Strong Board. Strong Bank

Quickly:

  • A bank’s CEO, Chairman and board of directors face a number of challenges in today’s ever competitive, highly regulated and rapidly evolving financial services industry.

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

ATLANTA — Complex regulations, technological innovations and a highly competitive environment that leaves little room for error have placed unprecedented demands on the time and talents of bank boards.  Still, no one I’m with today seems interested in pity or sympathy.  To wit, I’m in Atlanta, at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, as we host Bank Director’s annual Bank Board Training Forum.  With us are 200+ men and women committed to strengthening their bank’s performance by enhancing the skills and abilities of their boards.

I’m buoyed by their collective optimism, especially having surfaced myriad governance issues, compliance challenges, audit responsibilities, risk concerns and areas of potential liability. What follows are five takeaways from presentations made today that are growth, risk or team-oriented.

  1. When it comes to growing one’s bank, an acquisition of another institution certainly helps a buyer achieve operating scale efficiencies, which in turn increases its valuation.
  2. In addition to traditional M&A as a driver of growth, we are seeing more partnerships with (and outright acquisitions of) non-banks in order to enhance non-interest income and the expansion of net interest margins.
  3. Personally, I appreciated Jim McAlpin (a partner at the law firm of Bryan Cave) for elaborating on the phrase “Strong Governance Culture.” As he explained, the regulatory community takes this to mean a well developed system of internal oversight and a board culture focused on risk management.
  4. When it comes to risk, financial institutions face a quite a few. Indeed, Eve Rogers, a Partner at Crowe Horwath, touched on cybersecurity, economic factors, regulatory changes, shrinking margins and fee restrictions. As she made clear, proactively identifying, mitigating, and, in some cases, capitalizing on these risks provides a distinct advantage to the banks here with us.
  5. In terms of compensation, a good checklist for all banks includes (a) the bank’s compensation philosophy, (b) specific details for how to incorporate a performance plan against a strategic plan and (c) details around how one’s compensation peer group was formed — and when was it last updated.

Tomorrow morning, I share some new ideas for approaching technology in terms of growth and efficiency given the digital distribution of financial goods and services.  As I noted from the stage, we’re seeing some banks, rather than hire from the ground up, take a plug-and-play approach for partnering (or acquiring) FinTech companies. While I certainly intend to talk about the culture and team aspects of technology tomorrow, my focus goes to how and where machine learning, RegTech, payments, white labeling opportunities and core providers allow financial institutions to present a cutting-edge looks and feels to its customers under the bank’s brand.  (*If you’re interested, click here.)

The Intersection of Leadership and Profitability

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

Quickly

  • Key takeaways from one of my favorite summer banking events, Crowe Horwath’s Bank Leadership and Profitability Improvement Conference.

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This morning, on the first of my two flights from Washington National to Monterey, California, I learned that Walmart customers might soon be able to get installment loans for big-ticket items through Affirm, a San Francisco-based FinTech I first wrote about in 2014 (For Banks, the Sky IS Falling).  Per the Wall Street Journal, the companies reportedly are nearing an agreement on a pilot program.  This potential partnership caught my eye as I prepared for today and tomorrow’s conference.  Indeed, relationships like these make clear that when it comes to growth and efficiency, the digital distribution of financial goods and services is a significant issue for the banking industry.

This idea took further shape when I walked into the conference center at the Inn at Spanish Bay.  Immediately upon entering the room, I found John Epperson, a partner at Crowe and Jay Tuli, senior vice president retail banking and residential lending at Leader Bank, sharing their opinions on partnership strategies involving banks and FinTechs.  From the stage, they touched on increasing net interest margins via improved pricing strategies on commercial loans, approaches to streamline mortgage application processes, ideas to reduce staff counts for loan administration processes and how to improve customer experiences through online rent payment solutions.

Their perspectives lined up with those we recently shared on BankDirector.com.  To wit, “many banks have realized advantages of bank-FinTech partnerships, including access to assets and customers.  Since most community banks serve discreet markets, even a relatively simple loan purchase arrangement can unlock new customer relationships and diversify geographic concentrations of credit.  Further, a FinTech partnership can help a bank serve its legacy customers; for instance, by enabling the bank to offer small dollar loans to commercial customers that the bank might not otherwise be able to efficiently originate on its own.”

Of all the difficult issues that bank leadership must deal with, I am inclined to place technology at the top of the list.  Banks have long been reliant on technology to run their operations, but in recent years, technology has become a primary driver of retail and small business banking strategy.  John and Jay simply reinforced this belief.

