Inspired By Banking’s Modernization Efforts

 “Trying to cut your way out of falling profit and revenue is like trying to lift a bucket by standing inside it and pulling up on the handles. It feels like progress but it’s a lot of wasted energy to go nowhere.”  

One of the biggest changes, ever, is going on in the financial sector. So I talked with Greg Carmichael, the chairman and CEO of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp, about staying relevant and competitive. As the business of banking undergoes significant technological transformation, I found his views on legacy system modernization particularly compelling:

In my experience, many banks are rooted in legacy technology — and just starting out on their multi-year digital / delivery transformation. So as part of Bank Director’s Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired program on BankDirector.com, we explore this issue in the context of growth options and opportunities. To access this premium content — which includes my full conversation with Greg — register or log-in here.

A Conversation with Richard Davis About Listening, Learning and Leading

One sentence on LinkedIn sparked today’s post.

Yes, a comment shared by a fellow W&L alum, Melissa Sawyer, inspired me. She noted:

Much attention is being paid to the well-orchestrated CEO transitions at Merck and Amazon this week, which reinforce the important role that thoughtful succession planning and good governance play in corporate America.

A partner in the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, I interviewed Melissa as part of our Looking Ahead series in 2019. Since meeting her, I continue to find her perspectives on governance and regulatory issues timely — and spot on.

So when I saw her take on Kenneth Frazier’s and Jeff Bezos’ career decisions this morning, my mind immediately went to a conversation I had with the former CEO of U.S. Bank about his well orchestrated succession plan.

Filmed in advance of our exclusive Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquiredcontent pop-up,” Richard Davis provided valuable insight into sharing intelligence to build others up. He also explained the steps he took to position his successor, Andy Cecere, for success. Rather than edit my conversation down to just that clip, here is the full conversation between Richard (now President & CEO, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America), and me.

We start by talking about culture, purposes and values (1:21). Next, how industry leaders can inspire the societies and communities they serve (5:06). We talked about laying the foundation for a well received transition (8:20) before exploring the equation IQ+EQ+CQ (12:22). Finally, how companies become places that employees want to work for (15:49).

#AOBA21

*Another dot to connect? Our Editor-at-Large, Jack Milligan, talked with the Senior Chairman of Melissa’s law firm, Rodgin Cohen, as part of this digital program. The two explored the heightened cybersecurity threats facing banks today, his outlook for bank M&A in 2021 and how regulation could change under the Biden Administration. For those with access to Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired’s exclusive digital content, take a look at An Interview with Rodgin Cohen.

Inspired By The Joshua Tree

WASHINGTON, DC — It turns out, Bono knew something about banking. 

Thirty-four years ago, an Irish band came up with an album that sounded revolutionary for its time. U2’s “The Joshua Tree” went on to sell more than 25 million copies, firmly positioning it as one of the world’s best-selling albums. Hits like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” remain in heavy rotation on the radio, television and movies.

Talk about staying relevant. As it turns out, U2 had some wisdom for us all.

Relevance is one of those concepts that drives so many business decisions. For Bank Director, the term carries special importance, as we postpone our annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference to January 30 through Feb. 1, 2022. In past years, this special event drew more than 1,300 bankers, bank directors and advisors to discuss concepts of relevance and competition in Phoenix.

While we wait for our return to the Arizona desert, we got to work on a new digital offering to fill the sizable peer-insight chasm that now exists.

The result: Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired.

Think of this as a new pop-up website, one that disappears after a few glorious weeks. Available exclusively on BankDirector.com, this on-demand package consists of timely short-form videos, CEO interviews, live “ask me anything”-type sessions and proprietary research. Topics range from building value to doing a deal, enhancing culture to addressing competition — and yes, technology’s continued impact on our industry.

Everything within this board-level intelligence package provides insight from exceptionally experienced investment bankers, attorneys, consultants, accountants, fintech executives and bank CEOs.  So with a nod towards Paul David Hewson (aka Bono) and his bandmates in U2, here’s a loose interpretation of how three of their Joshua Tree songs are relevant to bank leadership teams. 

With or Without You

(The question all dealmakers ask themselves.) 

Many aspects of an M&A deal are quantifiable: think dilution, valuation and cost savings. But perhaps the most important aspect — whether the deal ultimately makes strategic sense — is not. As regional banks continue to pair off with their peers, I talked with a successful dealmaker, Bryan Jordan, the CEO of First Horizon National Corp., about mergers of equals.

c/o Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired

Where the Streets Have No Name

(Banks can help clients when they need it most.)

