A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

‘Born banker’ Lytle Thomas returns to his roots as president of First National Bank of Kentucky

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune Editor

A “born banker,” Lytle Thomas is returning to his roots after a sojourn in tech entrepreneurship — and is bringing his new bank to the Northern Kentucky community as well.

Thomas has been named the First National Bank of Kentucky’s (FNBKY) sixth president in its 139 year history. The bank, based in Carrollton, will be moving its banking headquarters to Northern Kentucky.

Thomas brings 34 years of experience to his new role. As a fourth-generation banker native to Kentucky, Thomas has great respect for FNBKY’s storied history.

“This bank has managed through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession and now COVID-19,” Thomas said. “It is humbling to think of the challenges my predecessors have managed. My job is to cherish the culture of the bank and to grow the bank in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati market with the same guiding principles that have worked for the last 139 years.”

Thomas, who lives in Fort Wright with his wife and two children, is a consummate community banker, having worked with Fifth Third Bank and Heritage Bank and being actively involved in the NKY community. He stepped away from banking to launch a start-up tech company, Hawk Geosystems in Cincinnati, to help develop a device to give to contractors the GPS location of pipes as they are being installed. The device has now been patented.

While he enjoyed flexing his entrepreneurial spirit, he is pleased to be returning to banking where he will put that spirit to work developing the NKY-Cincinnati market for a community bank that, he says, is impressively advanced on the tech side. And eager to grow.

It’s a “good fit,” Thomas says. Actually, it’s the perfect match for the community too.

Currently, the bank operates three branches and a loan production office in Carroll County and surrounding communities. Its first location opened in 1881 at 422 Main Street in Carrollton, with former state senator Joseph A. Donaldson at the helm as president.

His son, J. Lyter Donaldson, succeeded him. J. Lyter would later become the chairman of the Kentucky Highway Commission; his work there led to the eventual funding of the Donaldson Highway, which provided a critical link between Dixie Highway and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Fred B. Oney, Malcolm L. Carraco, and Gregory D. Goff also served as FNBKY presidents.

“The bank has been built on 139 years of great leadership with a culture focused on serving customers and the community with superior banking service,” Thomas said, adding that he shares this passion. “I am also blessed with a fantastic board of directors, management team and family of employees to help steer the success of First National Bank of Kentucky.”

Starting in 1988, Thomas held various positions at Fifth Third’s Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati branches – including senior vice president at the former – before joining Heritage Bank in 2006 and becoming President and CEO in 2010. Under his leadership, Heritage Bank grew from $257 million in assets to $1 billion.

A Northern Kentucky Business Hall-of-Famer, Thomas graduated from Transylvania University with a B.A. degree in Business Management. He later earned an MBA in Marketing from Northern Kentucky University.

Currently, he serves on the Junior Achievement of OKI Partners board, Leadership Kentucky Finance Committee, and the American Bankers Association Community Bankers Council and Membership Committee. Formerly, Thomas held leadership positions in various regional organizations including Leadership Kentucky, the Kentucky Bankers Association, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, HealthPoint Family Care Foundation, American Diabetes Association (Northern Kentucky Chapter), John Murphy of Ducks Unlimited, and American Cancer Society (Northern Kentucky Chapter).

“First National Bank of Kentucky will be new to Northern Kentucky but has a long history of serving the banking needs of Kentuckians,” Thomas said when asked what attracted him to the position. “We can grow the bank and serve our community and have a lot of fun doing it!”

Thomas is currently working from an office in Union, but anticipates moving into the former US Bank Building in Fort Wright which FNBKY currently has under contract.

FNBKY contributed to this report.

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