In addition to their thoughts on collaboration, this afternoon’s sessions focused on ‘Liquidity and Balance Sheet Management,’ ‘Fiscal Policy During Regulatory Uncertainty’ and ‘Managing Your Brand in a Digital World.’  While I took note of a number of issues, three points really stood out:

  • Yes, banks can make money while managing decreasing margins and a flat yield curve.
  • Asset growth without earnings growth is a concern for many because of loan pricing.
  • How a CFO sets a target(s) for interest rate risk may start with an “it depends” type response — but gets nuanced quickly thereafter.

Finally, I’m not holding my breath on the industry receiving regulatory relief any time soon.  I get the sense many here aren’t either.  But it would be nice to see some business people brought in to run various agencies and I’m looking forward to the perspectives of tomorrow’s first guest speaker, Congressman John Ratcliffe.

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My thanks to Crowe Horwath, Stifel, Keefe Bruyette & Woods + Luse Gorman for putting together this year’s Bank Leadership and Profitability Improvement Conference at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California.  I’ll check in with additional takeaways based on tomorrow’s presentations.

Look At Who Is Attending Acquire or Be Acquired

In just 20 days, we raise the lights on our 23rd annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  This is Bank Director’s biggest event of the year, one primarily focused on banking’s “great game” — mergers and acquisitions.  My team has spent considerable time and energy developing a spectacular event focused on growth-related topics that range from exploring a merger to preparing for an acquisition; growing loans to capturing efficiencies; managing capital to partnering with fintech companies.  To see the full agenda, click here.

Widely regarded as one of the banking industry’s premier events, we have more than 1,000 people registered to attend AOBA later this month — an all-time high.  We couldn’t do this alone, and over the course of these 2 ½ days, executives from many of our industry’s leading professional services firms and product companies share their perspectives on “what’s now” and “what’s next.”  I invite you to take a look at all of the corporate sponsors joining us:

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As I shared in a recent post, bank executives and their boards face some major issues without clear answers.  Before heading out west, I’ll share more about the banks (and 660+ bankers) joining us at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.  Until then, I invite you to learn more about the companies supporting this conference by hopping over to bankdirector.com. To follow the conversations happening around this conference on Twitter, I’m @aldominick and we are using #AOBA17.

5 Cybersecurity Companies Bank Execs & Board Members Need to Know

When it comes to cybersecurity, the best defense might just be a great offense.  Whereas cybersecurity once focused on how banks could avoid losing money, my team and I are working on a program for 2017 to help officers and directors address potential scenarios (and develop realistic response plans) should a hack, breech or attack occur.  Indeed, protecting the bank against a cyber attack is a core responsibility of every member of a bank’s board and executive team.

In recent posts, I’ve highlighted various fintechs that I find compelling given their relationships with financial institutions.  In terms of cybersecurity, I’ve had the chance to learn more about companies like DefenseStorm (given their support of companies like nCino and LiveOak Bank) that I greatly respect.  Below are five more companies that I think bank leadership teams need to know:

Cognizant

A global cybersecurity solution and service provider, Cognizant supports multiple industry verticals and information security service lines.  I encourage you to take a look at their thoughts on what traditional banks can do to rebuild trust in the digital era.

Centrify

California-based Centrify offers identity & access management solutions to help secure enterprise identities against cyberthreats that target today’s IT environment of cloud computing.  Banking customers include such recognizable names as BB&T, SunTrust, Citi and RBS.

Lookout

Lookout has taken a mobile-first approach to security.  Indeed, one of the world’s largest investment management firms chose Lookout to provide threat and data leakage protection to over 10,000 managed iOS and Android devices.

Feedzai

Founded by data scientists and aerospace engineers, Feedzai’s mission is to “make commerce safe for business customers and create a better experience for their consumers through artificially intelligent machine learning.”

Brighterion

Since the founding of Brighterion, its core technology has been adapted and improved for real-time applications in the fields of payment, healthcare, marketing and homeland security.  For instance, its analysis of payments provides “unprecedented behavioral insights,” from the spending behavior of customers to the constantly evolving techniques of fraudsters.

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As a complement to these five businesses, let me wrap up by sharing a recent FinXTech article:Emerging Technologies Combat Cybercrime.  As you will read, banks are doing everything they can to reassure customers that their digital information is safe and secure.

Can Banks Keep Up?

As the financial industry adapts to various digitization trends, my team continues to field inquiries from bank CEOs and their executive teams specific to emerging technology strategies and opportunities.  One way we attempt to benchmark current interests (and concerns): an annual research project.  This year, we evaluated industry attitudes toward core providers and fintech firms, including marketplace lenders like Lending Club, in our just-released Bank Director Technology Survey.  While a number of findings jumped out at me, three really caught my eye:

  • Eighty-one percent of bank chief information officers and chief technology officers responding say that their core processor is slow to respond to innovations in the marketplace, making it even more difficult for the banking industry to keep up with shifting consumer expectations regarding technology.
  • Thirty percent of bank CIOs and CTOs report that their bank has pulled back on plans to integrate a more innovative product, service or delivery channel due to the inability or unwillingness of the bank’s core processor to support that activity.
  • Banks are highly reliant on core providers for services beyond core processing, which at its most basic contains vital customer data and processes all customer transactions. Ninety-six percent of respondents say their bank uses their core provider for additional services, including mobile banking (71 percent) and bill pay (75 percent).

Our 2016 Technology Survey, sponsored by the technology solutions provider CDW, reflects the opinions of 199 board members and senior executives of U.S. banks surveyed in June and July.  The size of institutions polled fell between $250 million and $20 billion in assets.  In addition to the points shared above, we found:

  • Thirty-one percent of respondents have converted their bank’s core technology within the past five years. Forty-two percent converted their core more than 10 years ago.  Respondents report that their bank works with a median of five technology firms, including the core provider.
  • Sixty-one percent of participants see fintech firms as both competitors and partners.
    Online marketplace lenders should be more heavily regulated, say 60 percent of respondents. Forty-one percent worry that they’ll lose loans to these lenders, but 18 percent don’t think these lenders have long-term viability.
  • Opinions are mixed on the impact that blockchain—the underlying technology behind the digital currency bitcoin—will have on the banking industry. Twenty-four percent believe it will impact all banks. However, 57 percent don’t understand blockchain enough to form an opinion, or have never heard of the technology.

Finally, cybersecurity continues to loom large.  Having a strong technology infrastructure in place to protect against cyberattacks remains the top technology concern for survey participants, at 72 percent.  Seventy percent indicate that their bank could better use data to serve the needs of existing customers, or identify new customers.  Seventy percent of respondents believe that technological innovation is a priority for their board, but less than half discuss technology at every board meeting.  Thirty-four percent of respondents describe themselves as early adopters of technology.

The full survey results are available online at BankDirector.com, and will be featured in the 4th quarter 2016 issue of Bank Director magazine.

What’s Happening at Acquire or Be Acquired

Throughout the first day of Bank Director’s 22nd annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, I found quite a few presentations focused on the emergence of mid-sized regional banks that are growing through the consolidation of smaller banks.  Clearly, mergers & acquisitions provide an avenue for some banks to drive improved operating leverage, earnings, efficiency and scale.  At the same time, the pressures prompting larger banks to innovate — sluggish loan demand, depressed revenue, higher compliance costs — are the same ones forcing smaller banks to pursue a sale.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

For those unfamiliar with “AOBA,” this annual event explores issues like the one mentioned above.  Since the conference kicked off at 8 AM on a Sunday, this morning’s post shares three short video recaps from my time at the Arizona Biltmore followed by links to recent posts specific to this conference.

In addition to these videos, below are links to four of my posts specific to the event:

If these types of conversations interest you, take a look at what we’re sharing on BankDirector.com.  Additionally, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector, and search & follow #AOBA16 to see what is being shared with (and by) the 930 men & women in attendance.

4 Things to Know In Advance of Bank Director’s 2016 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference

Why banks are bought or sold involves much more than just the numbers making sense. Indeed, to successfully negotiate a merger transaction, buyers & sellers must bridge the gap between a number of financial, legal, accounting and social challenges. So in advance of this year’s biggest merger and acquisitions (M&A) conference, a few things I feel attendees of “AOBA” should know.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

Starting this Sunday at the Arizona Biltmore, Bank Director’s team once again opens the doors to our annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference — affectionately called “AOBA” (ay-oh-bah).  About this time last year, I wrote about a record turnout, one we will exceed in a few days when 925 men and women arrive at this architectural gem.

By design, the numbers I share in the image above only reflect key data from the financial institutions attending.  In fact, we are prepared to welcome another 60+ professional services firms and product companies to the Biltmore.   While I am particularly impressed by the caliber of support provided to the industry by our sponsoring companies, today’s post focuses on a handful of issues impacting the officers and directors joining us from strong and well performing community banks.