A flood of new small businesses emerged in 2020. In the third quarter 2020 alone, more than 1.5 million new business applications were filed in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly double the figure for the same period the year before. Small businesses need help from banks as they wander the streets of their new ventures. So, I asked Dorothy Savarese, the Chair and CEO of Cape Cod 5, how her community bank positions itself to help these new business customers. One part of her answer really resonated with me, as you’ll see in this short video clip.

Running to Stand Still

(Slow to embrace new opportunities? Don’t let this become your song.)

With the rising demand for more compelling delivery solutions, banks continue to find themselves in competition with technology companies. Here, open banking provides real opportunities for incumbents to partner with newer players. Ideally, such relationships provide customers greater ownership over their financial information, a point reinforced by Michael Coghlan, the CEO of BrightFi.


These short videos provide a snapshot of the conversations and presentations that will be available February 4. To find out more about Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired, I invite you to take a longer look at what’s on our two-week playlist.

Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired

For the past ten years, I’ve entered January with a near-term resolution: to inspire those we host at our Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in special, meaningful ways.

While the Bank Director team spent much of last Summer and Fall planning to host business leaders later this month, CDC warnings about health challenges and post-holiday Covid spikes ultimately led us to postpone my favorite conference.

Yes, we will once again host the industry’s premier banking event. One designed for CEOs, senior executives and board members next January 30th through February 1, 2022 at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge. However, we did not throw in the towel on providing timely & relevant information to this hugely influential audience in 2021.

You see, we are in the final development phase of a new, board-level intelligence package called Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired. Unlike a virtual conference, this exclusive digital content respects people’s time, interests and curiosity.

By aggregating the type of leadership issues one would find at Acquire or Be Acquired into short-form video segments, we clearly — and concisely — surface current topics, trends, statistics and market insight.

The time-specific information being presented on our new BankDirector.com platform connects officers & directors with key issues and advisers. Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired helps key leaders get smarter, faster. For instance,

  • For CEOs, we explore financial growth options in 2021;
  • For acquisitive types, we look at current pricing models and upcoming expectations;
  • For those engaging with fintechs, we show what’s new and compelling;
  • For board members, surfacing issues and ideas that tie into valuation; and
  •  For the C-suite, sharing peer insight on strategic planning during these uncertain times.

The content in this package reflects the ideas and opinions of leading investment bankers, attorneys, accountants, consultants and technology executives. Additionally, we bring industry trends to light with the help of banking’s top executives.

Next week, I film new segments with a number of CEOs. For example, Fifth Third, First Horizon, Cape Cod Five, WSFS, Founders Bank, BrightFi and Make-A-Wish. We talk about the intersection of the tech industry with the financial one... about the challenges of a merger of equals (MOEs)… about supporting small and mid-size businesses… about strategic investments… re-thinking your business model… engaging with partners… and leading with purpose.

Make no mistake, we will miss being with our friends and colleagues in a few weeks. But we appreciate the chance to bring perspectives from really smart men and women together to help and inspire a community we’ve been a part of for 30 years.

To find out more about Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired, I invite you to take an early look. And if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me or connect via LinkedIn.

-Al

When Will Bank Mergers Return?

WASHINGTON, DC — The bank M&A market is currently in a deep chill, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.  It is unclear when deal activity will heat up, so who better to ask than Tom Michaud, the President & CEO, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, A Stifel Company, as part of Bank Director’s new AOBA Summer Series.  In this one-on-one, I ask him about:

  • The banking industry’s second quarter results;
  • Why bank stocks have not participated in the overall market recovery;
  • The medium and long term implications of the pandemic on the industry;
  • The area of Fintech he thinks will be the hottest for the balance of 2020; and
  • How the November elections might impact the banking industry.

There are 10 videos in the AOBA Summer Series, with topics directed at C-suite executives or boards. We talk about how important scale has become, given compressing net interest margins, increasing efficiency ratios and climbing credit costs. We explore why banks’ technology strategy cannot be delegated. We observe why some banks will come out of this experience in a bigger, stronger position. And we look at leadership, appreciating that many executives are leading in new, more positive and impactful ways. To watch, click here.

My Conversation with the CEO of Atlantic Union Bankshares

WASHINGTON, DC — Leaders are defined by their actions, especially when facing adversity.  In our just-released AOBA Summer Series, three standout CEOs joined us in a series of one-on-one conversations.  Each provided a personal view on how their concepts of leadership vary; all, however, described their aspirations to provide exceptional quality and sustained performance.

