21 Reasons I Am Excited About Acquire or Be Acquired

Quickly:

  • Making banking digital, personalized and in compliance with regulatory expectations remains an ongoing challenge for the financial industry. This is just one reason why a successful merger — or acquisition — involves more than just finding the right cultural match and negotiating a good deal.

By Al Dominick, CEO of DirectorCorps — parent co. to Bank Director & FinXTech.

PHOENIX, AZ — As the sun comes up on the Arizona Biltmore, I have a huge smile on my face. Indeed, our team is READY to host the premier financial growth event for bank CEOs, senior management and members of the board: Bank Director’s 24th annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference. This exclusive event brings together key leaders from across the financial industry to explore merger & acquisition strategies, financial growth opportunities and emerging areas of potential collaboration.

AOBA Demographics

The festivities begin later today with a welcoming reception on the Biltmore’s main lawn for all 1,125 of our registered attendees.  But before my team starts to welcome people, let me share what I am looking forward to over the next 72 hours:

  1. Saying hello to as many of the 241 bank CEOs from banks HQ’d in 45 states as I can;
  2. Greeting 669 members of a bank’s board;
  3. Hosting 127 executives with C-level titles (e.g. CFO, CMO and CTO);
  4. Entertaining predictions related to pricing and consolidation trends;
  5. Hearing how a bank’s CEO & board establishes their pricing discipline;
  6. Confirming that banks with strong tangible book value multiples are dominating M&A;
  7. Listening to the approaches one might take to acquire a privately-held/closely-held institution;
  8. Learning how boards debate the size they need to be in the next five years;
  9. Engaging in conversations about aligning current talent with future growth aspirations;
  10. Juxtaposing economic expectations against the possibilities for de novos and IPOs in 2018;
  11. Getting smarter on the current operating environment for banks — and what it might become;
  12. Popping into Show ’n Tells that showcase models for cooperation between banks and FinTechs;
  13. Predicting the intersection of banking and technology with executives from companies like Salesforce, nCino and PrecisionLender;
  14. Noting the emerging opportunities available to banks vis-a-vis payments, data and analytics;
  15. Moderating this year’s Seidman Panel, one comprised of bank CEOs from Fifth Third, Cross River Bank and Southern Missouri Bancorp;
  16. Identifying due diligence pitfalls — and how to avoid them;
  17. Testing the assumption that buyers will continue to capitalize on the strength of their shares to meet seller pricing expectations to seal stock-driven deals;
  18. Showing how and where banks can invest in cloud-based software;
  19. Encouraging conversations about partnerships, collaboration and enablement;
  20. Addressing three primary risks facing banks — cyber, credit and market; and
  21. Welcoming so many exceptional speakers to the stage, starting with Tom Michaud, President & CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc., a Stifel Company, tomorrow morning.

For those of you interested in following the conference conversations via our social channels, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector and our @Fin_X_Tech platform, and search & follow #AOBA18 to see what is being shared with (and by) our attendees.

3 Quick Takeaways from #fintech16 (aka Bank Director’s FinTech Day at Nasdaq’s MarketSite)

As evidenced by the various conversations at yesterday’s FinTech Day, the next few years promises to be one of profound transformation in the financial sector.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

At a time when changing consumer behavior and new technologies are inspiring innovation throughout the financial services community, I had a chance to open this year’s FinTech Day program with a look at how collaboration between traditional institutions and emerging technology firms bodes well for the future.  With continuous pressure to innovate, banks today are learning from new challengers, adapting their offerings and identifying opportunities to collaborate. At the same time, we continue to watch as many fintech companies develop strategies, practices and new technologies that will dramatically influence how banking gets done in the future.

Personally, I believe this is a very exciting time to be in banking — a sentiment shared by the vast majority of the 125+ that were with us at Nasdaq’s MarketSite yesterday.  While I plan to go deeper into some of the presentations made in subsequent posts and columns on BankDirector.com, below are three slides from my welcoming remarks that various attendees asked me to share.

7 elements of a digital bank - by Bank Director and FinXTech

For the above image, my team took a step into an entrepreneurs shoe’s and envisioned an opportunity to build a new, digital-only bank from the ground up.  We consider these seven facets as base elements for success — and the companies listed provide real-life examples of financial institutions & fintechs alike that we see “doing it right.”

