Inspired by U.S. Bank’s CEO at Acquire or Be Acquired

#AOBA17 conference intel (Monday/Tuesday)
By Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director | @aldominick

Quickly

  • Most M&A activity will continue to take place among banks with assets between $1 billion and $10 billion.
  • For an acquirer, the level of underwriting for deposits can be more rigorous then underwriting for loans.  Indeed, because of BSA & AML concerns, it takes a high degree of effort to realistically measure the risk of buying “someone else’s cooking.”
  • This year’s keynote, Richard Davis, is the Chairman & CEO of U.S. Bank — which has $446 billion in assets.  FWIW, he started his career as a bank teller at Security Pacific Bank in Los Angeles on his 18th birthday.

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Over the past decade, U.S. Bank’s consistent results made it, according to the Wall Street Journal, a darling with investors and analysts.  While impressive, their CEO’s perspectives on where we are now — and where we might be heading — inspired this short video recap.

In addition to his remarks on building a great team, his perspectives on technology struck a real chord given my background (I worked at great technology company in Bethesda, MD for 6+ years).  Specifically, his encouragement to focus on:

  • Tokenization/EMV/mobile
  • Real time payments
  • Open APIs
  • Identity management
  • Distributed ledger / blockchain
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Machine learning

In subsequent posts, I’ll elaborate on these issues.  But for those interested in following the conference conversations that are more M&A-oriented via our social channels, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector and its @Fin_X_Tech platform, and search & follow #AOBA17 to see what is being shared with (and by) our attendees.

Trending at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference

#AOBA17 conference intel (Sunday)
By Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director | @aldominick

Quickly

  • We could see over 200 merger transactions despite a declining number of banks in 2017.
  • There is a clear trend on M&A pricing multiples being driven by bank profitability and asset quality.
  • For banks, too little capital is not the only issue — too much capital and the inability to produce sufficient returns on capital is equally problematic.

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What is my bank worth?  How will the changing tax environment affect bank values?  When is the right time to buy (or sell) a bank?  What are the most significant factors affecting bank value?  These were just some of the questions surfaced this morning here in Arizona.  In this video recap of Sunday morning’s presentations at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, I share a few observations about the conversations taking place around issues such as these.

Given the focus of this three-day event, I anticipate many subsequent presentations building off of these points.  For those interested in issues such as these, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector and its @Fin_X_Tech platform, and search & follow #AOBA17 to see what is being shared with (and by) our attendees.

Expect the Unexpected

“If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians.” – Warren Buffett

#AOBA17 pre-conference intel
By Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director | @aldominick

This may be a phenomenal—or scary year—for banks. Banks have benefited from rising stock prices and rising interest rates, which are expected to boost low net interest margins. Indeed, the change in the U.S. presidency has resulted in a steepened yield curve, as investors predict improved economic growth. Currently, many anticipate regulatory relief for banks and the prospect of major corporate tax cuts. Such change could have a significant impact on banks; however, those running financial institutions also need to keep an eye on potential challenges ahead.

As we head to our 23rd Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, with a record breaking 1,058 attendees Jan. 29-Jan. 31, I am expecting the mood to be good. Why wouldn’t it be? But what is on the horizon are also fundamental changes in technology that will change the landscape for banking. What will your competitors be doing that you won’t be? Our conference has always been a meeting ground for the banking industry’s key leaders to meet, engage with each other and learn what they need to do deals. It is still that. Indeed, most of the sessions and speakers will be talking about M&A and growth.
But this year, more than 100 executives from fintech companies that provide products and services to banks join us in the desert, on our invitation. We want to help banks start thinking about the challenges ahead and how they might solve them.

Here are some things to consider:

  • How will the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s limited-purpose fintech charter enable more established fintech companies to compete with some of the incumbents in the room?
  • If smaller banks are indeed relieved of many of the burdens of big bank regulation, will they use the savings to invest in technology and improvements in customer service?
  • How will customer expectations change, and from whom will customers get their financial services?

To this last point, I intend to spotlight three companies that are changing the way their industries operate to inspire conversations about both the risks and rewards of pursuing a path of change. Yes, it’s OK to think a little bit beyond the banking industry.

Spotify
Rather than buying a CD to get their favorite songs, music-lovers today favor curated playlists where people pick, click and choose whom they listen to and in what order. There is a natural parallel to how people might bank in the future. Just as analytics enable media companies to deliver individually tailored and curated content, so too is technology available to banks that might create a more personalized experience. Much like Spotify gives consumers their choice of music when and where they want it, so too are forward-looking banks developing plans to provide consumer-tailored information “on-demand.”