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For instance, Chuck Sulerzyski, President & CEO, at Peoples Bank joined John Maxfield, Editor-in-Chief for Bank Director magazine.  They talked about the bank’s response to the unfolding coronavirus crisis and how a bank like Peoples might offset some of the pressure on its earnings.

Stephen Steinour, Chairman, President & CEO, Huntington Bancshares virtually sat down with Jack Milligan, Editor-at-Large for Bank Director magazine.  The two explored how he continues to work with the bank’s board of directors to plan for a future beyond the pandemic.

And as you can see here, I had the distinct pleasure of talking with John Asbury, President & CEO, Atlantic Union Bankshares.  We talked about leading in new, more positive and impactful ways.

With the U.S. economy slowly recovering from its devastating pause, what we don’t know easily exceeds what we do. But, as we reflect on the COVID-19 crisis and its subsequent impact on the country, a few industry trends are becoming visible. Hence the introduction of Bank Director’s AOBA Summer Series, now streaming for free on BankDirector.com

Streaming Now: The AOBA Summer Series

Dreaming of a trip to Phoenix, and the Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, next January doesn’t seem so odd this summer.

WORKING FROM HOME — For decades, business leaders began to book their travel to the Arizona desert — for Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference — in early August. As evidenced by the nearly 1,400 at the Arizona Biltmore earlier this year, the annual event has become a true stomping ground for CEOs, executives and board members. Many laud it as the place to be for those that take the creation of franchise value seriously. I’ve even heard it referred to as the unofficial kickoff of banking’s new year.

Just seven months ago, Acquire or Be Acquired once again brought together industry leaders from across the United States to explore merger opportunities, acquisition trends and financial growth ideas.  With 418 banks represented, participants considered strategies specific to lending, deposit gathering and brand-building. They talked regulation, met with exceptional fintechs and networked with their peers under sunny skies.

Not one openly worried about a global pandemic.

Yet here we are, all of us dealing with fast-moving challenges and unimaginable risks.

So what can we do to help?

This is the question that proved the catalyst for our new AOBA Summer Series.  Indeed, we created this free, on-demand, compilation of thought leadership pieces to provide pragmatic information and real-world insight.

With CEOs and leadership teams being called upon to make decisions they have never been trained for, we realized the type of information typically shared in January has immediate merit this summer.  So instead of waiting until winter, this new Summer Series provides both color and context to the tough decisions — those with profound long-term consequences — that confront executives every day.

Ten videos comprise the AOBA Summer Series, with topics appropriate for the C-suite’s or board’s consideration.  Streaming on BankDirector.com, we talk about how important scale has become in the banking industry… how one’s technology strategy cannot be delegated… how it certainly seems that there will be banks that come out of this in a bigger, stronger state.  Here’s a screen-grab of what you’ll come across:

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In one-on-one conversations like these, we acknowledge how net interest margins are compressing — which will drive up efficiency ratios — and credit costs are climbing.  And we look at leadership, appreciating that many are leading in new, more positive and impactful ways.  In addition, this new series provides:

A SNAPSHOT ON CURRENT CONDITIONS
At our January Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, Tom Michaud, President & CEO, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, A Stifel Company, provided his outlook for the industry. Now, we ask him to update his perspectives on M&A activity and share his take on the potential implications of the pandemic.  

HOW FINTECHS FIT
A growing number of technology companies have been founded to serve the banking industry.  Not all of them have what it takes to satisfy bankers.  During various sessions we learn how a variety of banks approach innovation — and the specific attributes a leadership team should look for in a new fintech relationship.

THE LEVERS OF VALUE CREATION
With nCino’s CMO, Jonathan Rowe, our Editor-in-Chief talks about the levers of creating value vis-a-vis the flywheel of banking. Together, they explain how certain technologies promote efficiency, which promotes prudence, thereby promoting profits, which can then be invested in technology, starting the cycle all over again.

Screen Shot 2020-08-12 at 5.21.46 PM

Hearing from investment bankers, attorneys, accountants, fintechs, investors and — yes, other bankers — about the outlook for growth and change in the industry proves a hallmark for Acquire or Be Acquired, be it in-person or online. 

As this new series makes clear, The future is being written in ways unimaginable just a few months ago.  We invite you to watch how industry leaders are making sense of the current chaos for free on BankDirector.com.

Acquire or Be Acquired: What’s All the Fuss About?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Acquire or Be Acquired Conference has long been a meeting ground for the banking industry’s key leaders to meet, engage with each other and learn what they need to grow their business. The audience encompasses traditional institutions, de novos, FinTechs and even a few credit unions. With today’s post, I explain what’s all the fuss about this premier event.

What's all the fuss about?