FinTech Day Deck1 (dragged)

The irony of sharing an idea for a new bank?  Newly chartered banks (de novos) are basically extinct.  So for a program like FinTech Day, I thought it was imperative to provide context to the U.S. banking market by looking at the total number of FDIC-insured institutions.  These numbers are accurate as of last Friday.

FinTech Day Deck1 (dragged) 1

This final slide comes from our annual Acquire or Be Acquired conference in Arizona.  There, we welcomed 930+ to explore financial growth options available to a bank’s CEO and board.  To open our second full day, I polled our audience using a real-time response device to see how likely they are to invite a fintech company in for a conversation.  As you can see from the results above, real opportunities remain for meaningful dialogue and partnership discussions.

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Thanks to all who joined us, the speakers that shard their insights and opinions and our friends from Nasdaq!

Size & Scale: The King and Queen of Bank M&A?

Earlier this week, I shared my perspectives on bank M&A with the Wall Street Journal.  What follows builds off the piece that ran in Tuesday’s print edition, highlighting key findings from Bank Director’s annual Bank M&A Survey.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

At a time when J.P. Morgan is getting smaller, the pressure is on for smaller banks to get bigger.  As KPMG recently shared with BankDirector.com, there was a 25% increase in bank deals in the U.S. in 2014, compared to 2013, and there is a good possibility that the number of deals in 2015 will exceed that of 2014.  One reason for this: a larger institution can spread costs (such as investments and regulatory burdens) across a larger customer and revenue base.

Not surprisingly, 67% of executives and board members responding to Bank Director’s 2016 Bank M&A Survey say they see a need to gain more scale if they are going to be able to survive in a highly competitive industry going forward.  As our director of research, Emily McCormick, shared, “many of these respondents (62%) also see a more favorable climate for bank deals, hinting at a more active market for 2016 as banks seek size and scale through strategies that combine organic growth with the acquisitions of smaller banks.”

While the majority of bank executives and boards surveyed feel a need to grow, respondents don’t agree on the size banks need to be in order to compete today.  A slim majority, 32%, identified $1 billion in assets as the right size… interesting, but not surprising, when you consider that 89% of commercial banks and savings institutions are under $1 billion in assets, according to the FDIC (*personally, I’m of the opinion that $5Bn is the new $1Bn, but that’s a topic for another day).  On to the key findings from this year’s research:

  • Two-thirds report their bank intends to participate in some sort of acquisition over the next 12 months, whether it’s a healthy bank (51%), a branch (20%), a nondepository line of business (14%), a loan portfolio (6%) and/or a financial technology firm (a scant 2%).
  • Respondents indicate that credit culture, at 32%, and retaining key talent that aligns with the buyer’s culture, at 31%, are the most difficult aspects of the post-merger integration process.
  • More institutions are using social media channels to communicate with customers after the close of the deal. 55% of respondents who purchased a bank in 2014 or 2015 used social media, compared to 42% of 2011-2013 deals and just 14% of 2008-2010 deals (*FWIW, Facebook, at 26%, is the most popular channel for respondents).
  • Fifty-six percent of respondents have walked away from a deal in the past three years.  Of the respondents who indicate they declined to buy, 60% cite deal price while 46% blame the credit quality of the target institution.
  • Why do banks sell? Of the executives and board members associated with banks sold from 2012 to 2015, 55% say they sold because shareholders wanted to cash out.  Despite concerns that regulatory costs are causing banks to sell, just 27% cite this burden as a primary motivator.

The full survey results are now available online at BankDirector.com, and will be featured in the 1st quarter, 2016 issue of Bank Director magazine.  In addition, for those executives interested in connecting with many of the key decision makers driving the deals mentioned above, our annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference will be held at the Arizona Biltmore from January 31 through February 2.

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Our 2016 Bank M&A Survey, sponsored by Crowe Horwath LLP, examines current attitudes and challenges regarding bank M&A, and what drives banks to buy and sell. The survey was completed in September 2015 by 260 chief executive officers, independent directors and senior executives of U.S. banks, and former executives and directors of banks that have been acquired from 2012-2015.

