Benchmark Bank’s history begins with another bank and a few local college connections. The founders of Benchmark all met and worked with one another at the former State Savings Bank in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. Chairman Jerry Caldwell, an Ohio State University graduate with an MBA from Capital University, began his banking career in the management program, became Vice President and led State Saving’s expansion on the east side of Columbus. Ann Leak and Ingrid Phillips, two college friends and Capital University graduates, then joined the State Savings’ management training program as their first career steps, and eventually began working with Jerry.
Jerry then moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in 1984 where he started, managed and later sold two community banks, Atlantic Savings Bank and Lighthouse Community Bank. Ann worked for State Savings until 1998, when Fifth Third Bank acquired the bank and then started a lending consulting business, working with small, community banks in the Central Ohio area. Ingrid left State Savings prior to its sale and worked as an executive officer with another community bank and at Too, Inc. Jerry, Ann and Ingrid remained in touch for 20 years.
Filling a Void in Central Ohio
In late 2002, Jerry had completed the sale of Lighthouse Community Bank and felt it was time to return to Central Ohio and start a new community bank. The departure of State Saving’s from the market had left a void, especially on the eastern side of Columbus. There were very few true community banks left. Jerry reconnected with his old friends and the idea of Benchmark Bank was born.
Jerry then convinced his son, Jeff, to leave his job with a larger bank in Atlanta, Georgia and join him and the others in Columbus. Jeff Caldwell came on board in 2003. The founders brought in a group of business leaders to oversee the bank. Benchmark Bank’s Board of Directors includes: the late Eldridge E. (Ed) Maddy, retired partner of EMHT, Inc., Consulting Engineers and Surveyors; Terry L Rohlfing, former President and CEO of Lighthouse Community Bank; Vincent Romanelli, Vice President and General Manager of Romanelli and Hughes Building Company; and Victor W. Wolfe, owner of Ohio Insurance Advisors, an independent insurance agency in Gahanna. Later, Ed Bacome, David Cooper and Jeff Woda joined the Benchmark Board of Directors.
In addition to Jerry, Ann, Ingrid and Jeff, several other community banking veterans also joined the initial staff of Benchmark Bank: James Fox, Kristen Livecchi, Lori Watson, Mike Pultz and Nadine Osgood. All five also had past affiliations with State Savings Bank. After two years of planning and obtaining state and federal approvals, Benchmark Bank opened in August 2005.