Airbnb
The popular home-rental site Airbnb is reportedly developing a new service for booking airline flights. Adding an entirely new tool and potential revenue stream could boost the company’s outlook. For banks, I believe Airbnb is the “uber-type” company they need to pay attention to, as their expansion into competitive and mature adjacent markets parallels what some fear Facebook and Amazon might offer in terms of financial services.

WeChat
One of China’s most popular apps, the company counts 768 million daily active users (for context, that’s 55 percent of China’s total population). Of those users, roughly 300 million have added payment information to the wallet. So, WeChat Pay’s dominance in the person-to-person payments space is a model others can emulate. PayPal already is attempting such dominance, which Bank Director magazine describes in our most recent issue.

Many of those attending our conference also have done amazing things in banking. I can’t name all of them, but I’d be remiss to not mention CEO Richard Davis of U.S. Bank, our keynote speaker. After a decade leading one of the most phenomenal and profitable banks in the country, he is stepping down in April. We all have something to learn from him, I’m sure.  Let us think about the lessons the past has taught us, but keep an eye on the future. Let’s expect the unexpected.

*note – this piece first ran on BankDirector.com on January 26, 2017

3 Sources of Inspiration for Financial Services Executives

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  -Walt Disney

Some days just seem to move faster then others.  Fortunately, I found myself on a few airplanes this week without wifi (yes, no wifi!).  What a treat to find a few hours of electronic-interruption free time to catch up on overdue reading.  As I flipped through our soon-to-be-released issue of Bank Director magazine, I took note of a number of issues and trends that I intend to dive deeper into this weekend.  I also pulled up PDFs of articles I’d seen — but had not had a chance to read — that relate to our fast-approaching Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  Finally, I jotted down a few thoughts on the types of information that I find compelling — notes that inspired this morning’s post.

You see, I really love connecting people with each other… and sharing ideas and insight that I find compelling.  Oftentimes, this takes place in person; however, opportunity exists to do so in digital format.  So if you’re curious about what’s happening in the banking space, let me point you towards these three sources of inspiration:

  • Most Saturday mornings, for me, involve a healthy dose of wit + wisdom from Gregg Schoenberg vis-a-vis The Financial Revolutionist. Powered by Wescott Capital, I appreciate how this weekly newsletter provides sharp and distinctive commentary on financial innovation trends.
  • For those that favor a podcast, take a listen to The Purposeful Banker (backed by PrecisionLender).  Over the past few years, they have assembled a strong library of perspectives relevant to how banks might better perform given various technologies available.
  • Finally, many know of Chris Skinner as an author and independent commentator on the financial markets.  His blog, the Finanser.com, is one I consider a must-read.

As a bonus, Deloitte expects banks to deepen their engagement with the fintech ecosystem as the trend towards digitization accelerates — a theme you’ll recognize if you’ve been on Bank Director’s FinXTech.com*.  The full report from the consultancy can be found here.

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*As the financial landscape continues to evolve, and executives grapple with a fast-changing operating environment that requires partnerships and collaboration, I am so impressed by the exceptionally astute group of men and women that are helping to shape the future of finance through their day-to-day jobs + as part of FinXTech’s Advisory Group.  FWIW, both Gregg and Chris are members.

Eagerly Anticipating Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference

In the face of this month’s political transitions, bank executives and their boards face some major issues without clear answers.  For instance, many continue to speculate on the Fed’s interest rate hikes while others pontificate on potential regulatory changes (hello CFPB).  While convenient to cite November’s election results, keep in mind that we, as an industry, were already in a period of significant transformation.  Still, it’s a titanic-sized understatement to say Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s surprise victory shook up the world. 

While change remains a constant in life, I am personally and professionally excited to return to the Arizona desert later this month for a great tradition: Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  With a record turnout joining us at “AOBA,” I’ve begun to assess various business models of institutions I know will be represented.  For instance, those categorized by:

  • Organic Growth vs. Acquisitive Growth;
  • Branch Light Model vs. Traditional Models; and
  • CRE Focused Lenders vs. C&I Focused Lenders.

I am finding there are multiple dimensions to such business structures — and I anticipate conversations later this month will help me to better understand how the market values such companies.

As AOBA helps participants to explore their financial growth options, I am keen to hear perspectives on the “right size” of a bank today — especially if certain asset-based constraints (think $10B, $50B) are removed.  Given a number of recent conversations, I expect increased IPOs and M&A activity in the banking space and look forward to hearing the opinions of others.