The Bank of Facebook

Part three of a five piece series on emerging threats to banks from non-financial companies.  For context on today’s piece, take a look at “For Banks, the Sky IS Falling” and “PayPal is Eating Your Bank’s Lunch” (aka parts one and two).

As banking becomes more mobile, companies that power our mobile lifestyle have emerged as real threats to financial institutions.  While common in Europe — where Google, Vodafone and T-Mobile already compete head-to-head with traditional banks by offering mobile and web-based financial services — let me play out a scenario where Facebook decides to enter the banking space in order to remain relevant to its vast U.S. audience.

FB pix final.001

 

The New Math?

I recently shared the results of a TD Bank survey — one that shows millennials are banking online and on their mobile devices more frequently than in a branch. In fact, 90% of survey respondents said they use online or mobile tools for their everyday banking activities, such as checking balances or paying bills, and 57% said they are using mobile banking more frequently than they were last year.  So add this idea to  Facebook’s voracious appetite for views, visitors and preference data at a time when users are dialing back on status updates and not sharing candid photos on the site.  The sum of these two parts?  It might not be a matter of will; rather, when, Facebook stands up its own online bank in the U.S.

From Concept to Reality?

What I lay out above isn’t a radical thought; indeed, Fortune magazine ran a story on this very topic (Facebook Wants to be Your Online Bank).  The authors opine:

Someday soon, Facebook users may pay their utility bills, balance their checkbooks, and transfer money at the same time they upload vacation photos to the site for friends to see.  Sure, the core mission of the social media network is to make the world more connected by helping people share their lives. But Facebook knows people want to keep some things — banking, for example — private. And it wants to support those services too.

In a separate piece, Fortune shares “there remains a huge untapped market for banking services, including the exchange of money between family and friends living in different cities, and international money transfers between family in developed and developing countries.”

In fact, Facebook recently made the news when it announced plans to enable commerce from its social networks.  According to a post on Pymnts.com (Is Yelp + Amazon the Mobile Commerce Game Changer?), Facebook is testing a “Buy” button that can enable purchasing directly from a promotion inside a user’s news feed.  Now, I’m not getting into the social commerce conversation; simply pointing out that Facebook’s dive into traditional banking may not be as far off as some might think.

Banks as the New Black?

Facebook is already a licensed money transmitter, enabling the social media giant to process payments to application developers for virtual products.  As much as it has the technological chops — and financial clout — to enter the banking space, its Achilles heal may be the very thing that banks are built on: privacy.  Facebook relies on its members seeing and responding to their friends (and acquaintances) activity and updates.  Noticing a friend make a deposit to the “Bank of Facebook” or take a loan from said institution might not precipitate your own business.  The one thing I can see is an attempt by Facebook to acquire an online bank to jump-start its efforts to reach a specific demographic.  In that case, it might be as simple as “the Bank” powered by Facebook.  Regardless, I’d keep an eye on Facebook’s disclosures and press releases when it comes to payments, social commerce and financial services.

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To comment on this piece, click on the grey circle with the white plus sign on the bottom right or send me your thoughts via Twitter (I’m @aldominick). Next up, a look at the threats posed to a bank’s business by retail giant Wal-Mart.

Who Says There Is No Growth In Banking

Two big takeaways from the second day of Bank Director’s 2nd annual Growth conference (#BDGrow14): institutions of all sizes are challenged when it comes to standing out from the crowd & enhancing your mobile banking presence should be a top priority for all boards of directors.

A 2 Minute Recap on the Past 4 Months

 

Take No Risk, Make No Money
While some may not think about enterprise risk management in the context of growing one’s bank, Crowe’s Jennifer Burke made clear that proactively identifying, mitigating, and in some cases, capitalizing on risks provides a distinct advantage to a bank.  Keep in mind that even smaller institutions — with less complex business structures — face myriad risks that might significantly affect their ability to meet their growth plans.  As Jennifer shared, those that proactively identify and respond to risks and opportunities gain a competitive advantage over their peers, especially in responding to our ever-changing business environment.

