What you learn at a puppet show

Hank Williams "walking" the red carpet in Nashville

I wrapped up a fairly intense period of travel with a day trip to NYC on Monday and a subsequent overnight in Nashville on Tuesday & Wednesday. While in the Music City, our Chairman invited me to join him at a puppet festival (yes, you read that right). The show, a musical chronicle of the history of country music, benefitted the Nashville Public Library Foundation and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Laugh if you will, but I will tell you, it was amazingly creative. As I mingled with various benefactors of both institutions, I found myself engaged in conversation with the former managing partner at Bass, Berry & Sims. Having led one of the preeminent law firms in the Southeast, his perspective on how dramatically the legal profession has changed in the last fifteen years struck a nerve. The parallels between his profession and the banking space were immediately apparent. So with Patsy Cline playing in the background, we talked about the future of banking, professional services firms and relationship building in general. As we did, I made a mental note to share three thoughts from this week that underscore how things continue to change in our classically conservative industry.

(1) First Republic’s founder and CEO, Jim Herbert, shared some of his Monday morning with me while I was in NYC. Jim founded the San Francisco-based bank in 1985, sold it to Merrill Lynch in 2007, took it private through a management-led buyout in July 2010 after Merrill was acquired by Bank of America, then took it public again this past December through an IPO. For those in the know, First Republic is one of this country’s great banking stories. Not only is it solely focused on organic growth, it’s also solely focused on private banking. While my conversation with Jim was off-the-record, I left his office convinced its the smarts within, not the size of, a bank that will separate the have’s from the have not’s in the years ahead. Clearly, as new regulations and slim profit margins challenge the banking industry, the skills and backgrounds of the employees who work in banking must change.

(2) Speaking of successful banks that have successfully navigated recent challenges… KeyCorp’s Chief Risk Officer, Bill Hartman, joined us last week for Bank Director’s annual Bank Audit Committee Conference in Chicago. Bill is responsible for the bank’s risk management functions, including credit, market, compliance and operational risk, as well as portfolio management, quantitative analytics and asset recovery activities. While I shared some thoughts about that program last week, I thought to elaborate on how KeyCorp divides the roles and responsibilities of its Audit and Risk Committees. Some still think you “retire” to the board; as he showed, that is definitely not the case – especially not at an institution that counts 2 million customers, 15,000 employees and assets of $89 Bn. In terms of Key’s Audit Committee, members oversee Internal Audit, appoint independent auditors and meet with the Chief Risk Officer, Chief Risk Review Officer, and of course, for financial reporting, the CFO. I thought it was interesting to note their Audit Committee met 14 times in 2012 — twice as often as the institution’s Risk Committee convened. With many smaller banks considering the creation of such a committee, let me share the focus of their Risk Committee. Strategically, it is responsible for:

  • Stress testing policy;
  • Dividend and share repurchases;
  • Modeling risk policy;
  • Asset and liability management; and
  • Setting tolerances, key risk indicators and early warning indicators

For those thinking about introducing a Risk Committee into their bank, take a look at what some of our speakers shared leading up to last week’s Audit Committee conference for inspiration.  For a recap of the event, our editor shares his thoughts in today’s Postcard from the Bank Audit Committee Conference.

(3) Yesterday, I was pleased to learn that ConnectOne’s CEO, Frank Sorrentino, agreed to participate in our annual Bank Executive & Board Compensation Conference in November. In addition to being one of the more active bankers I follow on Twitter, I’ve written about his bank going public in a previous post. Today, it’s a WSJ piece that shows U.S. regulators grilling banks over lending standards and “warning them about mounting risks in business loans” that has me citing the NJ-based bank. This particular article quotes the CEO of the Englewood Cliffs, N.J. bank in terms of lending standards (yes, a subscription is required). He reveals that regulators recently asked what he is doing to ensure he isn’t endangering the bank by making risky loans. His response: “the bank is trying to offset the lower revenue from low-interest-rate commercial loans by cutting expenses.” While I get the need for oversight, I do wonder how far the regulatory pendulum will continue to swing left before sanity/reality sets in at the CFPB, FDIC, OCC, etc. I’ll stop before I say something I regret, but do want to at least encourage a Twitter follow of Frank and his “Banking on Main Street” blog.

Aloha Friday!

Swimming without a bathing suit?

