GRAND RAPIDS — Fifth Third Bank (Western Michigan) and Axios Inc. recently announced a strategic alliance aimed at helping local small-business owners reduce administrative burdens and improve benefits they can offer employees.
The two companies said that, under the alliance, Fifth Third Bank will offer Axios’ professional employer organization (PEO) services to roughly 20,000 of the bank’s small-business customers throughout West Michigan.
Forty of Fifth Third’s people in the area will sell the PEO services, which allow companies to outsource many time and labor-intensive administrative human resource functions.
The two firms say that according to some estimates, using a PEO helps many owners of small businesses to free up an estimated full day each week for activities more closely related to building their businesses and bottom line, such as long-term planning or business development, according to estimates.
And according to Kevin Kabat, president of Fifth Third Bank (Western Michigan), interviews last year with owners of small businesses elicited the information that many of those owners could use that added day a week.
“As we were going through our strategic planning process,” he told the Business Journal, “one of the segments that we always worked extremely well with, and are very proud of the customer relationship, was with small businesses.
“And as we did our strategic planning process we actually brought in small businesses to participate with us in that planning process. And we asked them, ‘Look, for your business, what are the biggest problems?’
He said most of the issues they brought up related to staffing — finding qualified people, hiring them, retaining them — and the time they necessarily were spending in the administrative end of the same processes.
“This sort of thing comes very high on the list for them and, in many cases, it was tops on the list,” he said.
Kabat, who served with Old Kent Bank for 18 years prior to its merger with Fifth Third, said the PEO alliance seemed a natural from the angle of solving problems for some of the banks’ most important customers.
“From a financial services perspective, from Fifth Third’s perspective,” he said, “we benefit when our customers succeed. And so as these small businesses grow and develop more balanced relationships in terms of our core products, more expansion needs, greater need for capital, and greater need, then, for our other products and services.”
“That’s really the pay-back from our perspective in terms of helping our customers become more successful.”
And if the alliance makes sense as a form of long-term leverage in the customers’ behalf, he said the timing couldn’t be better.
PEOs , he said, have modest penetration in the Michigan market, he said, in contrast with many other states.
“In the Michigan market, PEO penetration is only about two percent whereas in some states — Florida, for instance — it’s more like 20 or 25 percent. So from that perspective, the timing is right.
“By forging a relationship with Axios,” he added, “Fifth Third now has an opportunity to serve our small business customers in Western Michigan even better,” he said.
“Axios has the infrastructure in place to step in and serve as the human resource function for these small businesses while Fifth Third can provide all of the financial services, such as commercial loans, business expansion loans, insurance, 401(k) management and retail banking.”
Kabat said the Axios PEO services to be marketed through Fifth Third include:
- Enhanced benefits/retirement packages
- Payroll management
- Human resource consultation
- Policy and procedures manuals
- Worker’s compensation risk management
Dan Barcheski, chief executive officer of Axios Incorporated, terms the PEO “an emerging and highly valued solution for small-business owners who want to focus on growing their business instead of simply running it..
“It fits into our expanded corporate mission of providing solutions that can help businesses improve their human and organizational performance. We look forward to partnering with Fifth Third Bank in order to bring this valuable business tool to local business owners.”
Axios recently announced its new corporate strategy of providing a range of services to help organizations become more efficient through consulting, training and human resource solutions.
Axios Incorporated is a privately held company founded in 1988.
It began life as The Staffing Group, a provider of temporary employment services and then expanded to offer a wide variety of value-added services in the areas of human and organizational performance.
The company, as The Staffing Group, has experienced double-digit growth each year since it was founded and has been listed three times on the Inc. 500 list of privately held companies. It is consistently ranked one of Michigan’s fastest-growing companies.
Fifth Third Bank (Western Michigan) is part of Fifth Third Bancorp, a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati.
c has $70 billion in assets, operates 17 affiliates with 970 full-service banking centers and nearly 2,000 ATMs in this state, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida and Illinois.
PC Week has named Fifth Third the nation’s No. 1 leader in e-commerce.
The financial strength of Fifth Third’s affiliate banks continues to be recognized by rating agencies with deposit ratings of AA- and Aa2 from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively.
Too, Fifth Third Bancorp continues to maintain the highest short-term ratings available at A-1+ and Prime-1, and was recently recognized by Moody’s with one of the highest senior debt ratings for any U.S. bank holding company Aa3.
Fifth Third operates four main businesses: Retail, Commercial, Investment Advisors and Midwest Payment Systems, the bank’s data and processing subsidiary. Investor information and press releases can be viewed at www.53.com; press releases are also available by fax at no charge by calling (800) 758-5804, identification number 281775.
The company’s common stock is traded in the over-the-counter market through The NASDAQ National Market under the symbol FITB.
Axios Incorporated provides integrated services related to human and organizational performance.
In addition to its Professional Employer Division which offers the PEO, the Company’s divisions include: Lean Enterprise, a provider of outcome-based, “lean” consulting; Flexforce Strategies (Staffing Inc.), which specializes in staffing for manufacturing and sports and entertainment venues; Office Specialist, a provider of specialist clerical and administrative workers; Professional Recruitment, places professionals with demonstrated experience in the engineering, manufacturing, management, sales, administration and technology fields, and IMPACT, a non-profit division that trains the chronically unemployed and helps them get back to work.
More information about Axios is available by visiting