Millennial and the End of Banking?

The Times-Picayune ran a nice story in today’s edition based on The Growth Conference.  The newspaper noted that “younger generations report more comfort with online and mobile banking tools, posing a hurdle for banks used to ginning up business through face-to-face interactions.”  So it is fair to ask if banks should be scared of the millennial generation.  According to Daryl Byrd, president and CEO of IberiaBank, the answer is no.  As mentioned in this piece (Will Millennials be the end of banking as we know it? Bank execs weigh in at Growth Conference in New Orleans), Byrd was among a panel of industry leaders gathered at the Bank Director Growth Conference to discuss business trends, including the challenges in reaching younger customers.  Byrd, “who noted he is the father of three Millennials, said his children, like many in their generation, aren’t building wealth as much as they are taking on debt. That means their demand for banking services will be limited in the near term,” he said.

Trending Topics

The issues I took note of this morning were, in no particular order:

  • Just like “synergy” became a cliché, so too might “omni” when it comes to delivering a consistent customer experience (e.g. omni-screen, omni-channel, etc);
  • Not all customers are created equally;
  • A bank’s board has the chance to re-set strategies to target, acquire, engage, grow and retain customers… but need to look ahead to what’s possible as opposed to the past to see what has historically delivered results.

To comment on this piece, click on the green circle with the white plus sign on the bottom right. Safe travels home to all who joined us in New Orleans this week (and yes, Aloha Friday!)

The Single Greatest Constraint on Growth

With the revenue pressures facing the banking industry being some of the most intense in decades, banks need to think more constructively about their businesses. At the same time, changing consumer behavior could drive the industry to reallocate its resources to less traditional growth channels in order to stay ahead.  In my view, the words of an English naturalist reflect the single greatest constraint on growth today.

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Powerful Forces

One of our long-term corporate sponsors, PwC, recently shared their thoughts on the future of the retail banking industry.  In their view, “powerful forces are reshaping the banking industry, creating an imperative for change. Banks need to choose what posture they want to adopt – to lead the change, to follow fast, or to manage for the present. Whatever their chosen strategy, leading banks will need to balance execution against… critical priorities and have a clear sense of the posture they wish to adopt.”  If you, like our friends from PwC, are joining us in New Orleans later this week to dive into this very topic, their compelling “Retail Banking 2020” report might make for good airplane company.

Looking Back in Order to Look Ahead

Last year, John Eggemeyer, a Founder and Managing Principal of Castle Creek Capital LLC, helped me to kick off our inaugural Growth Conference.  As a lead investor in the banking industry since 1990, he shared his views on our “mature industry,” That is, banking follows a historic pattern of other mature industries: excess capacity creates fierce competition for business which in turn makes price, not customer service, the key differentiator.  While offering myriad thoughts on what makes for a great bank,  John did share some hard-to-swallow statistics and opinions for a crowd of nearly 200 bankers and industry executives:

  • Publicly traded banks from $1 billion to $5 billion in assets saw their stock values rise at about half the rate of the broader market as a whole since early 2009.
  • Of the 300 or so publicly traded banks in that size range, only about 60 of them traded at their pre-recession price multiples.
  • In the last 40 years, bank stocks always followed the same pattern in a recession: falling in value quicker than the rest of the market and recovering quicker.

I share these three points to provide context for certain presentations later this week.  Some build on his perspectives while others update market trends and behavior.  Still, an interesting reminder of where we were at this time last year.

Getting Social-er

Yesterday, I shared the hashtag for The Growth Conference (#BDGrow14).  Thanks to our Director of Research — @ehmccormick — and Director of Marketing — @Michelle_M_King — I can tell you that nearly 30% of the attending banks have an active twitter account; 78% of sponsors do.  On the banking side, these include the oldest and largest institution headquartered in Louisiana — @IBERIABANK, a Connecticut bank first chartered in 1825 with over $3.5 billion in assets — @LibertyBank_CT and a Durham, NC-based bank that just went public last month — @Square1Bank.  On the corporate side of things, one of the top marketing and communications firms for financial companies —@wmagency, a tech company that shares Bank Director’s love of orange — @Fiserv and a leading provider of personal financial management — @MoneyDesktop join us.  Just six of many institutions and service providers I’m looking forward to saying hello to.