A full house in Chicago
A full house in Chicago

A busy week in Chicago… one highlighted by Bank Director’s annual Bank Audit Committee at the JW Marriott that kicked off on Wednesday morning and wrapped up about a few hours ago. For those that missed the event, today’s title comes from a conversation I had with the CEO of Fifth Third before he took the stage as our keynote speaker. Without going into too much detail, it refers to a line favored by our former publisher (and head of the FDIC) Bill Seidman. At conferences like this one, Bill was fond of saying when times are good, no one sees what is happening under water. But when things get tough and the tide goes out, well, you see who has been swimming without a bathing suit. In that spirit, what follows are three things I heard while hosting 350+ men and women, an audience representing 150 banks from 38 states.

(1) To kick off the conference, we invited the head of Hovde Financial to present on “Navigating Complex Financial, Strategic and Regulatory Challenges.” While we welcomed attendees from institutions as large as SunTrust, Fifth Third and KeyCorp, Steve Hovde’s presentation made clear that while larger banks like these continue to increase in size, many smaller community banks are fighting for survival in today’s regulatory and low-interest rate environment. Case-in-point, mobile banking technology is already in place at larger banks, fewer options are available to smaller banks to replace declining fee revenue (which could offset declines in net interest margins) and increased regulatory burdens favor large banks with economies of scale.

All of this suggests M&A should be hot and heavy. However, Steve pointed out that 2013 has not started out strong from a deal volume standpoint. In fact, only 59 deals were announced through April; annualized, this will result in significantly less deals than in 2012. Naturally, this leads many to think about building through more organic means.  To this end, he suggests that bank boards and management teams focus on questions like:

  • Is adequate organic growth even available today?
  • Are branches in urban markets more important than rural markets?
  • How much expense base would need to be added to fund the growth compared to the revenue generated by new loans?
  • Are we better off deepening penetration of existing markets or expanding physical premises into neighboring markets or both?
  • What steps can we take to enhance web and mobile platforms?

(2) In the spirit of asking questions like these, it strikes me that everyone has something to learn as we come through one of the deepest recessions in history. As businesses and regulatory agencies debate what could have been done differently, everyone is looking for an answer to avoid the next one, or at least, minimize its impact. Clearly, as directors and officers search for ways to manage future risks, they need to understand how to work together without impeding the organizations’ efficiency of operations while preparing for unexpected events.

Accordingly, we opened this morning with a session to explore this unique balance of corporate governance. The session included Bill Knibloe, a Partner at Crowe Horwath, Bill Hartmann, the Chief Risk Officer at KeyCorp and Ray Underwood, the Bank Risk Committee Chairman at Union Savings Bank. Together, they emphasized the need for both management and the board to understand current initiatives, future initiatives and various risks embedded in each to design plans for various oversight roles. For me, “plan to manage, not eliminate” stuck out in their comments.  If you were with us in Chicago, I wonder what was yours?

(3) Think about this: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­it might be easier and safer today to rob banks with a computer than with a gun. While banks design their internal controls to help mitigate risk, our final session of the day looked at how an audit committee needs to properly address cyber risk as more and more attempt to attack an institution through the web. Here’s a link to a piece authored by our Managing Editor, Naomi Snyder, entitled Five questions to ask about cyber security; short, sweet and to the point. I hope to have more on this topic early next week as it kept the room full (I took the picture above just a few minutes before the close). Until next week…

Aloha Friday!

A grown up swinging town

San Francisco, CA

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

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

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

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

Aloha Friday!

Before I pack my bags

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

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

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

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

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

Aloha Friday!

Do we have enough banks in the U.S.?

Pirates-baseballAs I do each Friday morning, what follows are three things I’ve learned this week that apply to the financial community.  Let me start with the inspiration for today’s title and end with that for the picture of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park above.

(1) I’ve shared ideas from KBW’s Fred Cannon in the past; let me do so again based on a note he put out this Monday (FSW No New Bank Charters) that I strongly encourage you to read.  In my opinion, Fred is at the top of his field, so when he looks at the decline in new bank charters during the last two years (to zero) and wonders if we have enough banks in place today, its a thought provoking question.  To wit:

U.S. banking is being squeezed from the top, with high levels of concentration, and from the bottom, with no new banks, creating a less dynamic financial sector.  While regulators and legislators worry about the size and concentration of the largest banks, there is an equally concerning trend on the opposite side of the bank size spectrum. There have been no new bank or thrift charters issued during the past two years. This trend stands in sharp contrast to history, with dozens to hundreds of new banks starting each year, including during years of deep recessions. The lack of new bank startups may be causing limited competition for loans for small regional businesses and builders and pushing lending outside the banking system, essentially meaning that there aren’t enough banks in the country to promote maximum economic growth. Concentration and limits on size at the top end, and the dearth of new banks at the small end, will push greater market share of banking into mid-sized banks, in our view. This is good news for profitable mid-sized banks that can take advantage of both trends.

