What (Bank) Directors Think

Quickly:

CHICAGO — Guess what?  As institutions continue to seek out growth and efficiencies through technology, they in turn expose themselves to new risks and liabilities. Understanding the two-sided nature of this proverbial coin reflects just one of the many nuanced conversations that took place during our annual Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference.  If you’re not familiar with this exclusive event, we invite bank leaders from across the country to take a broad and strategic view at the risk landscape, while also focusing on specific actions to improve a bank’s performance.

Indeed, our team put together an agenda filled with opportunities to improve existing audit and risk functions.  In addition, we surfaced new ideas around issues and topics such as cybersecurity, credit quality, blockchain, rising interest rates and financial reporting.

Personally, I was thrilled to welcome more than 400 men and women to the Swissotel Chicago — with over 300 participants comprising bank CEOs, chairmen, board members, CFOs, CROs, senior executives and internal auditors.  Throughout our time together, we took the opportunity to pose a series of questions to this hugely influential and knowledgeable audience.  As we discovered, the increasing level of U.S. debt proved the biggest macroeconomic concern for this group by a wide margin.  Yes, we polled this group using an audience response device and found 52% placed this issue as their top concern — far outpacing the 15% who cited a potential recession and 13% who pointed towards a political crisis.

Such in-person polling provides quite a bit of insight as to where we might be heading as an industry and an economy.  What follows are five additional survey results from this year’s event on how this experienced audience feels about various hot topics.

Q: What do you think is the biggest risk to the industry?

54% = Technology changes and FinTech
20% = Recession risk and loan quality
17% = Flattening yield curve
6% = Pushed out by consolidation
4% = Regulatory scrutiny

Q: What are your expectations for deposit competition in your markets over the next year?

78% = We face stiff competition; deposit pricing will be a key concern
13% = Our ability to compete for deposits will improve as rates rise
9% = Unsure

Q: As rates rise, are you concerned about loan terms within the bank’s existing loan portfolio?

50% = No
35% = Yes, but for a short period of time
10% = Yes, I’m deeply concerned
4% = Unsure

Q: What is your greatest concern about deploying RegTech within your bank?

23% = Updates to internal processes / infrastructure
22% = Cost of RegTech solutions
21% = Identifying valid solutions
17% = Vetting providers / third party management
15% = Internal skills
3% = Regulatory acceptance

Q: Do you believe the bank’s board has the necessary level of cybersecurity expertise?

78% = No
18% = Yes
4% = Unsure

I’ll keep my observations on these findings to personal conversations… That said, from improving risk oversight, mastering new reporting requirements and staying ahead on compliance, this year’s conference provided practical takeaways for participants to bring back to their banks.  Curious to see what we covered?  I encourage you to take a look at BankDirector.com or search for @BankDirector and #BDAudit18 on Twitter.

3 Trends (and 3 Issues) Every Bank’s Board Needs To Consider

Quickly:

  • The challenges faced by financial institutions today are as numerous as they are nuanced. Be it data security, emerging technology, fraud, crisis management and/or the effectiveness of internal controls, I opened the 12th annual Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference by laying out a number of key governance, risk and compliance issues and trends.

CHICAGO — While a sophomore at Washington & Lee University, a professor loudly (and unexpectedly) chastised a close friend of mine for stating the obvious. With a wry laugh, he thanked my classmate “for crashing through an open door.” Snark aside, his criticism became a rallying cry for me to pause and dive deeper into apparently simple questions or issues.

Audit16x9

I shared this anecdote with some 400 attendees earlier today; indeed, I teed up Bank Director’s annual program by reminding everyone from the main stage that:

  1. We’re late in the economic cycle;
  2. Rates are rising; and
  3. Pressure on lending spreads remains intense.

Given the composition of this year’s audience, I acknowledged the obvious nature of these three points. I did so, however, in order to surface three trends we felt all here should have on their radar.  I followed that up with three emerging issues to make note of.

TREND #1:
Big banks continue to roll-out exceptional customer-facing technology.