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More to come — from New Orleans, not D.C. — tomorrow afternoon.

Creating a Social Business

I am back in Lexington, Virginia today to speak at Washington & Lee’s 2nd Annual Entrepreneurship Summit.  I love it here and am very excited to share my thoughts on “Leveraging Social Media in New Ventures” later today.  While my company, Bank Director, isn’t a “new” play in the traditional sense, I am eager to share what I have learned since I graduated from W&L in ’99.  So, in lieu of my traditional focus on banking, today’s post highlights three points I’ll expand upon in a few hours.

W&L - BD - Social Media cover slide.001

(1) Let me start by sharing the presentation I put together: W&L – BD – Social Media.  As some might know, we began to “re-imagine” our then-20 year old company in September of 2010 upon the sale of our sister company, Corporate Board Member, to the NYSE.  Building a new reputation upon an established brand reflects three tactics I’d picked up in business school, seen applied by technologists at my old firm (Computech) and had reinforced by bank CEOs and Chairmen at our many events.  First, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.  Second, “fail fast” doesn’t always apply, but slow + steady doesn’t necessarily win the race either.  Finally, be open, interested and ready to adopt new practices or strategies while relying on your team to shout things up or down.

(2) We talk a lot about “community building” within Bank Director.  As we focus on issues fundamental to a bank’s CEO, senior leadership team, chairman and independent directors, we are constantly thinking about building strong + lasting relationships with these leaders across the U.S.  Admittedly, we embraced social media pretty quickly — figuring out the best uses of LinkedIn and Twitter — while we designed our digital strategy.  By participating in, and not always driving the, conversations through such channels, we identified various trends and opportunities that made their way into our conferences, research, etc.  Nothing groundbreaking here, but it does surprise me when people ignore the classic marketing adage “know your customer and give them what they want.”

(3) In a sense, you can look at Bank Director as an example of company that is “passionate” about connecting people through shared experiences.  So too are younger ventures like DC-based SocialRadar and Boston-based EverTrue.  I choose to highlight these two companies in my presentation as they share this same commitment.  If you’re not familiar with SocialRadar, it looks to combine your smartphone’s location with your social network – thereby “allowing you to walk into a room and already be aware of the people around you and how you are connected to them.”  EverTrue, started by a football teammate of my brother at Brown, offers colleges and universities “alumni networking platforms” that create stronger communities through an interactive mobile directory and better data from LinkedIn and Facebook.  Two up-and-coming companies that fit nicely with the title of today’s post.

Aloha Friday!

A grown up swinging town

San Francisco, CA

I spent the last few days in San Francisco meeting with various companies (think BlackRock, Fortress, Raymond James, Pillsbury, Manatt Phelps, etc.).  Those conversations caught me up on various trends impacting banks on our west coast. As I do each Friday, what follows are three things I heard, read and learned this week — with a big nod towards the bear republic.  Oh yes, thanks to old blue eyes for inspiring today’s title.  Sinatra certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to the bay area.

(1) Every bank has a story, and the old Farmers National Gold Bank (aka the Bank of the West) certainly has a rich one.  Begun in 1874, it was one of just ten banks nationwide authorized to issue paper currency backed by gold reserves.  Long a favorite of mine thanks to an academic / St Louis connection with their CEO, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of their board members on Tuesday and hear more about the $60Bn+ subsidiary of BNP Paribas.  As I reflect on that conversation, it strikes me that the bank’s growth reflects smart credit underwriting, a diversified loan portfolio and careful risk management. Yes, there have been strategic acquisitions (for example, United California Bank in ‘02, Community First Bank in Fargo in ’04 and Commercial Federal Bank in Omaha in ’05); however, their growth has been more organic of late — fitting for a “community bank” that has grown to more than 700 branch banking and commercial office locations in 19 Western and Midwestern states.  While their geographic footprint continues to grow, take a look at their social media presence. In my opinion, it’s one of the best in the banking space.

