson Senior Center to provide tax preparation services, one-on-one financial counseling and credit report reviews for seniors. Regional President Mickey McKay was on hand with employees Tracee Smith, community and economic development manager, Tammy Elizer, mortgage sales assistant, and winner of a random drawing, Joyce Skaggs (see photo). Other events in the region, such as one called Operation Stand Down, focused on veterans for assistance.

Finally, in our Central Ohio region, we hosted an event on the eBus in collaboration with the United Way. Called the Super Saturday United Way VITA event, it enabled over 140 community members to get help with their taxes. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther stopped in to show his support.

Making a Difference

Our executive leadership and employees also serve on boards and as volunteers to ensure that our investments are improving lives in the communities we serve and bettering neighborhoods as a whole. In 2018, our employees volunteered over 142,583 hours in the community.

Additionally, we work to make a diference during times of crisis. In 2018, the Fifth Third Foundation made a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

“I have seen first-hand the destruction caused by Hurricane Florence,” said Stephanie Byrd, CEO of the American Red Cross of Cincinnati. “With their gift, Fifth Third helped restore hope and give much-needed relief to the residents of North Carolina and South Carolina.”

We also are able to mobilize our resources quickly when disaster strikes and to get involved in relief efforts. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, for example, several of our financial centers in North Carolina served as collection points for community donations of supplies and items, including bottled water, bleach, mops, diapers, paper products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, baby supplies and non-perishable foods.

Special Feature

Fifth Third Day Babies Receive Financial Gifts

Monica Arellano and her new baby

When Gianna Rose entered the world May 3, she was greeted by her adoring family, including her 6-year-old sister. That was enough for her mom to say it was one of the best days ever. Later that day, Fifth Third gave the Chicago mom a gift card for $1,053 to start a college savings account for her new daughter.

“She is my lucky baby,” Monica Arellano said. “What a wonderful surprise.”

For us, it’s one more way we celebrate Fifth Third Day—May 3 or 5/3. We want to give back to our community—and promote savings from the earliest of ages. We partnered with 20 hospitals in Chicago to give new babies a gift card worth $1,053 to open a 529 account. We also gave the babies gift boxes that included a book about saving, a piggy bank, an abacus and a Born on Fifth Third Day onesie. The Fifth Third Day Babies program began last year in Cincinnati.

For babies born in 2018, the average estimated cost for four years of college tuition is from $300,000 to $600,000. We know this can be overwhelming for new parents and this was one way we could get them started saving right away,” said Eric Smith, Fifth Third Chicago Region President.

CARE and Responsible Banking

Care. It’s a word that denotes empathy and concern for other people, and that’s what made it a perfect acronym for a new customer experience initiative led by Fifth Third’s Chief Administrative Officer Teresa Tanner. The initiative is rooted in our commitment to keep our customers at the center of everything we do. No matter the type of interaction—in person, on the phone, online—we want to give customers an experience that’s a Fifth Third Better®, an experience that shows we care.

CARE for everyday customer service stands for Curious, Accountable, Respectful and Empathetic. It’s a model for how employees resolve to treat people inside and outside of our organization. Since its ofcial launch last spring within the Operations division, employees have enthusiastically worked to put it into action.

Jordan, a branch support specialist in our Operations Center, exemplifed CARE while working as financial center customer service representative. He had a regular customer with a hearing impairment who would communicate by writing down the transactions he wanted. On some occasions, completing the transactions was diffcult because the pair couldn’t easily engage for questions and answers. Jordan took it upon himself to learn American Sign Language during his of hours. The face of his customer lit up at their next transaction, pleased with their new ability to communicate. Jordan had exemplifed the CARE model by respecting and acknowledging his customer. 

A new email service for employees called WeCare also grew out of the CARE movement. The service, launched company wide at the end of 2018, acknowledges that employees are approached frequently while of duty with questions about Bank processes or policies, or about customer issues. Friends, neighbors and others may not realize that the employee they’re asking does not have the answer they’re seeking: they just know the person works at Fifth Third. The new service allows the employee to help, even if the question lies outside the area of his or her expertise. WeCare invites employees to contact a special customer care team that will follow up and employ the CARE model to resolve any issues. The email service also enables employees to pass along compliments or notes of positive feedback. WeCare is a customer concierge hotline for employees to use when they want to help, but don’t know exactly where to turn.