Wells Fargo has been kicked around a lot in the press this year, but to see how big banks continue to pile up retail banking wins, take a look at Greenhouse by Wells Fargo, their app designed to attract younger customers to banking.

TREND #2:
Traditional core IT providers — Fiserv, Jack Henry & FIS — are under fire.

As traditional players move towards digital businesses, new players continue to emerge to help traditional banks become more nimble, flexible and competitive.  Here, FinXact and Nymbus provide two good examples of legitimate challengers to legacy cores.

TREND #3:
Amazon lurks as the game changer.

Community banker’s fear Amazon’s potential entry into this market; according to Promontory Interfinancial Network’s recent business outlook, it is their greatest threat.

In addition to these trends, I surfaced three immediate issues that banks must tackle

ISSUE #1:
Big banks attract new deposits at a much faster pace than banks with less than $1 billion assets.

If small banks can’t easily and efficiently attract deposits, they basically have no future. ‘Nuf said.

ISSUE #2: 
Bank boards need to know if they want to buy, sell or grow independently.

In a recent newsletter, Tom Brown of Second Curve Capital opined that “if you have less than $5 billion in assets, an efficiency ratio north of 65%, deposit costs above 60 basis points, and earn a return on equity in the single digits, this really is time to give some thought to selling.”  As I shared on LinkedIn yesterday, the 3 biggest bank M&A deals of the year took place in May: Fifth Third Bancorp’s $4.6 billion purchase of MB Financial, Cadence Bancorp’s $1.3 billion acquisition of State Bank Financial and Independent Bank Group’s $1 billion agreement to buy Guaranty Bancorp. 
 I don’t see the pace of consolidation slowing any time soon — and know that banks need to ask if they want (and can) be buyers or sellers.

ISSUE #3:
The risk of data breaches across industries continues to increase.

Be it risk management, internal control or third-party security considerations, every aspect of an institution is susceptible to a data breach — and managing these threats and identifying appropriate solutions takes a village that includes the most senior leaders of an organization.

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Just as banks need to develop their audit and risk capabilities, skills and talents, so too do officers and directors have both an opportunity and the responsibility to stay abreast of various trends and topics.  Bank Director’s event continues tomorrow with some fascinating presentations. To see what’s been shared already, take a look at Twitter, where I’m tweeting using @aldominick and #BDAudit18.

The Best of FinXTech’s Annual Summit

Quickly:

  • FinXTech’s annual Summit brought together senior executives from across the financial space to focus on new growth strategies and opportunities related to technology.

PHOENIX — I’ve spent the past few days with bank leaders, technology executives, investors and analysts interested to explore emerging trends, opportunities and challenges facing many as they look to grow and scale their businesses.  So as I prepare to head home to DC after some wonderfully exciting days at Bank Director’s annual FinXTech Summit, a few highlights from my time in the desert.

The 10 Finalists for 3 FinXTech Awards

For me, one of the signature pieces of this year’s program occurred on Thursday evening.  Under the stars, we recognized ten partnerships, each of which exemplified how banks and financial technology companies work together to better serve existing customers, attract new ones, improve efficiencies, bolster security and promote innovation.  The finalists for this year’s Best of FinXTech Awards can be seen in this video.

Winners of the 2018 Best of FinXTech Awards

We introduced these awards in 2016 to identify and recognize those partnerships that exemplify how collaborative efforts can lead to innovative solutions and growth in the banking industry.  This year, we focused on three areas of business creativity:

  • Startup Innovation, to recognize successful and innovative partnerships between banks and startup fintech companies that have been operating for less than five years.
  • Most Innovative Solution of the Year, to highlight forward-thinking ideas, we recognized partnerships that have resulted in new and innovative solutions in the financial space.
  • Best of FinXTech Partnership, a category to recognize outstanding collaboration between a financial institution and fintech company, we based this award on growth by revenue, customers and/or reputation plus the strength of integration.

