Freeing Up Funds to Invest in Digital Channels

WASHINGTON, DC — Since our Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, I’ve talked with a number of executives about how (and why) regional and community banks continue to look for ways to build scale, expand their geographic footprint and invest in digital channels.

Nearly everyone I’ve talked with acknowledges how important innovation is to one’s business strategies.  Quietly, many feel like they are coming up short of their ambitions.  

Given the lines between banks and other financial services providers continue to blur, I am sharing two recent episodes from our Looking Ahead series.  Together, they address the strategic side of technology. Both highlight practical steps to free up resources in order to fund new tech-driven initiatives.

This first video frames the importance of developing a culture of technological innovation. Georgette Kiser — Operating Executive at the Carlyle Group — shares a few tips for those business leaders looking to become more technologically progressive.

In addition, we invited the perspectives of Shawn Melamed, CEO & Co-Founder of a de novo bank, to talk about customer acquisition through digital channels.  Shawn previously led Morgan Stanley’s strategic technology partnerships, so his remarks reflect his experience in that large financial services company as much as starting a bank in 2020.

Looking Ahead is our boardroom leadership series that surfaces key industry and cross industry strategy issues for executive teams and their boards. Filmed at Nasdaq’s MarketSite in Time Square, we offer industry trends and real life examples of corporate leadership with commentary from leading figures at public, private and non profit institutions.

5 Questions I’m Asking About The State of Banking

NEW YORK, NY — Earlier this year, I sat down with Tom Michaud, the CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, a Stifel Company, to get his perspective on the state of banking here in the United States.  With some $18 Trillion in assets, this industry is big, broad and incredibly influential.  As part of our Looking Ahead series, I asked five questions of Tom; thematically:

  1. The trends he and his colleagues are most focused on, vis-a-vis the biggest banks in the U.S.;
  2. His outlook for bank M&A;
  3. An update on the FinTech community;
  4. Whether he anticipates an uptick in IPOs in the financial sector — be it from legacy players or FinTech companies; and
  5. The promise of the soon-to-be chartered banks that are popping up in markets like DC, NY and on the west coast.

Here’s what he had to say:

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

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

What's all the fuss about?

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 4.21.22 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Our Partnership With Nasdaq

July 16, 2019 — I’m excited to make it official: Nasdaq Governance Solutions partnered with DirectorCorps (an information resource that provides peer insight, on crucial strategic issues, to corporate leaders through digital channels and exclusive events), to launch the new Looking Ahead: Trends in Corporate Leadership video series.

Produced for the top officers and members of the boards of publicly traded and fast-growing private companies, “Looking Ahead” explores emerging leadership trends and topics. Nasdaq just dropped the first six episodes on its new website:

  • What’s Driving Healthcare M&A
  • Surveying Cybersecurity
  • Balancing Purpose with Profit: ESG in the Spotlight
  • How to Crete a Culture of Technology Creativity
  • The Need to Know About IPOs
  • Getting Ahead of Shareholder Activism

An Easy Way to Lose Sight of Critical Risks

CHICAGO — Let me ask you a question:

How does the executive team at your biggest competitor think about their future? Are they fixated on asset growth or loan quality? Gathering low-cost deposits? Improving their technology to accelerate the digital delivery of new products? Finding and training new talent?

The answers don’t need to be immediate or precise. But we tend to fixate on the issues in front of us and ignore what’s happening right outside our door, even if the latter issues are just as important.

Yet, any leader worth their weight in stock certificates will say that taking the time to dig into and learn about other businesses, even those in unrelated industries, is time well spent.

Indeed, smart executives and experienced outside directors prize efficiency, prudence and smart capital allocation in their bank’s dealings. But here’s the thing: Your biggest—and most formidable—competitors strive for the same objectives.

So when we talk about trending topics at today and tomorrow’s Bank Audit and Risk Committees Conference in Chicago, we do so with an eye not just to the internal challenges faced by your institution but on the external pressures as well.

As my team at Bank Director prepares to host 317 women and men from banks across the country this morning, let me state the obvious: Risk is no stranger to a bank’s officers or directors. Indeed, the core business of banking revolves around risk management—interest rate risk, credit risk, operational risk. To take things a step further:

Given this, few would dispute the importance of the audit committee to appraise a bank’s business practices, or of the risk committee to identify potential hazards that could imperil an institution. Banks must stay vigilant, even as they struggle to respond to the demands of the digital revolution and heightened customer expectations.

