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.

fullsizeoutput_1b40

 

SAVE THE DATE:

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

For early-bird registration, please click here.

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?
_ _ _

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.