(2) t_1368782681Switching gears to the biggest of the big, we might have to honor Jamie Dimon by making it “his” week if the amount of media coverage continues for the man.  From American Banker to Bloomberg’s Businessweek to the WSJ, not a day went by without some mention of Wall Street’s “Indispensable Man.”  With JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s annual meeting in Tampa next week, our own editor thinks it should be a doozy for Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and the company’s 11-member board. The country’s largest bank has come in for some withering criticism ever since it lost a reported $6 billion last year on a disastrous credit derivatives trading strategy.  Ah, trading credit derivatives… I wonder if they will soon replace collateralized debt obligations as the scorn of the American public.

(3) Finally, a tip of the cap to Mars National Bank near Pittsburgh for “tapping a native son’s ties to America’s pastime to raise its local profile.”  According to a piece in the American Banker, the $351 million-asset institution in Mars, Pa., has formed a marketing campaign around pitchman Neil Walker, 27, a second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates who grew up seven miles away from the bank’s headquarters.  Mars National is “among several banks that have recently turned to sports stars to build business and spur goodwill;” for those interested in examples of how smaller banks are working to build brand loyalty in their community, this is an easy read that might inspire.

Aloha Friday!

Standing Out on a Friday

Fenway Park's red seatComing off of last week’s Growth Conference, I found myself planning for next year’s program. As we recognized Customers Bank, State Bank & Trust and Cole Taylor Bank for “winning” our annual Growth rankings, I spent some extra time looking at other banks that performed exceptionally well this past year. So today’s Friday-follow inspired post shares a few thoughts and conversations I’ve had about three very successful banks.

(1) While easy to frame the dynamics of our industry in terms of asset size, competing for business today is more of a “smart vs. not-so-smart” story than a “big vs. small.” During one of my favorite sessions last week — David AND Goliath — Peter Benoist, the president and CEO of St. Louis-based Enterprise Financial Services Corp, reminded his peers that as more banks put their liquidity to work, fierce competition puts pressures on rates and elevates risk. My biggest takeaway from his presentation: we all talk about scale and net interest margins… but it’s clear that you need growth today regardless of who you are. It is growth for the sake of existence.

(2) During the afore mentioned presentation, the participants all agreed that you cannot compete with BofA on price. Consequently, the ability to introduce new products (e.g. increasing deposit platforms) is key for many banks today. So from diversification to differentiation, let me turn my attention to San Francisco-based First Republic. Their story is a fascinating one. While not with us in New Orleans, I heard a lot about them yesterday while I was in NYC visiting with KBW. Subsequently, our editor wrote me with some background: Jim Herbert founded the bank in 1985, sold it to Merrill in 2007 for 360% of book, took it private through a management-led buyout in July 2010 after Merrill was acquired by Bank of America, then took it public again in December through an IPO. First Republic is a great bank: it finished 3rd out of 80+ in the $5-$50 billion category in Bank Director magazine’s 2012 performance rankings. But not only is it solely focused on organic growth, it’s also focused solely on private banking.

(3) Finally, as we move our attention from growth to risk in advance of our annual Bank Audit Committee conference, I started to think about the challenges facing banks of all sizes. Admittedly, I started with Fifth Third as their Vice Chairman & CEO will be joining us in Chicago as our keynote speaker. Yes, I am very interested to hear his perspectives on the future of banking. Quite a few small bank deals have recently been announced, and I have to believe many sales came together thanks to escalating compliance costs and seemingly endless regulation. For larger institutions like Fifth Third, it will be interesting to see what transpires over the next few years and where he thinks the market is moving for banks of all sizes. If you’re interested, take a look at our plans for this year’s event.

Aloha Friday!