Finally, with the advance of digital services, I’m curious how technology trends might impact bank M&A, and more broadly, banking as a whole given the impact on branch networks.  Indeed, as branches become less important, they become less valuable… which impacts deal valuations and pricing going forward.

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Between now and the start of the conference, I intend to share a whole lot more about Bank Director’s 23rd annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference on this site, on LinkedIn and via Twitter. If you’re curious to keep track, I invite you to subscribe to this blog, and follow me on twitter where I’m @aldominick and using #AOBA17.

The #1 Reason That Potential Buyers and Sellers Walk Away From a Bank M&A Deal

According to Bank Director’s 2017 M&A Survey, price is the top reason that potential buyers and sellers have walked away from a deal in the past three years.

With the final days of November upon us, we are a mere 61 days away from hosting Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  This three-day event explores the various financial growth options available to a bank’s CEO, executives and board members; accordingly, I thought to share some highlights from our just-released Bank M&A Survey that resonate with this audience.

This research project — sponsored by Crowe Horwath LLP and led by our talented Emily McCormick — reflects the opinions of 200+ CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen and directors of U.S. banks.  As Rick Childs, a partner at Crowe, and someone I respect for his opinions and experiences shares, “good markets and good lending teams are the keys for many acquirers, and are the starting point for their analysis of potential bank partners.”  While we cover a lot of ground with this survey, below are five points that stood out to me:

  • An increasing number of respondents feel that the current environment for bank M&A is stagnant or less active: 45% indicate that the environment is more favorable for deals, down 17 points from last year’s survey.
  • 46% indicate that their institution is likely or very likely to purchase another bank by the end of 2017.
  • 25% report that they’re open to selling the bank, considering a sale or actively seeking an acquirer. Of these potential sellers, 54% cite regulatory costs as the reason they would sell the bank, followed by shareholder demand for liquidity (48%) and limited growth opportunities (39%).
  • Price, at 38%, followed by cultural compatibility, at 26%, remain the two greatest challenges faced by boards as they consider potential acquisitions. Price is identified as the top reason that potential buyers and sellers have walked away from a deal in the past three years.
  • 45% report that they are seeing a deterioration in loan underwriting standards within the industry, leading to possible credit quality issues in the future.

Driven by shareholder pressures in a low-growth and highly regulated environment, some community banks could be seeking an exit in the near future. But which banks are positioned to get the best price in today’s market?  This survey provides potential answers to that question — foreshadowing certain conversations I’m sure will occur in January during our 23rd annual Acquire or Be Acquired conference.

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My thanks to Rick and his colleagues at Crowe for their continued support of this research project.  To see past year’s results — and other board-level research reports we’ve shared — I invite you to take a look at the free-to-access research section on BankDirector.com

Bank Director’s 2017 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference

Sunday, January 29th, may seem like quite a ways off… but not for my team at Bank Director.  Indeed, we are full-steam ahead as we prepare to host the premier banking event for CEOs, senior management and board members: our Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  AOBA continues to draw key leaders together in order to explore financial growth options; in 2017, we host this three-day program at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge in Phoenix, AZ.

Each month, Tim Melvin shares nuanced observations on the banking space in his Community Bank Investor Newsletter.  In his October 2016 edition, he points out that “scale and earnings growth are still among the main drivers of M&A activity, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”  Clearly, the need and desire to grow exists at virtually every organization, something I’ve picked up on while talking with bank CEOs about next January’s event.

2016 AOBA Demographics c:o Bank Director and Al Dominick

As you can see from this image, our 22nd annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference brought together key leaders from across the country.  I addition to the 590+ bankers in attendance, an additional 300+ executives from leading professional services and product companies joined us.  During (and following) our time in the desert, I shared various observations on this site (e.g. Five Reasons Why Banks Might Consider Selling in 2016 and Community and Regional Banks are Crucial to the Vibrancy of Our Communities).  In the simplest of terms, I left Arizona with a sense that more bank boards and their management teams were seriously considering M&A as a growth plan than perhaps in previous years — a view formed by the continued margin pressure that banks have been operating under for the last several years.

Ironically, there is a growing likelihood that the bank M&A market in 2016 will see declines in both deal volume and pricing compared to the previous two years, even as the industry’s underlying fundamentals remain relatively unchanged.  Nonetheless, registration patterns for 2017 suggest an increase in bank executive’s appetites to explore a merger, to prepare for an acquisition, to grow loans, to capturing efficiencies & managing capital to partnering with fintech companies (*all topics that will be covered in ’17).  So for those of you looking to refine and/or enhance your growth playbook, I invite you to review the agenda for January’s program that we just updated on BankDirector.com.