I can’t overstate the importance of audit and risk committees keeping pace with the disruptive technological transformation of the industry. That transformation is creating an emergent banking model, according to Frank Rotman, a founding partner of venture capital firm QED Investors. This new model focuses banks on increasing engagement, collecting data and offering precisely targeted solutions to their customers.

If that’s the case—given the current state of innovation, digital transformation and the re-imagination of business processes—is it any wonder that boards are struggling to focus on risk management and the bank’s internal control environment?

When was the last time the audit committee at your bank revisited the list of items that appeared on the meeting agenda or evaluated how the committee spends its time? From my vantage point, now might be an ideal time for audit committees to sharpen the focus of their institutions on the cultures they prize, the ethics they value and the processes they need to ensure compliance.

And for risk committee members, national economic uncertainty—given the political rhetoric from Washington and trade tensions with U.S. global economic partners, especially China—has to be on your radar. Many economists expect an economic recession by June 2020. Is your bank prepared for that?

Bank leadership teams must monitor technological advances, cybersecurity concerns and an ever-evolving set of customer and investor expectations. But other issues can’t be ignored either.

So as I prepare to take the stage to kick off this year’s Bank Audit and Risk Committees Conference, I encourage everyone to remember that minds are like parachutes. In the immortal words of musician Frank Zappa: “It doesn’t work if it is not open.”

Thanks to nCino for Inviting Me to Speak

RALEIGH, NC — How are rapid technological innovations changing the banking industry? This question anchored my conversation with Neil Henderson — Head of Business Advisory, Macquarie Bank, Jonathan Holman — Head of Digital Transformation, Santander UK and Elizabeth Dobers — EVP, Executive Director, Business Banking, BBVA Compass at nCino’s annual nSight conference

I’m working on a post that summarizes my time at this event.  But I’d be remiss not to thank nCino’s team for inviting me to speak on the Current State of Global Banking.  What a a tremendous job of bringing together hundreds of representatives from global enterprise banks, regional and community banks and credit unions to discuss trends in financial services and explore the power of the cloud.  My thanks to Pierre, Shelby, Ahron, Josh, Pullen, and many more for your hospitality these past few days!

 

 

3 Approaches to Shaping a Bank’s Digital Future

  • To compete in this new era of heightened digital competition, it is more important than ever for banks of all sizes to stay committed to the quest of constant improvement.

WASHINGTON, DC — How should you position your bank for the future — or, for that matter, the present?  This is one of the most perplexing questions challenging leadership teams right now.  It is not a new consideration; indeed, the industry has been in a constant state of evolution for as long as anyone on our team can remember. Yet lately, it has taken on a new, possibly more existential sense of urgency.

Fortunately, there are examples of banks, of different sizes and a variety of business models, keeping pace with changing consumer expectations and commercial clients’ needs. The industry seems to be responding to the ongoing digital revolution in banking in three ways.

#1: Forge Your Own Digital Frontier

The biggest banks—those like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.—have the resources to forge their own paths on the digital frontier. These banks spend as much as $11 billion a year each on technology. Each hires thousands of programmers to conceptualize digital solutions for customers. And you know what? Their results are impressive.

As many as three-quarters of deposit transactions are completed digitally at these banks (take a minute and let that number sink in).  A growing share of sales, account openings and money transfers take place over these banks’ digital channels as well. This allows these banks to winnow down their branch networks meaningfully while still gaining retail deposit market share.

*IMO, the next step in their evolution is to combine digital delivery channels with insights gleaned from data. It’s by marrying the two, I believe, that banks can gain a competitive advantage by improving the financial lives of their customers.

#2: Look Outside For Tailored Solutions

Just below the biggest banks are super-regional and regional banks.  They too are fully embracing technology, although they tend to look outside their organizations for tailored solutions that will help them compete in this new era (rather than develop the solutions themselves).

These banks talk about integration as a competitive advantage. They argue that they can quickly and nimbly integrate digital solutions developed elsewhere—growing without a burdensome branch network while also benefiting from the latest technologies without bearing the risk and cost of developing many of those solutions themselves. It is a way, in other words, for them to have their cake and eat it too.

U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group fall into this category. Both are reconfiguring their delivery channels, reallocating funds that would be spent on expanding and updating their branch networks to digital investments.

In theory, this makes it possible for these banks to expand into new geographic markets with far fewer branches. Indeed, U.S. Bancorp announced recently that it will use a combination of digital channels and new branches to establish a physical retail beachhead in Charlotte, North Carolina. PNC Financial is doing the same in Dallas, Texas, among other markets.

#3: Go Off-the-Shelf

Finally, smaller community banks are adopting off-the-shelf solutions offered by their core providers—Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), Fiserv and Jack Henry & Associates.

This approach can be both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because these solutions have enabled upwards of 90 percent of community banks to offer mobile banking applications—table stakes nowadays in the industry. It is a curse because it further concentrates the reliance of community banks on a triumvirate of service providers.

In the final analysis, however, it is important to appreciate that smaller banks based outside of major metropolitan areas still have a leg up when it comes to tried-and-true relationship banking. Their share of loans and deposits in their local markets could even grow if the major money-center banks continue fleeing smaller markets in favor of big cities.

Smaller regional and community banks dominate small business loans in their markets—a fact that was recently underscored by LendingClub Corp.’s decision to close its small business lending unit. These loans still require local expertise—the type of expertise that resides in their hometown banks. The same is true of agriculture loans.

Let’s Not Forget: Banks Are Still Banks

Trust is still the top factor cited by customers in the selection process. And loans must still be underwritten in a responsible way if a bank wants to survive the irregular, but not infrequent, cycles that define our economy. The net result is that some community banks are not only surviving in this new digital era, they are thriving.

But this isn’t a call to complacency—far from it.

5 Trends from Acquire or Be Acquired 2019

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

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SAVE THE DATE:

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

For early-bird registration, please click here.

Daily Briefing: Sunday at Acquire or Be Acquired

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

Three Interesting Stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    _ _ _

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

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

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

    Does 2019 Become the Year of BigTech?

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

    Has the window to sell your bank already closed?

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

    ma-infographic-final_1

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

    Wither the bond market?

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

    An Optimist’s Dilemma

    WASHINGTON, DC — At this time two years ago, optimism swept across the banking sector.  The change in administration gave us a steepened yield curve.  Investors predicted improved economic growth.  Many anticipated regulatory relief and the prospect of major corporate tax cuts.

    The future of banking looked promising.

    Now, pragmatism has worn that luster. Many have concerns about the growing divide between the biggest banks and everyone else. Throughout 2018, moderate loan and dull deposit growth proved persistent themes for banks.

    The future appears far more challenging.

    As the year winds down, I find the cyclical nature of banking of particular interest. While an optimist by nature, I fear we’re entering a harder operating environment.

    • We’re getting closer to a turn in the credit cycle.
    • We saw investors bail on bank stocks in October.
    • We see big banks closing rural and suburban branches—opting for digital services instead.

    Against this backdrop, I take some comfort in a new book by Dorris Kearns Goodwin, “Leadership in Turbulent Times.”  Goodwin provides anecdotes about controlling negative emotions, like President Abraham Lincoln’s “hot letters”—his own missives of his frustrations he then put aside, hoping he’d never have to send what he’d written.

    Leadership in Turbulent Times

    So in that spirit, consider this my “Lincoln letter” to a bank’s CEO and board, albeit with an optimist’s take.

    Please pay attention to the vast amounts being spent on digital advertising.
    The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC estimate U.S. digital ad spending will hit $100 billion by year-end. This number might shock those thinking about where and how they want to tell their bank’s story through videos, social media and other digital means. Nonetheless, considering what’s being spent to court the attention of your “loyal” constituents might spark new ideas for where to invest time and effort.

    When thinking tech, intertwine conversations about talent.
    With venture capitalists still pouring money into startups offering basic banking services, potential employees have even more options to spend their energy and creativity. For any bank, the demand for the talent needed to deliver new digital capabilities will significantly outpace the available labor pool. If you don’t have a team now, I worry your bank might be challenged to successfully create meaningful technology partnerships.

    Culture is eating strategy (and new initiatives) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
    Many executives have talked with me about how they’re working hard to ensure the bank’s existing culture keeps pace with the evolution of the industry. We all deal with execution risk—but as that old saying goes, if all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you’ve ever gotten.

    Windows of opportunity most certainly exist.  What those windows are, and how long they remain open, remains a moving target — one we intend to focus on next month at our 25th annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, Jan. 27-29 at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Arizona.

    *This first ran in Bank Director’s weekly newsletter, The Slant, on December 8.