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About today’s picture:

I’m a die-hard Boston RedSox fan, and for anyone whose been early to, or stayed late at, Fenway Park, you’ve probably seen one red seat in the right field bleachers (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21). Did you know it signifies the longest home run ever hit at Fenway, one struck by the great Ted Williams on June 9, 1946? While a nice chance for me to share my love for the RedSox, I thought the visual made a lot of sense when writing about standing out from the crowd… -AD

Dass de Thing

photo (10)

Today’s Friday Follow-inspired column takes a decidedly cajun turn (I tink dats rite) with a look back on time spent at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans. Fancy, for sure. Financially focused? Absolutely, thanks to Bank Director’s inaugural Growth Conference.

The slow economic recovery continues to challenge banks ability to grow as businesses both large and small reduce their leverage. Additionally, tepid growth (or in some cases, continued decline) in real-estate values presents challenges in the growth of consumer and commercial mortgage portfolios. Layer on the increased focus of larger banks on growing their C&I and small business lending portfolios due to increased regulatory pressure on consumer products and you understand how challenging it is for community or regional bank CEOs and boards to devise effective growth strategies. These obstacles did not, however, deter a crowd of nearly 200 bankers and industry executives from sharing their insight and opinions earlier this week.

(1) For example, Josh Carter from PwC covered what some of the fastest growing community banks are doing, both those who have grown through M&A, as well as digging a level deeper into those who are successfully growing organically. In his address, he noted a few bright spots have given the banking industry hope that economic and financial recovery is just around the corner (e.g. consumer confidence continues to improve, unemployment is on the decline and the home price index continues to tick up). As such, he believes there are five key areas that community banks should focus on to drive growth in their respective markets:

  • Emphasize productivity over efficiency;
  • Sharpen your business model; that is, serve niche segments, provide tailored offerings, excel at service quality, etc.;
  • Innovate within your business model, as banks that succeed most often are the ones that continually evolve and out-innovate their peers;
  • Pursue opportunistic M&A deals; and
  • Broaden your product portfolio.

(2) Preceding Josh was Jay Sidhu, the Chairman & CEO at Customers Bank. If you’re looking for a bank that is leading the field in terms of core income, net loans/leases and core non-interest income, look no further than his bank, which is expanding its business in three states — Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Jay captivated his peers with a look at the changing face of banks in the United States and the role of a board and CEO in positioning bank to take advantage of this changing environment. Tops for him: an “absolute clarity of your vision, strategy, goals and tactics; there must be absolute alignment between board and management… (along with a) passion for continuous improvement.”

(3) Bank 3.0Finally, Brett King and Sankar Krishnan explored the “end-game” in the emergence of the mobile wallet and what it means for the “humble bank account.” With more than 60% of the world’s population without a bank account and the ubiquitous nature of mobile phone handsets and the increasingly pervasive pre-paid ‘value store’ – the two openly considered will banks still be able to compete. I’ll have more on this session in a subsequent post that combines Brett’s presentation with one made by John Cantarella, President, Digital, Time Inc. News and Sports Group. For now, let me suggest a trip to Amazon to check out Brett’s latest book, Bank 3.0: Why Banking Is No Longer Somewhere You Go But Something You Do.

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A big shout out to the entire Bank Director team who made this first conference such a success. Laura, Michelle, Mika, Kelsey, Jack, Misty, Jennifer, Daniel, Naomi, Joan, Bill… way to go!

Aloha Friday!!

Industry at a Crossroads: the Investor View

photo (9)

A curveball from New Orleans this afternoon… since I was on stage this morning to moderate a panel discussion on what makes a bank successful (to open this year’s Growth Conference at the Ritz-Carlton — #BDGrow13), my friend, colleague and Managing Editor of Bank Director magazine agreed to author today’s column.  The first guest post on About That Ratio, courtesy of Naomi Snyder, summarizes the investor community’s view on banks today.

As an industry veteran of more than 40 years and private equity investor in 15 banking companies, John Eggemeyer loves banks. But the co-founder of Castle Creek Capital LLC and Castle Creek Financial LLC had some hard-to-swallow statistics and opinions for a crowd of nearly 200 bankers and industry executives (198, but who’s counting) at Bank Director’s inaugural “Growth Conference” in New Orleans today.

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

That didn’t happen during the latest recession. “We have lost a tremendous amount of value relative to the broader market,’’ he said at a session focused on the views of bank investors.  