The allure of Acquire Or Be Acquired is as much for the networking as the various presentations. It is, after all, a hugely influential audience of 1,300+ setting up shop with our team at the Arizona Biltmore from January 26 – 28. 

For those joining us in Arizona, I encourage men to bring a sports coat or a jacket for the evenings as we plan to be outside for our receptions.  While the forecast calls for days in the 70s, the desert quickly cools off once the sun sets. In addition, the rumors of people being in their seats at 7:15 – 7:30 on Sunday morning? 100% true. We start promptly at 8:00 AM.

Looking to navigate the iconic Arizona Biltmore?  Our team put this helpful map together for attendees:

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 4.21.22 PM

In terms to the titles representing the 850+ bankers joining us, you’ll find:

CEO, CEO/Chair, Chair/President, Chair/President/CEO, Chair, President/CEO, CFO, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Banking Officer, Chief Business Development, Chief Credit Officer, Chief HRO, Committee Chairs, CIO, Loan Officer, Secretary, Correspondent Banking Team Lead, Chief Accounting Officer, SVP, Director of Corp.Compliance, Chief Investment Officer, Chief Lending Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, COO, Chief Retail Banking Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Risk Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, Controller, Corporate Development Officer, EVP, Director Corporate Strategy, Senior Vice President, SVP, Commercial Lending, Vice Chair, Director of Finance, Director of FinTech Partnerships, Director of Transformation Mgt. Office, Treasurer, Director of Wealth Management, President, Chief Experience Officer, Data Analytics, EVP, Finance & Corp. Dev., EVP, General Counsel, Executive Chair, CXO, Former CEO, Internal Auditor, Strategic Planner & Owner, SVP, Business Planning, SVP, Deposit Services & Emerging Products, Vice Chair/CEO (2) and our course, Directors.

Along with these industry leaders, we have an amazing group of sponsors.  Such an audience allows us to put together exceptional panel discussions.  This year, fifteen banks with $20B+ in assets sending senior leaders to this event.  Specifically, U.S. Bancorp, PNC Bank, Truist, Fifth Third Bank, New York Community Bank, First Horizon National Corp., CIBC, Texas Capital, Pinnacle Financial Partners, Western Alliance, UMB Bank, First National Bank of Omaha, Mid First Bank, First Hawaiian Bank and Old National Bank.

Finally, the digital materials for the conference can be found on BankDirector.com. Once you register on-site, you’ll be given a passcode to access the materials that can be used throughout the event.

Can’t make it? Don’t worry: we intend to share updates from the conference via BankDirector.com and over social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, where we’ll be using the hashtag #AOBA20.

5 Trends from Acquire or Be Acquired 2019

WASHINGTON, DC — To get a sense of what trended at Bank Director’s 25th annual Acquire or Be Acquired conference, here’s a link to five video check-ins.  All 2 minutes or less in length, these summarize various topics and trends shared with 1,300+ attendees.

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SAVE THE DATE:

Acquire or Be Acquired Conference
January 26-28, 2020 | Arizona Biltmore Resort | Phoenix, AZ

For early-bird registration, please click here.

Daily Briefing: Sunday at Acquire or Be Acquired

PHOENIX — When Bank Director first introduced our Acquire or Be Acquired Conference 25 years ago, some 15,000 banks operated in the United States. While that number has shrunk considerably — there are 5,120 banks today — the inverse holds true for the importance of this annual event. What follows are two short videos from our first day in the desert that surface a few key ideas shared with our 1,300+ attendees.

Three Interesting Stats:

  1. Of the 5,120 banks in the U.S., 4,631 are under $1Bn in asset size and 489 are over that amount.
  2. Two years ago, we talked about the sweet spot of banking being banks between $5B and $10B in asset size; now, its those with assets of $50B+.
  3. Digital channels drive 35% of primary banking relationship moves, while branches drive only 26%.

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  • Whether you are able to join us in person or are simply interested in following the conference conversations via our social channels, I invite you to follow @AlDominick @BankDirector and @Fin_X_Tech on Twitter. Search & follow #AOBA19 to see what is being shared with and by our attendees.
  • Everything You Need to Know About 2019’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference

    WASHINGTON, DC — So, there’s this guy named Warren Buffet who has a few thoughts on business. This Nebraska-based investor once opined “I’d rather pay a fair price for a wonderful company than a wonderful price for a fair company.”  Quite sagacious — and appropriate to share in advance of our 25th annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference which takes place January 27-29 at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge in Arizona.