Being customer-centric is at the heart of our commitment to responsible banking. It’s the commitment we make to consumers to deliver bestin-class fnancial products and services, and to provide access to those services whenever and wherever consumers want them. We are responsible for ensuring that our complete product and service suite is accessible to all consumers, in all markets, and that we’re offering the right types of responsive products and services. We always will strive to act in the best interest of consumers by providing reasonably priced products, defining clear terms and disclosures and offering fair and consistent service. By doing so, we can build lasting customer relationships and meet our responsibility to help them prosper. 



Curious: Take time to understand the customer's true needs.


Accountable: Own what
you do and say.


Respectful: Respect the person and the situation.


Empathetic: Show compassion and relate to the person's thoughts and feelings.

Special Feature

Financing an Olympian's Dreams

Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu was the youngest person to win Olympic gold with her teammates at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Dominique has been involved in gymnastics for over 30 years as a gymnast, coach, clinician, choreographer, mentor, camp owner and director. She has always wanted to open a gymnastics center to inspire children. In 2018, Dominique’s dream came true, thanks in large part to Fifth Third Small Business Community Lender Mary Santora.

“I wanted to do whatever it took to help this Olympic gymnast fulfll her lifelong dream of opening of gymnastics center,” Mary said. That’s why she enlisted the help of Fifth Third’s Business Banking Relationship Manager Greg Turk. Together, Mary and Greg got to work with Dominique and their internal partners, and Dominique’s facility opened in Medina, Ohio, last summer.

The facility ofers summer gymnastics camps for children, ages 6-18, and yoga for adults. Parents are able to take yoga while their children hone their gymnastics skills. Dominique works to develop the recreational aspect of the sport before connecting students with an appropriate competitive program.

The Fifth Third team was able to provide an SBA 7(a) loan for the purchase of the building and improvements, an SBA (7a) for equipment fnancing and a home equity line of credit.

Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu

Photo credit: Eileen Young

Building Better Businesses

Small businesses are the lifeblood of economically vibrant and healthy communities. As they employ residents and supply products and services to meet the needs of our communities, we work hard to ensure the business environment is ripe for their success. We also are committed to entrepreneurs; to providing the training and technical support they need to start and grow their businesses.

Small Business Lending and Technical Assistance

Fifth Third is a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lender. In 2018, our SBA lending was $113.6 million. SBA loans offer many benefits for small businesses, including fixed and variable interest rates with flexible terms, the ability to finance loan closing costs and lower down payments on commercial real estate.

We offer many types of SBA lending options, including SBA Express Loans, which feature simpler application processes and faster approval than 7(a) general purposes loans.

Last year, Chicago Business Banker Betsy Brace saw her commitment to two clients turn into a groundbreaking ceremony for a new healthcare business called Lake Immediate Care and Clinic, a medical practice that combines both primary and urgent care. The clinic is run by Dr. Ebere Ibe and Dr. Ebirim Reginald.

The doctors were referred to Brace three years ago by the Island Lake Financial Center. During the initial phone call, Betsy learned of the doctors’ intent to purchase land and build a medical center to meet the needs of the community, which, at the time, didn’t have a primary care services provider.

Betsy assembled a cross-functional team of internal colleagues to listen and develop a road map to see the doctors through the purchase of the land, construction of their building and the start-up of their business. She helped facilitate a SBA 504 loan for real estate construction as well as equipment financing, a line of credit, depository and treasury management services. Although the process was long and often complex, Betsy said it’s why she loves her job.

“This medical facility was a goal for the doctors and it serves a community of 8,000 people,” she said. “It’s one of the few that will serve any individual regardless of insurance, and it combines urgent and primary care, which means a patient can be seen for an emergency and then receive care for the rest of their life.”

Brace expects to be there for Drs. Ibe and Reginald for the long-term. “My passion for their business means that I was there to pick up the phone when they first called; when we put the shovel in the dirt for the groundbreaking with the village; when the architect came to figure out where the doors could go. I was there when the contractor couldn’t find a place for the sewer and we worked it out together. I was there when the florist came to plant the flowers. I was there to make sure the x-ray equipment got into the right place.”