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FWIW: we have welcomed over 5,000 CEOs, Chairmen and members of a bank’s board to this conference over the years, and we anticipate 2017 will be the biggest ever – with over 900 attendees focused on the future of their banks.  Most come with one or more officers of their bank and yes, many bring their spouses.

Banks Are Feeling the Pressure to Grow

Bank executives and board members are feeling significant pressures to grow in 2016, according to Bank Director’s 2016 Bank Mergers & Acquisitions Survey, sponsored by Crowe Horwath LLP.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

Bank CEOs and their boards face some very significant challenges in the years ahead.  The sharply increased cost of regulatory compliance might lead some to seek a buyer; others have responded by trying to get bigger through acquisitions in order to spread the costs over a wider base.  While transforming a franchise through organic growth is desirable, I continue to see mergers & acquisitions (M&A) remaining the fastest avenue for growth in banking today.

For those who joined us at our annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference last month, you may recall that Bank Director’s team surveyed 260 chief executive officers, chairmen, independent directors and senior executives of U.S. banks in advance of the conference to examine current attitudes and challenges regarding M&A — and what drives banks to buy and sell.  Three points stand out to me:

  1. Of the respondents who served as a board member or executive of a bank that was sold from 2012 to 2015, a full 55% say they sold because shareholders wanted to cash out.
  2. Despite concerns that regulatory costs are causing banks to sell, just 27% cite this burden as a primary motivator.
  3. Credit quality issues are most often cited barriers for banks being able to complete acquisitions.

Certainly, “why banks are bought or sold” involves much more than just the numbers making sense.  At AOBA, it was made abundantly clear that M&A remains attractive inasmuch as successful transactions improve operating leverage, earnings, efficiency and scale.  Moreover, attendees shared during one of our interactive sessions that earnings potential is the most attractive characteristic of an institution they are interested in acquiring.

Bank Director and Crowe Horwath LLP AOBA info

In his “Buy Or Die In Phoenix: A Recap Of The 2016 Bank Director’s Acquire Or Be Acquired Conference,” Tim Melvin neatly summarizes the conundrum many bank CEOs face today.  “Competing against their bigger, better funded rivals is… (a) huge obstacle to growth. The days of opening branches on the other side of town, then the next town over and so on to grow a bank are over.”  He concludes by recounting a point made by Steve Hovde, an investment banker we’ve worked with for a number of years: “to thrive, you have to get bigger. To get bigger you probably have to buy and again, if you can’t buy you probably have to sell.”

Community and Regional Banks are Crucial to the Vibrancy of Our Communities

As we head into the final day of Acquire or Be Acquired, its clear to me that there are some great opportunities for community and regional banks to compete effectively and recapture market share in 2016.

*Thanks to our keynote speaker, J. Michael Shepherd, Chairman & CEO, Bank of the West and BancWest Corporation for inspiring today’s title and video.

 

Acquire or Be Acquired: Don’t Overlook This

Thanks to our keynote speaker, J. Michael Shepherd, pictured above. The Chairman & CEO, Bank of the West and BancWest Corporation, he inspired quite a few with both his wit and wisdom.

Over the past few days at Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired conference, various speakers have touched on a number of key strategic growth issues.  From exploring an acquisition to growing loans, controlling expenses to managing capital, the discussions hit the “timely and relevant” standard that we consider essential.  They also reinforced my sense that more boards and their management teams are seriously considering an acquisition as their primary growth plan than at this time last year.

As our editor-in-chief opined, the heightened level of interest could certainly be explained by the continued margin pressure that banks have been operating under for the last several years.  For those thinking about buying another, my short video recap from the mid-way point of AOBA offers a heads up about a pre-deal consideration not to be overlooked.

 

What’s Happening at Acquire or Be Acquired

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

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

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

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

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

Current Challenges Facing Bank Executives in 2016 (a video overview from Acquire or Be Acquired)

The fun began bright & early here at the Arizona Biltmore, home of this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference.  This annual event explores a bank’s financial growth opportunities — and brings a significant number of bank CEOs, board members and C-level executives to the desert.  In this short video, I share a few key take aways from this morning’s presentations specific to the challenges being faced by bank CEOs in attendance.  Sorry, no mention of a flat yield curve (even though the interest rate environment certainly merits more then just this mention).