(2) From Bank of the West to US Bancorp, First Republic to BofA, bank branches dominate the streets of San Francisco.  As competition for business intensifies, I thought back to an article written by Robin Sidel (Regulatory Move Inhibits Bank Deals) that ran in last week’s Wall Street Journal.  I’m a big fan of her writing, and found myself re-reading her piece on a move by regulators “that put the biggest bank merger of 2012 on ice (and) is sending a chill through midsize financial institutions.”  Her story focuses on M&T, the nation’s 16th-largest bank (and like Bank of the West, operates more than 700 branches) and its $3.8 billion purchase of Hudson City Bancorp.  According to Robin, the deal that was announced last August is on hold after the Federal Reserve raised concerns about M&T’s anti-money-laundering program.  The fallout? Since the Fed’s decision, CEOs of other regional banks “have shelved internal discussions about potential transactions.”  For those interested in bank M&A, this article comes highly recommended.

(3) So if certain deals aren’t going to be considered (let alone closed), it naturally begs the question about how how and where banks can add new customers and increase “share of wallet” to improve profitability.  I brought this up in a conversation with Microsoft on Wednesday and found myself nodding in agreement that financial institutions should “audit their customer knowledge capabilities” to provide an optimal experience.  “Customer centricity” is a big focus for the tech giant, and it is interesting to consider how things like marketing, credit management and compliance might benefit from a well-designed strategy for managing customer knowledge.  I know some smaller banks are doing this (Avenue Bank in Nashville comes to mind) and I’m curious to hear how others might be taking advantage of tools and techniques to out-smart the BofA’s of the world.  If you know of some interesting stories, please feel free to weigh in below.

Aloha Friday!

Before I pack my bags

DC food trucks got some business...
By staying local, a few DC food trucks picked up extra business this week…

For the first time in nearly two months, I did not leave the friendly confines of Washington, D.C. for work.  Next week, AA gets my business back with a trip to San Francisco — followed by one the following week to Chicago and the next, to New York and Nashville.  Yes, I anticipate sharing a number of stories in the weeks ahead, but these three had me excited to post today.  As always, my #FridayFollow-inspired post on things I heard, learned or discussed that relate to financial organizations.

(1) File this one under “things that make you go hmmm.”  Earlier this week, the American Banker published an interesting piece entitled “Fed Reveals Secret Lessons of Successful Small Banks.”  As I’ve written in multiple M&A-focused posts, many investment banks  predicted a wave of consolidation among community banks after the financial crisis hit while positing that financial institutions need at least $1 billion of assets to compete/remain relevant.  This piece, however, cites recent St. Louis Fed research that shows the asset range with the most “thrivers” — the term the StL Fed used to describe remarkable banks — was $100 million to $300 million.  As the American Banker notes, much of the research stemming from the crisis focused on the mistakes banks had made, so the St. Louis Fed decided to take the opposite approach.  If you have a subscription to AB, their recap is worth a read.

(2) Disruptive technologies were front & center a few weeks ago in New Orleans at our annual Growth Conference.  Yesterday afternoon, McKinsey put out “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.”  While not specific to our industry, the fact that the “mobile internet” placed first should reinforce the conversations taking place in bank boardrooms today.  According to the authors, 4.3 billion people are yet to be connected to the Internet, with many expected to first engage through mobile devices.  Considering the six-fold growth in sales of smartphones and tablets since launch of iPhone in 2007, well, you can see why I’m bullish on banks getting social and enhancing their mobile offerings ASAP.

(3) Finally, for those quants looking for a good, non-Krugman economics piece, look no further than the NY Times’s “Economix” blog.  The most recent post: How a Big-Bank Failure Could Unfold.  In the piece, the authors consider what could happen if there were a hypothetical problem at a major international financial conglomerate such as Deutsche Bank or Citigroup.  As they note, “defenders of big banks are adamant that we have fixed the problem of too big to fail.”  This entry considers the alternative.  So for those with a desire to stay up late during this Memorial Day three-day weekend?  This might be a read for you.

Aloha Friday!

Financially Focused Friday Fun

1st stop at the Ferry Building in SF
Always my 1st stop at the Ferry Building in SF

What does my favorite, favorite, favorite purveyor of coffee have to do with banking (and payments)? I’ll do my best to connect the dots in this week’s financially focused Friday post. If you missed the last few week’s, take a spin on our way back machine, aka the search button on left.

As I do every Friday, what follows are three stories that I read/watched/heard this week. While tempted to open with a longer mention of seagulls, social media and white smoke, let me see if a picture really is worth a thousand words. This one succinctly captures the feelings that many community bankers have shared with regards to the last few year’s worth of new government regulation and scrutiny. It also sets up the first of this week’s three points:

MI-BU623_HANGOV_G_20130311213640

  • The WSJ ran an interesting piece entitled Small Banks in U.S. Hit by Rising Insurance Costs earlier this week. The premise: thousands of small U.S. banks “are feeling a financial pinch from the government’s efforts to punish executives and directors of banks that collapsed during the height of the financial crisis.” While I promise not to dwell on insurance costs or D+O liability issues today, Robin Sidel’s coverage (which I think originated at our M&A conference in January?) echoes what I’ve heard from bank executives. Namely, “the insurance squeeze is the latest headache for community banks that are still grappling with fallout from the financial crisis. Low interest rates, new regulations and tepid loan demand are pressuring profit. Many small banks would like to get out of the jam by selling themselves but can’t find buyers.”

Truth be told, I’m a bit talked out about bank M&A this week, so I won’t go down that path for point number two. Organic growth proves far more interesting — as its currently far more elusive:

  • On the same day I sat down with the founder and CEO of the Bank of Georgetown (who I think is doing a heckuva job building his bank), I had the chance to catch up with John Cantarella, President, Digital, News & Sports Group at Time Inc. Both talked about how banks are growing/changing; albeit, in much different terms. While Bank of Georgetown continues to build through commercial lending, let me share some thoughts inspired by John. In full disclosure, he recently sat down with our Chairman and agreed to speak to bank CEOs, board members and C-level execs our Growth conference in New Orleans. Subsequently, John and I talked about the focus of his presentation, “Standing Out in a Digital World,” and how he might introduce disruptive technologies and the companies bringing them to market (e.g. Simple and Square). If you’re not familiar with Square, its considered one of the hottest companies in the mobile payments space. When I hopped on their site to dig deeper, I saw that Blue Bottle Coffee Co. recently adopted Square for its point-of-sale. You should DM our Associate Publisher to find out how long she thinks it took for me to add this to today’s piece. So consider this my nod to both companies, our conference and this DC community bank. All interesting stories that really should have their own posts. Hmmm…. next week?

Finally, I do take comfort knowing a pendulum can swing only so far. While strictly my opinion, I believe too many folks within the various regulatory bodies focused on financial institutions (not hedge funds, not multi-national financial services organizations) are missing huge opportunities to contribute to — and communicate with — the banks they oversee. While I get off my soapbox, let me conclude with my third and final point from this week:

  • I saw the Comptroller of the Currency discussed community bank supervision at the Independent Community Bankers of America Annual Convention yesterday. I’m not in Las Vegas nor attending their event, so I simply hope the OCC’s lawyers didn’t totally overhaul his remarks. There are a lot of very real questions/concerns I know bankers would like addressed (e.g. Basel III, the tax benefits credit unions enjoy compared to community banks, etc.). If you were there and care to share, I’d be interested in any feedback/insight…

Aloha Friday to all!

Does Banking Need a Re-boot?

Now that I’ve baited you with the headline, let me tie it to the opinions of Brett King (who, in full disclosure, we just confirmed as a speaker at Bank Director’s upcoming Growth conference at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans).

Shawmut HD.001

A history lesson for those non-Bostonians reading today’s post.  Shawmut Bank was established in Boston in 1836 and its logo, the stylized bust of Chief Obbatinewat — seen above — became widely recognizable in the Greater Boston area over the next 150 years.  Heck, we had one in our house!  Sadly, the name and logo were retired in 1995 as a result of the merger of Shawmut and Fleet.  But for me — and many others I’ve met (hello Bank of the West’s CEO) — “the Chief” still inspires a smile and a story.