Fifth Third Execs visit small business owner in Chicago

Fifth Third Regional President Eric Smith, Head of Business Banking Kala Gibson, and Civic Engagement Banking Executive Francia Harrington visit with a small business owner in Chicago.

As part of our commitment to the community, the role of small business community lender was created to focus on building relationships and providing resources to small entrepreneurs that often face trouble with access to capital. The Fifth Third team members in these roles assist small business owners and emerging entrepreneurs in achieving their financial goals by providing smart financial solutions for both personal and business needs.

“The Small Business Community Lending team is a critical component of our outreach to underserved or under-banked small business owners in our communities,” said Kala Gibson, head of Business Banking. “And we support them through a variety of innovative programs and partnerships so that they have the tools they need to keep their customers at the center of everything they do.”

Expanding Economic Opportunities

In 2018, we continued our signifcant support of funds created to boost access to capital for small businesses. We have supported Entrepreneurs of Color Funds in both Detroit and Chicago, and last year, we were a founding partner in the creation of the Cincinnati Access Fund, which was designed to provide capital to small, minority- and women-owned businesses. We provided its initial capital of $1.2 million. We also underwrote the specialized technical services available through the Cincinnati Access Fund, something we do through our own programs and initiatives as well as through collaborations with other nonproft organizations.

Community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, share a common goal of expanding economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for residents and businesses. We have significantly invested with CDFIs to boost small business growth in underserved communities within our geographic footprint. Our most significant work with CDFIs is represented by Accion, a global nonproft dedicated to creating a financially inclusive world.

We have worked with Accion for several years providing over $1 million to the organization to support the lending and technical assistance it provides for underserved small business owners in Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. We also financially support Accion’s in-person outreach with small business leaders and its online educational resources.

In 2018, Accion provided loans and technical assistance to nearly 625 clients with an average loan size of approximately $10,500. According to Accion, these entrepreneurs are creating and retaining an average of three jobs per business, totaling an estimated 1,875 jobs in communities in need of economic activity.

Fifth Third and Accion collaborating at an event

In September, Fifth Third and Accion together supported a Spanish speed coaching event in which entrepreneurs received advice on a variety of topics.

Special Feature

Accion Partnership Encourages Business Expansion

Felipe Funderburg, owner of the Legendary Art Gallery, grew up on Chicago’s West Side, where he painted and drew at his mother’s kitchen table. As he grew, however, he gave up art when he didn’t see a future in it—or any artists in his neighborhood that looked like him.

Felipe began hanging out with the wrong crowd, battling homelessness, and losing several cars to repossession. That’s when he was encouraged to try his hand at being a tattoo artist. He borrowed money to purchase an equipment kit and started training. There was a book that came with the equipment kit, Tattooing A to Z. I essentially taught myself with that book.” He practiced on family and, after a few months, started charging for his services. He tattooed in barbershops, a basement, and his apartment. In 2007, Felipe opened his own shop, Tat2K, in Garfeld Park. Not just a tattoo parlor, Tat2K quickly became a place where Felipe could apprentice five other emerging artists. Felipe boasts, “All the guys I taught are still tattooing to this day.” 

Despite the following Felipe had devloped, owning a business was difficult in such a rough part of Chicago. Artists were afraid to come to the studio, and at the time, the neighborhood was not conductive to economic growth. Felipe knew a change was needed, a realization that came as he was rekindling his love of painting. In 2016, Felipe decided to close his doors in West Garfield and look for a new space for business that integrated painting, apprenticing and lifting up the community.

Originally, Felipe had his heart set on Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, but his building funding fell through. He eventually rented instead and opened Legendary Art Gallery, an event space and artist studio that hosts paint parties, poetry readings and community art nights showcasing local artists.

In 2018, Felipe learned about Accion through launching of the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, a fund that supports minority entrepreneurs business ventures and for which Fifth Third had provided seed money. He went into his local Fifth Third Bank branch and met with Lionel Gomez. Felipe was looking for working capital to maintain his gallery space, and while Fifth Third was unable to provide assistance, our collaboration with Accion gave him a second option. Lionel referred Felipe to Accion Community Leader Tierra Bradford. "Tierra was really interested in helping me out, even with my damaged credit," says Felipe. "I definitely want to continue working with her so I can continue to grow my business. It's my passion."

Felipe Funderburg reading

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Building Stronger, Inclusive Communities

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