It may be that investors are recognizing tough times ahead for the banking industry, where there are simply too many banks offering similar products and services. Low interest rates and a slow economy aren’t helping. Eggemeyer predicts that there will be substantial consolidation in the industry, both in terms of banks gobbling up other banks, and also in terms of branch reduction.

Collyn Gilbert, a managing director at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, reiterated that view. “At the end of the day, how many unique stories are there?” she said. Eggemeyer says he prefers to invest in banks that have strong pre-tax, pre-provision earnings that are operating in good growth markets. Bank of America can’t outgrow the U.S. economy and it can’t acquire other big banks. A smaller community bank in a good market can do both those things, he said. However, he thinks investors focus too much of their time on growth. In reality, strong profitability will position a bank for growth. Gilbert agreed. “I think there needs to be a much better focus on the earnings side,’’ Gilbert said.

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Naomi Snyder, awarded the coveted “Gila Monster” moniker at this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference, is Managing Editor at Bank Director magazine.  Prior to joining our team, she spent 13 years as a business reporter for newspapers in South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee.  Most recently, she was a reporter for The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper.  She also was a correspondent for USA Today. Naomi has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

Financially Focused on Aloha Friday

From Kona, a reminder about Aloha Fridays...
Hula dancers in Kona

Each Friday morning, I do my best to share three things I heard, watched, discussed or read.  If you’re game to share in the comment section below, I’d be really interested to read what you consider noteworthy from the week-that-was.  And before I forget, the tradition continues: Aloha Friday!

(1) Who says there’s no growth in banking? Certainly not our editor, Jack Milligan, although the lead in to his cover story in the current issue of Bank Director magazine might suggest otherwise:

If you’re not growing, you’re dying. It’s an often-used aphorism that has been attributed to such disparate sources as former college football coach Lou Holtz, the legendary Bob Dylan and a character played by the actor Morgan Freeman in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Unfortunately, it’s also a painful truth that a lot of bankers are living with nowadays as they search for growth in an environment that seems specifically designed to strangle it.

If you’re not familiar with Bank Director, the 23-year old publication reaches over 24,000 officers and directors — a community of virtually every leader in banking.  Published on a quarterly basis, the articles focus on issues fundamental to a bank’s CEO, senior leadership team, chairman and independent directors.  Think big, risky and expensive.  For the last three years, many in this audience struggled to grow their bank’s revenue and sustain a level of profitability.  However, not all are struggling to produce top line growth.  Take a read if you’re interested to learn how some banks today are building their businesses.

(2) Bank Director magazineWhile Jack’s cover article looks at four categories of non-M&A growth*, I’m afraid that our low growth economy looks like it will persist for a while longer.  Not surprisingly, some wonder if its possible to develop a sustainable, differentiable business strategy that has strong organic growth.  This is will be just one of many topics and trends addressed in New Orleans next week during our inaugural Growth Conference at the Ritz-Carlton.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the strategies and tactics banks might consider to expand their franchises’ value via twitter (@aldominick) — and know most of our team will as well. If you’re interested, let me suggest a follow of @BankDirectorAP, @BankDirectorEd, @NaomiSnyder and of course, @bankdirector.

(3) While tempted to complete the hat trick with a final point from Bank Director, I defer to Fiserv’s President and CEO Jeff Yabuki remarks as he opened their client conference last week.  In his kickoff, he asked their attendees to “re-imagine the financial experience of the future.”  While the short video is unfortunately more sales speak than suggestion, the firm does post several good related reads.  In particular, one entitled To Better Serve Small Business, Define Their Needs.  The gist?  With “profitability from retail lines of businesses under pressure, many institutions are reviewing their strategies for addressing the small business market. For regional and community institutions, which often serve communities where small businesses play an outsized role in economic development, effectively reaching small business is an imperative.”  Being that I work in a small business that interacts with numerous community banks, two thumbs up to the author and company for this perspective.

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*The four categories in Bank Director’s inaugural Growth Leaders Ranking are core income (defined as net-interest income plus non-interest income, excluding available-for-sale gains and losses and other-real-estate-owned gains and losses), core deposits, net loans and leases and core non-interest income. Of the four categories, the most important is core income since it is inclusive of the other three revenue sources.