    Since we last hit the desert, several regional banks have been active in the M&A market — and may continue to look for merger opportunities to build up scale. In addition, we’ve seen how tax reform had a big impact on the industry, with many making investments to grow their business.

    Now, with the government shutdown straining our economy, big banks beating community banks on the digital front and shifting team & cultural dynamics, we have a lot of ground to cover over two-and-a-half days. Interested to see what we have planned? Take a look at the full agenda.

    While I am excited to reconnect with quite a few folks, I am particularly interested in a number of strategic issues that will be discussed. For instance:

    1. Since the stock market doesn’t always reward longer-term thinking, what does a bank’s CEO needs to focus on, especially with many stocks being valued as if a recession is imminent;
    2. How can regional and local banks boost their deposits given the biggest banks 2018 deposit gather successes;
    3. How laggards to the digital movement can catch up with their peers? (One suggestion: take a look at Finxact, a “Tesla-like” financial technology company that offers an innovative, open-core banking platform. I believe it will quickly become a legitimate challenger to FIS, Jack Henry and Fiserv);
    4. The M&A outlook for 2019;
    5. How institutions can gain/acquire/rent the skills needed to vet and negotiate with potential FinTech partners;
    6. When we might see IPOs — realizing the SEC has to re-open before this occurs; and
    7. How many new bank applications will be approved by the FDIC, realizing that 14 were last year.

    For those joining us in Arizona, I encourage men to bring a sports coat or a jacket for the evenings as we plan to be outside for our receptions and the desert quickly cools off once the sun sets. In addition, the rumors of people being in their seats at 7:15 – 7:30 on Sunday morning? 100% true. We start at 7:45 AM and there are quite a few pictures from last January’s event if you need visual proof.

    Finally, the digital materials for the conference can be found on BankDirector.com. Once you register on-site, you’ll be given a passcode to access the materials that can be used throughout the event.

    _ _ _

    Whether you are able to join us in person or are simply interested in following the conference conversations via our social channels, I invite you to follow @AlDominick @BankDirector and @Fin_X_Tech on Twitter. Search & follow #AOBA19 to see what is being shared with and by our attendees. If you are going to be with us in Arizona and we’re not already connected here on LinkedIn, drop me a note and let’s fix that.

    On the Horizon for Bank CEOs, Their Leadership Teams and Boards

    WASHINGTON, DC — Can community banks out-compete JP Morgan, BofA and Wells Fargo?  This is the elephant in the room awaiting 853 bank executives and board members — representing 432 Banks — at our upcoming Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  The lights don’t officially come up on our 25th annual event at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge until Sunday, January 27.  So in advance, three big questions I anticipate fielding in the desert.

    Does 2019 Become the Year of BigTech?

    As noted by H2 Ventures and KPMG, Amazon is providing payment services and loans to merchants on its platform, while Facebook recently secured an electronic money licence in Ireland.  Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have become dominant operators in China’s $5.5 trillion payments industry.  Add in Fiserv’s recent $22B acquisition of First Data and Plaid’s of Quovo and we might be seeing the start of a consolidation trend in the financial technology sector.  Will such investments and tie-ups draw the attention of big technology companies to the financial services industry?

    Has the window to sell your bank already closed?

    When I heard the rumor that BBVA might be buying UK-based Atom Bank — one of the proverbial European challenger banks — I started to look at acquisition trends here in the U.S.  Case-in-point, we put together the following graphic in December for BankDirector.com

    ma-infographic-final_1

    We know that some community banks have been holding out hopes of higher pricing multiples or for a strategic partner.  These institutions might find the window of opportunity to stage an exit isn’t as open as it was just a few years ago. This doesn’t mean the window has shut — but I do think an honest assessment of what’s realistic, at the board level, is appropriate.

    Wither the bond market?

    A NY Times op-ed piece  posits that the bond market reveals growing cracks in the financial system.  Authored by Sheila Bair, the former chairwoman of the FDIC, and Gaurav Vasisht, director of financial regulation at the Volcker Alliance, it warns that “regulators are not doing enough to make sure that banks are prepared.”  While the duo calls for thicker capital cushions for big banks and tighter leveraged loan underwriting standards, I wonder how executives joining us in Arizona feel about this potential threat to our economy?
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    As the premier bank M&A event for bank CEOs, senior management and board members, Bank Director’s 25th annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference brings together key bank leaders from across the country to explore merger & acquisition strategies and financial growth opportunities. If you’re joining us in the desert, I’ll share a few FYIs later this week. If you’re unable to join us in Phoenix, AZ, I’ll be tweeting from @aldominick and using #AOBA19 when sharing on social platforms like LinkedIn.