The winners? Radius Bank and Alloy for Startup Innovation, CBW Bank and Yantra Financial Technology for Innovative Solution of the Year and Citizens Financial Group and Fundation for Best of FinXTech Partnership.  To learn more about each, check out this cover story on BankDirector.com

Favorite #FinXTech18 tweet

Well played with the ZZ Top reference — now we just needs to grow out that beard and drop a pair of RayBans into the shot.

Favorite picture

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Three timely (and paraphrased) comments

  1. COMMUNICATION is key…. said nearly every presenter.
  2. Make the tough call to kill bad tech or a bad relationship. You’ll lose customers if you don’t react quickly (h/t to our VP of Research, Emily McCormick).
  3. Change is the key to being valuable; start thinking and working like a startup (h/t @nabeelmahmood).

Video Recaps

During our time in the desert, we shared a number of videos on BankDirector.com.  The page with all videos can be found on FinXTech Annual Summit: Focusing on What’s Possible.  To get a sense of what these short videos look like, here is an example:

Thanks to all those who joined us at the Phoenician.  For more ideas and insight from this year’s event, I invite you to take a look at what we’ve shared on BankDirector.com (*no registration required).

3 Ways Banks Can Pick Up their Pace of Creativity

Quickly:

  • Financial institutions need a culture that allows for, and encourages, leadership teams to test & implement new approaches to traditional banking.

PHOENIX — Many financial institutions face a creativity crisis.  Legacy systems and monolithic structures stifle real change at many traditional banks — while newer technology leaders move quickly to pick up the slack.  During the first day of our annual FinXTech Summit at the Phoenician, I picked up on a few practical ideas to break down a few of the most common barriers to innovation inside financial institutions.

As our managing editor, Jake Lowary, wrote for BankDirector.com this morning, “the cultural and philosophical divides between banks and fintech companies is still very apparent, but the two groups have generally come to agree that it’s far more lucrative to establish positive relationships that benefit each, as well as their customers, than face off on opposite ends of the business landscape.”

So with this in mind, I invite you to follow the conference conversations via our social channels, where our team continues to shares ideas and information from Day 2 of this event using @BankDirector and @Fin_X_Tech on Twitter. In addition, you can search & follow #FinXTech18 to see what’s being shared with (and by) our attendees.

Banks, Make Your Move Into the Cloud

Quickly:

  • To deliver a truly end-to-end digital customer experience, banks need to figure out how and when to move into the cloud.

PHOENIX — As we kicked off this year’s FinXTech Summit, I found myself engaged in a conversation about how (and why) banks might “freeze and wrap” their data using their current core system while moving their customer engagement and analytics into the cloud.  While this was my first time hearing that particular description/approach, the underlying logic certainly applies for many of the bankers joining us at the Phoenician.  In fact, it inspired this short video shot during today’s lunch.

As a company, we’ve been writing about banks realizing that the benefits of cloud computing outweigh added security risks for a while now.  But it strikes me that interest in cloud-based platforms has been on the rise of late.  As our friends at Blend shared on BankDirector.com, “the cloud presents opportunities for enhanced efficiencies and flexibility — without any security trade-offs — so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more organizations shift to the software as a service (SaaS) model.”

Interested to see what a move into the cloud might means for banks?  Take a look at these five cloud-based companies:

  • nCino – expediting loans and workflow on top of force.com;
  • Apiture – an API-banking joint venture between Live Oak and First Data;
  • Payrailz – an API-based payments platform “check-free killer;”
  • Defense Storm – where Big Data meets Cyber for banks; and
  • Greenlight – offering debit cards for kids.

I’ll check in later tonight to recap several presentations that explore what makes for a strong, digitally-solid bank.  Before that posts, I invite you to follow the conference conversations via our social channels.  You can follow me @AlDominick on Twitter — and our team shares ideas and information through @BankDirector plus our @Fin_X_Tech platform. Finally, search & follow #FinXTech18 to see what’s being shared with (and by) our attendees.

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FWIW, my reference to Amazon.com, Salesforce.com and Oracle in this video traces back to January 2, when Bloomberg reported the first two were “actively working to replace Oracle software running on crucial business systems with lower cost open-source database software.”  For more: Amazon, Salesforce Shifting Business Away From Oracle: Report

Kicking off FinXTech’s Summit

Quickly:

  • Technology continues to transform nearly every aspect of the financial services industry — from mobile payments to peer-to-peer lending to financial management.

PHOENIX — Tomorrow morning, we kick off our annual FinXTech Summit.  As I wrote yesterday, this annual event serves as our “in-person” bridge between banks and qualified technology companies.  Personally, I am so impressed to witness numerous financial institutions transforming how they offer banking products and services to businesses and individuals.  As such, I find myself eager to engage in tomorrow’s conversations around:

  • Partnerships, collaboration and enablement;
  • How and where banks can invest in cloud-based software; and
  • The business potential of machine learning, advanced analytics and natural language processors.

Joining us at the Phoenician are senior executives from high-performance banks like Capital One, Customers Bank, Dime Community Bancshares, First Interstate Bank, IBERIABANK, Mechanics Bank, Mutual of Omaha Bank, PacWest, Pinnacle Financial, Seacoast National Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, South State Bank, TCF National Bank, Umpqua, Union Bank & Trust, USAA and US Bancorp.  Long-time tech players like Microsoft share their opinions alongside strong upstarts like AutoBooks during this two-day program.  So before I welcome nearly 200 men and women to this year’s conference, allow me to share a few of my preliminary thoughts going into the event:

For those with us here in Arizona, you’ll find nearly every presentation explores what makes for a strong, digitally-solid bank.  So to see what’s trending, I invite you to follow the conference conversations via our social channels. For instance, I am @AlDominick on Twitter — and our team shares ideas and information through @BankDirector plus our @Fin_X_Tech platform.  Finally, search & follow #FinXTech18 to see what’s being shared with (and by) our attendees.

The Intersection of Ideas and Opportunities

Quickly:

  • In a few days, the lights come up on the annual FinXTech Summit, a program that explores ways for banks to delight customers, generate top-line growth and enhance bottom-line profits through partnerships and investments in technology companies.

PHOENIX — When I last stepped foot in Arizona, it was to host Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  The January event attracts a hugely influential audience focused on mergers, acquisitions and growth strategies & tactics.  While there, we noticed quite a few presentations explored how and where financial institutions might invest in, or better integrate, digital opportunities.  So, as a complement to Acquire or Be Acquired, I’m back in the desert to dive deeper into myriad ideas for banks to improve profitability and efficiency with the help of technology firms.

As we prepare to host our FinXTech Annual Summit at the Phoenician, take note: smart banks are investing and/or partnering with technology companies because they realize it’s cheaper and faster than building something themselves.  Further, the largest banks in the U.S. are rapidly evolving with advances in artificial intelligence across chatbots, robo-advisors, claims, underwriting, IoT and soon blockchain — all of which add another layer of potential to further shake-up traditional business models.  In fact, there was a palatable sense among bankers at AOBA about the evolution in financial technology.

Nonetheless, many banks, especially those between $500M and $30Bn in assets, are on the outside looking in — and this is where FinXTech’s Summit story begins.

From exploring data to leveraging cognitive computing to gaining efficiencies in backroom processes, this year’s event surfaces a number of potent ideas.  For instance, we shine a light on how bank leadership can truly unleash the potential of a technology partner.  Further, we pull current quotes and issues like these to discuss and debate:

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static — they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’
Jeff Bezos, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Likewise, we share our takes on key acquisitions — like JP Morgan’s acquisition of WePay — while identifying how institutions leverage newer technologies to improve efficiency ratios and in some cases, boost franchise valuations.

In a sense, FinXTech’s Summit serves as our “in-person” bridge between banks and qualified technology companies.  For those joining us, we’ll touch on various products and services for security, data & analytics, infrastructure, lending, mobile banking, payments and regtech while convening an exceptionally senior audience of 200+.  Throughout the event, I’ll share my thoughts via Twitter, where I’m @AlDominick and using #FinXTech18.  Finally, I’ll author a daily update on this site with my observations from the conference.