Boston Strong on this Financial Friday

Yes, I typically compile a list of three things that I heard, saw and learned this week that are financially focused. Today, it still feels hollow to post such points when my attention has admittedly stayed with the acts of courage, strength and community in Boston. Instead of a normal Friday post, let me share the following. Like 9/11, we will never forget. And yes, together, we are all #BostonStrong.

Since the senseless acts of violence in my hometown earlier this week, I’ve been playing over and over in my head my time in NYC on 9/10/01 and 9/12/01. Having watched both towers fall from the roof of my old east village apartment — 60 east 1st Street — the Boston Marathon’s bombing has me really shaken. You see, I grew up in Needham, MA and lived at 221 Newbury Street for several years after moving post-World Trade Center attacks. For those not familiar with Boston, this is a mere 1 1/2 blocks from the finish line on Comm Ave. Still, from the darkness of this week comes these three points of light:

(1) If you haven’t seen this already, watch the crowd sing the National Anthem at the Boston Bruins / Buffalo Sabres hockey game on Wednesday night. Massive chills for both the Bruins feed from the ice above (seriously, stop reading + watch this now) and this one from the rafters as a full house of patriots take over for Boston Bruins’ legendary anthem singer Rene Rancourt…

(2) To me, the RedSox ARE Boston… and their immediate actions following Monday’s tragedy conjured memories of the Patriots’ post-9/11 (*running out on the field with American flags held high). Sometimes baseball is more than just a sport. This is one of those times…

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3) Finally, they are our most hated rival — and in this case, our greatest ally. The New York Yankees are a class act & deserve more than just a tip of the cap for this immediate show of support. Despite our differences, what makes our country great is the love of our country.

New York Stands With Boston
New York Stands With Boston

“If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us … It should be pretty clear right now that they picked the wrong city to do it” ~ President Obama

Its Aloha Friday

Cherry blossoms in DC
An example of organic growth in Chevy Chase D.C.

Earlier this week, as part of Bank Director’s annual Bank Chairman/CEO Peer Exchange, I was lucky enough to spend time with key leaders from 40+ community banks averaging nearly $900M in asset size. As I reflect on various growth-focused conversations I had with CEOs of NASDAQ-listed banks, I think I’ve found a common thread. Each person runs an institution profitable enough to make acquisitions — all while maintaining adequate capital ratios.  The interesting part (for me at least) concerns the strategies these executives set to build their brand and tactics put in place to “organically” grow their franchise.  As our industry continues to rally back from the past few years of pessimism, it really is fun to hear success stories.  So what follows are three thoughts from this week that builds on my time at the Four Seasons in Chicago.

  • While M&A offers immediate growth to the acquirer, I’m hearing that “stocking the bank for talent” is a real long-term challenge. While a bank’s CEO and Chairman must work even more closely to drive bottom line performance while enhancing shareholder value, I left Chicago convinced this team must more aggressively identify — and groom — the next generation of bank leadership. Without the big banks providing management training like they once did (an unintended pipeline of talent for community banks), its time to get creative. For example, while most at our event appreciate the need to get mobile, few community banks have the senior strategist on hand to do so right now. While that opens the door to outside advisors to support an institution, it does present longer term dangers as customers expect access to their banks sans branch or ATM use.
  • Keeping on the tech-to-grow theme, I read an interesting “big data,” bank-specific piece by McKinsey on my way home to D.C.  Personally, I’ve been interested in the various tools and tactics banks employ to analyze their massive amounts of data to detect/prevent fraud, devise customer loyalty plans and proactively approach consumers. This overview, complete with video, touch on these points and show how some are using big data and analytics to sharpen risk assessment and drive revenue.

Aloha Friday to all, especially my niece and sister-in-law on their birthdays.

Creating High Performance Bank Boards

After spending the past two days with bank CEOs, Chairmen and lead outside directors from 45+ banks (roughly half being publicly traded), I thought to share the following video on a training & education program offered by Bank Director.  

Since 1991, Bank Director has supported chairmen, CEOs, CFOs, general counsels, presidents and board members of financial institutions nationwide with timely and relevant information and events.  In response to recent pressures placed on the banking community, our team introduced a board education program (DirectorCorps) as part of the services we offer.  This is not a one-time learning opportunity; rather, an ongoing collection of in-person, in-print and online resources for those wanting the highest performing bank board.  As quite a few of the attendees at our annual Chairman/CEO Peer Exchange inquired about what this is all about, take a look at this video we just posted: