Banking on Fintech DNA

As we talked about at FinTech Day last Tuesday, technology will play a fundamental role in changing the dynamics of banking, be it shining a light on out-dated practices to dramatically enriching the services and experiences being offered to customers.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

As our editor-in-chief recently wrote, “technology has always been integral to banking, bringing both speed and efficiency to a transaction-intensive business. But in recent years, technology has stepped onto center stage as a prime component in every bank’s growth and distribution strategy. Technology has, in effect, gone from being a way to save money (a crucial function that it still fulfills) to a way to make money. Much of this activity is being driven by the continued growth of mobile and online banking.”

During a panel session entitled “Banking’s New DNA,” I noted how numerous financial technology companies are developing new strategies, practices and products that will dramatically influence the future of banking.  Within this period of transformation, where considerable market share is up for grabs, I believe ambitious banks can leapfrog both traditional and new rivals.

I find the narrative that relates to banks and fintech companies has changed from the confrontational talk that existed just a year or two ago.  As we found at this year’s FinTech Day in New York City, far more fintech players are expressing their enthusiasm to partner and collaborate with banking institutions who count their strengths and advantages as strong adherence to regulations, brand visibility, size, scale, trust and security.  For me, considering such a partnership affords a bank’s leadership team an important chance to look in the mirror and ask:

  1. Are we exceeding our customer’s digital experience expectations?
  2. How do we know if we’re staying relevant?
  3. Do we have a “Department of No” mindset?

I elaborate on these pieces in an article now up on BankDirector.com; to read it, please click here.  Likewise, take a look at the seven facets of building a digital bank.  When it comes to the DNA one needs to compete in the future, I find these elements essential to any operation. 7 elements of a digital bank - by Bank Director and FinXTech

Feel free to comment on these questions and the elements shared above.  What else do you think could/should be added and considered?

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.

##

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

9 Banks I Bet People Will Be Talking About at Acquire or Be Acquired

I planned to write about a number of banks I was excited to see this weekend at AOBA.  But as Steve Jobs once shared “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” In this spirit, let me highlight nine banks that I anticipate our attendees will be talking about in Arizona at Bank Director’s annual M&A conference.

In a few minutes, I’ll hop an American flight to Phoenix for this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  Before I depart the cold and slush of D.C. for some warmth and sun in the desert, this is my take on the banks I anticipate people talking about when we’re all together:

  • Bank of the West — and not just because their CEO is keynoting this year’s conference.  The bank, with more than 700 branches in the Midwest and Western United States, has long been a personal favorite of mine and competes in markets where many look for inspiration.
  • Bank of North Carolina — because they’ve been wheeling and dealing and are a great example of how an acquirer successfully integrates cultures (*yes, their CEO also speaks at AOBA this year on a CEO panel entitled Finding the Right Partners).
  • United Bank — having picked up a trophy franchise of their own in my hometown (another personal favorite of mine, Bank of Georgetown) they’ve made a number of interesting deals over the past few years and I bet have more on their mind.
  • BB&T — having dealt for Susquehanna in ’14 and National Penn in ‘15, it is fair to ask: who’s next?

By no means are these all of the banks that will come up in conversation; rather, those that are top of mind.

One final thought before hopping my flight west.  The recent volatility in the stock market may be impacting institutions considering a capital raise, IPO or acquisition — but this week’s deal pace is far different then at this time in recent years.  The patterns I’m beginning to see is a concentrated effort to get to over the $5Bn asset mark and into that sweetest of spots: the $5Bn to $50Bn asset class.  A point I’ll elaborate on in an upcoming post/video.

So if you are interested in following the conference conversations via social channels, 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.  Safe travels to those 930 men & women joining us this weekend!

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.

Bank Director’s annual Tech Issue is now available for free

Take a look at Bank Director’s just-published “Tech Issue.” In it, we look at how bank CEOs and executive teams can better engage with fintech companies, what the biggest banks are doing in terms of technology strategy and what the Internet of Things (IoT) means for financial institutions in 2016.

To download this free issue:

  1. On Your Tablet or Mobile Device, Select Apple’s AppStore, Google Play or Amazon’s Apps;
  2. Search “Bank Director Digital Magazine;” and
  3. Download the App to Your Digital Device & Enjoy.

Happy Holidays!

How We Are Taking a Lean Startup Approach to our Grown-up Business

A lean startup methodology enables entrepreneurs to efficiently build a company by searching for product and/or market fit rather than blindly trying to execute.  I find it helps mature companies too — and thought the perspectives of Stanford Professor Steve Blank, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ben Horowitz and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman might resonate with bankers, fintech companies and other small business CEOs that are thinking about how to adapt their businesses to new challenges and opportunities. 

Paying It Forward

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

As someone who long aspired to build and run a company, I take great pride in leading a profitable, privately-held, twenty-person-strong small business.  In the past, I have written about my “people > products > performance” approach to leading the Bank Director team.  So when Ben Horowitz (co-founder and Partner of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz) shares on his blog, “it’s not about how smart you are or how well you know your business; it’s about how that translates to the team’s performance and output,” I find myself nodding in total agreement.

Look, I am so very proud of our team’s accomplishments… but I am even more excited to adapt the lean startup methodology to scale our business.  The approach we are taking builds on the wisdom and experience of others. So for anyone responsible for growing their business, allow me to recommend two “must reads:”

For me, we are “all-in” in terms of taking a lean startup approach to expanding our business without compromising our reputation for going narrow & deep, providing a “Four Seasons” level of experience at our events and delivering outstanding ideas and insights to a hugely influential audience.  In addition, we are supremely mindful to do as Sam Altman says.  That is, create something that a small number of people love rather than a product that a large number of people simply like.

H1: The Core Business

Admittedly, I am hesitant to call our approach to growing Bank Director a bootstrapping effort since the brand, relationships and revenue being generated enable us certain luxuries that many start-ups simply do not have.  Nonetheless, let me show you how we adapted the Horizon 1 (H1) and Horizon 3 (H3) framework depicted above to our business.

What began in 1991 as a traditional publishing company now operates as a privately-held media enterprise delivering original content to CEOs, executives and board members of financial services companies via digital platforms, exclusive conferences and award-winning publications.  Below is a visual example of our transformation vis-a-vis three magazine covers.  As you can see, we have matured in style while expanding our frequency (from quarterly to monthly) as we expanded our distribution channels.

Going narrow and deep works for us since we generate our revenue from the annual conferences & events we host (e.g. our 800+ person Acquire or Be Acquired conference), publications and research we publish and education & training services we provide.

H3: Where the Wild Ideas Live

With three consecutive years of top line growth (and healthy bottom line results to boot), we are in the wonderful position to grow in some pretty cool ways.  But doing so will take more than simple process improvements and expense control.  As we have a strong business foundation in place, I did have to restructure my management team’s individual roles and responsibilities to better suit our H1/H3 setup.  I did so because as Steve Blank points out, “Horizon 3 is where companies put their crazy entrepreneurs… these innovators want to create new and potentially disruptive business models.” As fun as living/working in H3 sounds, let me emphasize how much I rely on the H1 team to “defend, extend and increase” our core business.

Is it working?  Well, we will formally announce a new venture, FinXTech, on March 1, 2016 at Nasdaq’s MarketSite in New York City.  This is the first — and surely not last — project to emerge from our H3 world.  But time will ultimately tell.

We are a collection of creative men and women and I am very optimistic about our future.  Realizing that we want to continuously push to grow and innovate led me to appreciate “the need to execute (to the) core business model while innovating in parallel.”  So today’s post isn’t an attempt to make me look smart; rather, my attempt to acknowledge the inspiration of others and share what’s working for us.

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.

##

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.

While Everybody’s Talking About the Future of Banking…

It seems like everyone has an opinion about what the future holds for banking… but what does banking actually look like today?

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

For the past few years, Bank Director magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Jack Milligan, has spearheaded our Bank Performance Scorecard, a ranking of the largest U.S. publicly traded banks and thrifts. The most recent version, which appears in our third quarter issue, ranked all banks and thrifts listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq OMX.  Jack and his team sorted them into three separate asset categories: $1 billion to $5 billion, $50 billion to $50 billion and $50 billion and above — and we ranked them using a set of metrics that measured profitability, capitalization and asset quality based on 2014 calendar year data.

While this data shines a light on some of banking’s standout performers, my last few months of travel across the U.S. has revealed less familiarity with the banking industry then I expected. So today, instead of focusing on economic, political, demographic or technological forces reshaping the banking landscape, allow me to share some statistics I think are important to know:

  1. Banks with less than $10 billion in assets have lost over half of their market share in the past 20 years.
  2. The corollary? The five largest banks now hold almost 44% of all banking assets in the country.
  3. Despite totaling 89% of all banks, institutions under $1B in assets hold only 8.3% of the industry’s assets.

With competition coming from both the top of the market and from non-traditional players, I have talked with numerous bank CEOs and various members of their executive teams who tell me how imperative it is for them to really focus on improving efficiencies and enhancing organic growth prospects.  In addition, as big banks invest in customer acquisition, and non-traditional players continue to eat away at earnings potential, it strikes me that of all of the risks facing a bank’s key leadership team today (for instance, regulatory, market and cyber) knowing when to buy, sell or grow independently has to be high on the list. After all, the most profitable financial companies are often those whose strategies are intentional, focused and differentiated… and are showing current revenue growth with strong visibility towards future performance.

Of course, any discussion about the world in which banks live today has to acknowledge two significant business threats. Since most banking products tend to be commodities that are available at any number of bank and non-bank providers, the first concerns customer acquisition costs. Personally, I believe such costs will increase as existing customers become less likely to refer their bank to others. This leads to the second threat; namely, banks will lose revenue as customers leave for competitors and existing customers buy fewer products.

So a high-level look at where things are today. I realize this takes a very broad brush to a mature industry. Still, to understand where banks might be heading, I find it helpful to be grounded in where they are today.

Quick Guide: 2015 Growth Strategy Survey (Bank-specific)

Recently, Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal picked up Bank Director’s 2015 Growth Strategy Survey.  The research project reveals how many financial institutions continue to recognize growth in traditional areas — most notably, loans to businesses and commercial real estate — while struggling to attract a decidedly untraditional digital generation.  So in case you missed it, today’s piece highlights key findings from this annual research project. 

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Over the weekend, our friends at the Wall Street Journal ran a very telling story about the efforts being made by the San Francisco 49ers to better engage with their millennial employee base.  Clearly, the NFL franchise’s challenge to “relate to a generation — generally described as 18-to-34-year-olds — that has been raised on smartphones and instant information” parallels that of most banks in the U.S.  In addition to being a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening out in Santa Clara, it also sparked today’s post.

You see, as a 38-year old who runs a great privately-held company that employs quite a few folks under the age of 30, I have to admit that I am tiring of the broad strokes being used to describe millennials’ needs and ambitions.  However, I will admit to being surprised to learn that there are approximately 75 million people in the U.S. under the age of 34.  This is a huge number, especially when you hear that every day, for the next 15 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 (h/t to the CEO of Boston’s Chamber of Commerce for making me aware of this reality).

Surprisingly, 60% of the executives and board members that responded to Bank Director’s 2015 Growth Strategy Survey say their bank might not have the right products, services and delivery methods to serve the vast majority of this demographic.  While I haven’t run this by our very talented Director of Research (*hello Emily McCormick), to me, this shows that the relationships that community bankers nurtured for decades will be increasingly of less value with this emergingly-influential generation who have grown up in a digital world and who, stereotypically, value the speed with which it operates.

As the Wall Street Journal shared when reporting on our research results, “banks have watched less regulated finance companies ranging from mortgage lenders to private-equity firms encroach on many of their main businesses.  But ask an executive or board member at a bank what nonbank company they most fear, and they’re likely to name the world’s biggest technology company, Apple Inc.”  So what were our key findings?  Glad you asked…

Three key findings (click this title link to access the full report):

  1. Apple is the nonbank competitor respondents worry about most, at 40%  — just 18% of respondents indicate their bank offers Apple Pay.
  2. Bank mobile apps may not keep pace with nonbank competitors. Features such as peer-to-peer payments, indicated by 28% of respondents, or merchant discounts and deals, 9%, are less commonly offered within a traditional bank’s mobile channel. 49% of respondents indicate their bank offers personal financial management tools.
  3. Despite the rise of P2P lenders like Lending Club and Prosper in the consumer lending space, just 35% of respondents express concern that these startup companies will syphon loans from traditional banks.

Instead of millennials, banks have been finding most of their growth in loans to businesses and commercial real estate.  Yes, 75% of respondents want to understand how technology can make their bank more efficient… and 72% want to know how technology can improve the customer experience.  But I find it telling that today, loan growth remains the primary driver of profitability for the majority of responding banks.  In fact, 85% of respondents see opportunities to grow through commercial real estate loans.  As we found, executives and board members also expect to grow through commercial & industrial (C&I) lending, for 56%, and residential mortgages, at 45%.  So for those looking to predict the future of banking, I think findings like these are quite telling.  Indeed, it would appear what’s worked in the past may be what to bet on for the future.

##

The 2015 Growth Strategy Survey, sponsored by technology firm CDW, reveals how bankers perceive the opportunities and challenges in today’s marketplace, and technology’s role in strategic growth. The survey was completed by 168 chief executive officers, independent directors and senior executives of U.S. banks with more than $250 million in assets in May, June and July of this year.  Ironically, last year’s survey found that credit unions, not Apple, were the “non-bank” competitor that banks were most worried about.  In fact, can you believe that Apple didn’t even make the cut?  My, how quickly times can change.

18 Banks that Fintech Companies Need to Know

To build on last week’s piece (15 Banks and Fintechs Doing it Right), I put myself in the shoes of an early stage fintech company’s Founder.  Specifically, as someone with a new idea looking to develop meaningful financial relationships with regional and community banks in the United States.  With many exciting and creative fintech companies beginning to collaborate with traditional institutions, what follows is a list of 18 banks — all between $1Bn and $25Bn in size — that I think should attract the tech world’s interest.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Believe it or not, but bank CEOs and their teams are working hard to grow revenue, deposits, brand, market size and market share.  So a hypothetical situation to tee-up today’s column.

Imagine we developed a new, non-disruptive but potentially profit-enhancing software product (let’s put it in the “know-your-customer” sector since banks already spend money on this).  As the Founders, we want to approach banks that might be ready to do more than simply pilot our product.  While our first instinct would be to focus on recognizable names known for taking a technology-based, consumer-centric focus to banking, the low hanging fruit might be with CEOs and executive teams at publicly traded community banks — many of whom are above $1Bn in asset size and are just scratching the surface of developing meaningful fintech relationships.

With the idea that smaller banks can act faster to at least consider what we’re selling, we cull the field, knowing that as of June 1 of this year, the total number of FDIC-insured institutions equaled 6,404; within this universe, banks with assets greater than $1Bn totaled just 699.

So now we are focused on a manageable number of potential customers and can spend time getting smart on “who’s-doing-what” in this space.  Can we agree that we want to approach banks that share common characteristics; namely, strong financial performance that sets them apart from their peers and operations in strong local markets or big economic states?  Good, because assuming we are starting from scratch in this space, here are our top prospects (listed in no particular order with approximate asset size):

  1. Citizens Business Bank in California ($7.3Bn)
  2. Pinnacle Financial in Tennessee ($6Bn)
  3. Farmers & Merchants in California ($5.5Bn)
  4. Western Alliance in Arizona ($10Bn)
  5. Eagle Bank in DC ($5.2Bn)
  6. Prosperity in Texas ($21.5Bn)
  7. BankUnited in Florida ($19.2Bn)
  8. BofI “on the internet” ($5.2Bn)
  9. First NBC in Louisiana ($3.7Bn)
  10. Burke & Herbert in Virginia ($2.6Bn)
  11. Banner in Washington ($4.7Bn)
  12. Bank of Marin in California ($1.8Bn)
  13. Cardinal Bank in Virginia ($3.4Bn)
  14. State Bank in Georgia ($2.8Bn)
  15. TCF Financial in Minnesota ($19.3Bn)
  16. United Bank in Connecticut ($5.5Bn)
  17. Boston Private in Massachusetts ($6.8Bn)
  18. Opus Bank in California ($5.1Bn)

At a time when the concept of service is fast changing to reflect highly functional technology and “always-available” customer experiences, these eighteen banks — already successful in their own right — strike me as just the types to think about approaching.

##

*Now I’m not suggesting everyone pick up the phone and call each’s institutions CEO.  But If you are with a fintech thinking about partnerships and collaboration, you could do a whole heckuva lot worse than spending some time learning what makes all of these banks more than just financially strong and consumer relevant.

15 Banks and Fintechs Doing it Right

15 examples - new blog cover image.001

Many bank CEOs and their executive teams are looking for emerging methods, products and services to reach new customer segments to drive growth. Today, I identify fifteen banks in the United States, all under $20Bn in asset size, that are growing with the help of fintech companies.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

With the rise of many innovative, non-traditional financial services companies, leaders of financial institutions can find themselves overwhelmed when it comes to selecting the right partners.  If you are running a bank that doesn’t have multiple incubators, accelerators and skunk work projects already under way, knowing where to participate with the fintech community can prove quite the challenge.  Should it be with an upstart touting a new credit decisioning models?  What about one with a new lending model?  In the quest to become more “nimble” and responsive to consumer demands, do you partner? Refer business? Accept referrals?  The list of not-so-rhretorical questions goes on and on…

Now, quite a bit of digital ink has been spilled over the creativity and aspirations of the fintech community (and its many investors) to transform banking.  But not nearly as much for banks looking to do the same.  While the efforts of major players like Wells Fargo and Capital One garner well-deserved attention, it is my belief that for fintech companies keen to collaborate (and not compete) with banks, developing relationships with banks from $1Bn to $10Bn — there are approximately 550 — and those from $10Bn to $50Bn — there are approximately 75 — may prove as lucrative over the next few years as working with the 30 banks that have assets from $50Bn up.

With this parameter in mind, I polled a few of my team at Bank Director to compile a list of banks, all under $20Bn in asset size, that “play well” with fintechs to show that you don’t have to be the biggest of the big to benefit from this wave of new market participants.  Here, in no particular order, are fifteen banks with notable relationships and/or efforts.

  1. Eastern Bank checks in at $9.7B in asset size, and the Massachusetts-based bank stands out for bringing on some great fintech talent; notably, hiring ex-Perkstreet CEO Dan O’Malley and several of his colleagues to lead its innovation unit;
  2. California’s Fremont Bank ($2.7B) caught our eye, as the bank was a fast adopter of Apple Pay;
  3. River City Bank ($1.3B, Sacramento) has a fintech guy — Ryan Gilbert, Better Finance — on their board;
  4. The Bancorp ($4.5B) backs a lot of fintech/nonbank firms like Moven and Simple;
  5. Radius Bank (just under $1Bn) is a Boston institution with just two physical locations — but is forming alliances with fintech startups to be “everywhere;”
  6. Union Bank & Trust in Nebraska works with Betterment, an automated investing service, to offer its customers a smart, simple and easy way to invest;
  7. A real pioneer, CBW Bank ($14.5B) is a community bank in Kansas and one of the first U.S. banks to use the Ripple protocol for modern, real-time payments between the U.S. and other countries globally;
  8. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington Trust ($4B) is vocal on being tech-friendly;
  9. In Texas, First Financial ($6B) is big on mobile and being innovative — working with Mitek, they are the first regional bank to offer mobile photo bill pay);
  10. Banc of California ($6B) uses nCino to automate and standardize its commercial and SBA lending;
  11. PacWest ($16B) are all about lending to technology and fintech companies;
  12. The Bank of the Internet, BofI, is a full-service internet bank with $5 billion in assets;
  13. Everbank ($16B) plays well with Fintech while adorning the stadium of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars;
  14. Rockland Trust has a SVP of digital and payments innovation, which is unusual for a $5.6 billion dollar bank; and
  15. The $17 billion-asset First National Bank of Omaha hosts a weekend-long hackathon, a competition common in the tech world but rarely hosted by banks, to attract talent into its ranks.

By no means is this a complete list of community banks collaborating with fintechs in the U.S.  If I was to expand the list up in size, you can bet larger regional standouts like KeyBank would merit recognition for their work with companies like HelloWallet.  In the spirit of learning/sharing, who else should be added to this list?  Let me know via twitter or by leaving a comment below.

Pushing Forward: The Future of Financial Services?

Yesterday, the L.A. Times wrote about a bank that is “part lender, part consultant, part cheerleader and part investor… a nursemaid to countless start-ups — Airbnb, Fitbit, Pinterest and TrueCar, to name some recent ones — as well as banking the venture capitalists who fund them.” Curious to learn more about this California-based innovator with a great reputation for serving software, hardware, biotech and healthcare start-ups? Read on.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Bank Director’s managing editor, Naomi Snyder, recently wrote that “banks are used to identifying, monitoring and mitigating risks, more so than they are adept at innovating. But an argument gaining increasing weight is the notion that banks really are technology companies and need to think more like a technology company.”  But what if, instead of transforming one’s business model to resemble a tech firm, an institution instead acted like Silicon Valley Bank, the Santa Clara-based powerhouse that has financed scores of the highest-flying tech companies like those mentioned above.

Certainly, this standout financial institution has a knack for staying close to their customers (*take a look at their Innovation Economy Outlook 2015).  So at a time when many banks are shrinking in relevance despite their important role in local economies, I thought to take a look at this “unusual for an FDIC-regulated bank.”  Billed as the bank of the world’s most innovative companies and their investors, the LA Times shared that with $40.2 billion in assets, Silicon Valley Bank now has “the heft to handle them from start-up to initial public offering, multiplying its profits on larger loans and fees.”  Further,

The bank, which recently opened an office in Santa Monica, is more willing than others to focus on a start-up’s growth prospects rather than its current financial condition and to lend money so businesses can expand while awaiting the next round of venture capital funding, said investor Mark Suster, a client and managing partner at Upfront Ventures in Los Angeles.

Now, this doesn’t preclude the bank from identifying a good thing that can help it to continue to push forward the future of financial services.  Case-in-point, I woke up a few days ago to find, via Twitter, that Standard Treasury team joined SVB Financial’s information technology team “to help it expand the bank’s digital banking platform.”  Just as I looked at Capital One’s recent fintech acquisitions in my last post (How Capital One Can Inspire Your Digital Efforts), the fact that the bank hired the team from startup company Standard Treasury to help accelerate the development of its API (application programming interface) banking services underscores the institutions drive to “enable easier collaboration, product development and integration with… clients.”

While catching up to Silicon Valley Bank — which boasts of having half of all startups in the U.S. as clients — will challenge many traditional institutions, I think it makes far more sense to look at what they have accomplished and suggest banks in markets where venture-backed start-ups are taking off try to pattern their business after SVB’s successes rather than radically shifting the underlying business model to emulate what might work for a technology company.

Of course, the LA Times does remind us that “most also don’t come close to Silicon Valley Bank’s well-connected network of outside experts, mentors, tech executives, venture capitalists and current and former clients ready to help its upstart entrepreneurs — no matter how farfetched an idea might seem.” Nevertheless, at a time when individuals along with business owners have more choices than ever before in terms of where, when and how they bank, I think leadership teams at financial institutions of all sizes should pay attention to how Silicon Valley Bank aligns its services (and product mixes) to suit core customers’ interests and expectations.