While big banks typically garner mainstream headlines — Wells Fargo, Citi, JPMorganChase and Bank of America account for a whopping $8.1 Trillion of the $17.3 Trillion assets held by banks in the U.S. — the buying and selling of banks takes place outside their domain.  The overwhelming majority of deals today involve community banks, many of whom have their CEOs attending AOBA.  So for this hugely influential audience, here are my key points to know and consider before the conference kicks off.

  • M&A remains attractive inasmuch as successful transactions improve operating leverage, earnings, efficiency and scale.
  • Today’s regulatory environment can hold up a deal — so it has become popular to note that banks can make acquisitions depending on how “clean” both the buyer and seller are + how big the resulting bank becomes.
  • As seen in their superior financial metrics (e.g. ROAA and ROAE), larger banks are growing and consistently outperforming smaller banks.
  • Small and mid-sized banks’ importance to the overall economy and select business sectors remains in place; however, their earnings potential is less diverse then big banks, making them more vulnerable to new competitors and shifts in pricing of financial products.

Certainly, the buying and selling of banks has been the industry’s “great game” for the last couple of decades.  As the conference agenda reflects, we dive deeper into topics like these and look at pre-deal considerations, post-integration challenges and everything in between.  So for those not able to join us — but interested in following the conversations — I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector, and search & follow #AOBA16 to see what is being shared with (and by) our attendees.

There’s A New App For That

This morning, my company officially launched a state-of-the-art app to deliver a new monthly digital magazine which complements our quarterly, print-version.  A huge amount of time and effort went into the design, development and approval process, so I am very proud to share that Bank Director’s free app & digital magazine is now available for download through Apple’s App Store, Google Play and Amazon.com.  A HUGE thank you to our team that built it.  Also, my apologies to anyone looking to imitate this new offering.  It is home-grown and totally customized to the informational, educational and training needs of bank officers and directors today.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Since 1999, the number of commercial banks and savings institutions in the United States has decreased from 10,220 to approximately 6,500.  On the surface, this would not seem to be a robust market in which to base a business model.  However, among those still in the banking business, there is a tremendous appetite for information that will help a CEO, CFO, General Counsel, Chairman and board of directors to maintain a competitive edge — and that is the role that my team at Bank Director fills.

We designed Bank Director’s digital magazine specifically for tablet devices and incorporate interactive features such as animated infographics, video interviews and real-time polling.  Starting today, it can be accessed for free by downloading the app through Apple iTunes, Google Play or Amazon.com.  Unlike the print version — in circulation since 1991 — these digital issues have a distinct editorial focus each month.  Case-in-point, we light up the first issue with a cover story on the legal and compliance issues facing institutions interested in banking the marijuana industry.  Subsequent issues focus on attracting talent, growing the bank, serving on the audit or risk committee, handling governance and overseeing technology.

While many companies in the content business are moving away from print or simply discontinuing operations, we are ramping up to meet the needs of our audience.  This is not simply a replica of, or replacement for, our print publication.  It is a dynamic new product that allows us to stay on top of emerging trends.  For those of you familiar with our quarterly print publication, I hope this provides you added insight each month to the issues facing our industry.  For those of you not as familiar with Bank Director, I invite you to take a moment to experience this great new content now available anytime, anywhere.

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This Week in Pictures – New Orleans

It has been said that the best acquisition a bank can make is of a new customer.  But let’s face it: for most banks, organic growth is hard. For those wanting to grow revenue, deposits, brand, market size and market share, we hosted a “Growth” conference at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans earlier this week.  Below, some pictures from our time in the Crescent City along with links to organic growth & FinTech-specific content.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Clearly, there has been an enormous shift in asset concentration and customer loyalty during the past two decades. Today, the ten biggest banks in the U.S. have more assets than all of the other institutions combined.  Concurrently, major consumer brands such as Apple and Google have emerged as significant non-bank competitors.  As such, we designed this year’s Bank Board Growth & Innovation Conference around the concept of building sustainable franchise value.

To stay both relevant and competitive, I believe that building a culture of disciplined growth that encourages creativity and risk taking is essential. For a bank’s CEO, executive team and board, this requires a combination of knowledge, skill and courage – things we designed this conference, a complement to our annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, to provide.  Behind the scenes, our team works hard to deliver a “Four Seasons”-level of service — and I am especially proud of how everyone navigated the weather challenges that hit the city on Monday.  It was great to arrive to so many smiling faces!

For those curious about the topics and trends covered at the event, you can up on what was covered by clicking on:

In addition, take a look at what our editor, Jack Milligan, has shared on his blog, The Bank Spot.  And since its Friday, I’ll take the liberty of closing with laissez les bons temps rouler!