Robert Parrish -- #OO
Robert Parrish — #OO

In my last post, I wrote that its not easy for a bank to build a strong brand.  Still, as some are finding, the rewards can be immense.  So I bring up “the Chief” (not to be confused with the equally awesome Robert Parish who dominated the paint for the Boston Celtics) as an example of a formerly strong brand that still stirs emotions and memories.  It also provides a tie into what I’ve been reading of Brett’s in terms of building a “sticky” customer experience and developing a multi-channel distribution strategy.

Admittedly, his “BANK 2.0” book reminded me of many I read while in the IT space.  For example, those authored by Clay Shirky; at least, in terms of crowdsourcing, “disruptive” customer behaviors, technology shifts and new business models.   But as Brett focuses on our financial community, I’m eager to crack open his “BANK 3.0” to see what he thinks might redefine financial services and payments.  I’m particularly interested in his POV with respect to:

  • Where social media might shine a light on pricing, processes and heretofore obtuse policies;
  • How “customer advocacy” is killing traditional brand marketing; and
  • The growth of the ‘de-banked’ consumer who might not need a bank at all.

I’m always interested in hearing who’s “doing it right” in order to learn and share their stories.  So I ask: in addition to Brett’s ideas, any suggestions for other authors, entrepreneurs, innovators, etc. worth a follow/read?  Hit me up on Twitter or feel free to leave a comment below.  I’ll re-post later this week as part of my “Friday Follow” inspired column.

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FWIW, the Growth Conference focuses on how a bank’s board can become actively involved in building the bank – in securing customers, identifying lending opportunities, promoting the bank in the community, etc. Its a complement to our annual M&A conference, Acquire or Be Acquired, which I covered in detail on my DCSpring21 blog last month.

Community banks, meet social media?

I posted these thoughts on January 30 to my DCSpring21 blog… as I move away from sharing bank-specific thoughts on that site (in favor of this one), I thought to re-post in advance of a few pieces I’m working on.

no-one-said-this-would-be-easy

55%

… or, the final percentage that correlates to the results shared from a Q&A with bankers earlier this week. Sorry, it is not the percentage of turtle tiles found at the Phoenician’s pool. That would be too easy; although, the image does fit when you consider the number of banks using social media vs. those that are not.

No, this is a post about building a brand — and with it, customer loyalty and engagement. For those of us that have been in a business development position, it is oh-so-true that its not easy to build a brand. But make no mistake, the rewards can be immense should you succeed. And yes, the 55% foreshadows the end to this piece.

Admittedly, I thought about taking this post towards my last few company’s efforts to employ various social media tools. However, the importance of building a recognizable, memorable and relevant brand came up with numerous bank CEOs and Chairmen at our recently-concluded Acquire or Be Acquired conference. To a man, they acknowledged the stakes to successfully position a bank are higher than ever, what with the growing popularity of credit unions, new technology and ever-emerging social media platforms. Even more so when a bank customer’s product adoption and brand loyalty is measured at the speed of a tweet or a post. Clearly, the integrity of a brand becomes critical.

So I was/am SHOCKED that more community banks haven’t hitched their wagons to the social media wagon. This is not speculation or wild assumption. Its based on hard fact.

Let me take a step back and explain. We welcomed 275 banks to the Phoenician for our 19th Acquire or Be Acquired this past Sunday, Monday and Tuesday — with a CEO, Chairman, CFO or director attending. I believe (but don’t have the final numbers in hand) that of the 720+ attendees, 575 worked for a bank. I share these numbers as a lead into this question I raised:

Question: How many of you are successfully using these on a daily basis to engage with your customers and potential customers. I’m going to ask ONLY the bankers in attendance to answer this one — and answer on behalf of your bank, not yourself. So you might be a proficient twitter’r, have more than 500 connections on your personal LinkedIn account and have been sharing pictures of this conference on FaceBook with your friends and family. But we’re curious how the banks here are making social media work for them.

The results pulled via an audience response system are startling — and suggest that those in the social media business have ample opportunity at community banks if they can show a bank’s directors and officers how the following ties into their business. The raw results:

  • Facebook = 33%
  • LinkedIn = 11%
  • Twitter = 4%
  • Pinterest = 0%
  • We do not use social media = 55%.

Wow.