21 Reasons I Am Excited About Acquire or Be Acquired


  • Making banking digital, personalized and in compliance with regulatory expectations remains an ongoing challenge for the financial industry. This is just one reason why a successful merger — or acquisition — involves more than just finding the right cultural match and negotiating a good deal.

By Al Dominick, CEO of DirectorCorps — parent co. to Bank Director & FinXTech.

PHOENIX, AZ — As the sun comes up on the Arizona Biltmore, I have a huge smile on my face. Indeed, our team is READY to host the premier financial growth event for bank CEOs, senior management and members of the board: Bank Director’s 24th annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference. This exclusive event brings together key leaders from across the financial industry to explore merger & acquisition strategies, financial growth opportunities and emerging areas of potential collaboration.

AOBA Demographics

The festivities begin later today with a welcoming reception on the Biltmore’s main lawn for all 1,125 of our registered attendees.  But before my team starts to welcome people, let me share what I am looking forward to over the next 72 hours:

  1. Saying hello to as many of the 241 bank CEOs from banks HQ’d in 45 states as I can;
  2. Greeting 669 members of a bank’s board;
  3. Hosting 127 executives with C-level titles (e.g. CFO, CMO and CTO);
  4. Entertaining predictions related to pricing and consolidation trends;
  5. Hearing how a bank’s CEO & board establishes their pricing discipline;
  6. Confirming that banks with strong tangible book value multiples are dominating M&A;
  7. Listening to the approaches one might take to acquire a privately-held/closely-held institution;
  8. Learning how boards debate the size they need to be in the next five years;
  9. Engaging in conversations about aligning current talent with future growth aspirations;
  10. Juxtaposing economic expectations against the possibilities for de novos and IPOs in 2018;
  11. Getting smarter on the current operating environment for banks — and what it might become;
  12. Popping into Show ’n Tells that showcase models for cooperation between banks and FinTechs;
  13. Predicting the intersection of banking and technology with executives from companies like Salesforce, nCino and PrecisionLender;
  14. Noting the emerging opportunities available to banks vis-a-vis payments, data and analytics;
  15. Moderating this year’s Seidman Panel, one comprised of bank CEOs from Fifth Third, Cross River Bank and Southern Missouri Bancorp;
  16. Identifying due diligence pitfalls — and how to avoid them;
  17. Testing the assumption that buyers will continue to capitalize on the strength of their shares to meet seller pricing expectations to seal stock-driven deals;
  18. Showing how and where banks can invest in cloud-based software;
  19. Encouraging conversations about partnerships, collaboration and enablement;
  20. Addressing three primary risks facing banks — cyber, credit and market; and
  21. Welcoming so many exceptional speakers to the stage, starting with Tom Michaud, President & CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc., a Stifel Company, tomorrow morning.

For those of you interested in following the conference conversations via our social channels, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector and our @Fin_X_Tech platform, and search & follow #AOBA18 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.

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.”

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.

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

Bank Director’s new Tech Issue

Earlier this week, we published the December issue of Bank Director Magazine, our annual Tech Issue.  Stories range from the changing nature of mobile banking to institutions moving into the cloud to a venture capitalist’s perspective on the future of banking.  I invite you to take a look.

Since starting this blog in 2012, I’ve shared my optimism that the intersection of technological innovation with strong depository franchises may lead to more efficient banking processes, reductions in fraud and a win/win/win for banks, FinTechs and consumers.  So as I read through this current digital issue, a few key takeaways:

  • When San Francisco-based Bank of the West, an $80.7 billion asset subsidiary of BNP Paribas Group, analyzed last year the bottom line impact of customers who are engaged in online banking and mobile banking, it found some surprising results. Digital customers, or those who were active online or on their mobile phones during the previous 90 days, had lower attrition rates than nondigital customers, and they contributed higher levels of revenue and products sold, said Jamie Armistead, head of digital channels at Bank of the West.
  • Automating the small-business lending process requires some deep thinking from boards and management about how much faith they’re willing to place in technology, and their ability to embrace the cultural change implicit in basing lending decisions more on data than judgment. “The marketplace is demanding quicker decisions through technology,” says Pierre Naude, CEO of nCino, a maker of bank operating systems. Bank customers, he says, are clamoring for special products and specialized coding that enable greater automation of the small-business lending process. “Bankers are waking up to the fact that speed and convenience will trump price. You can lose a customer to an alternative lender if you don’t have it.”
  • As our Editor, Naomi Snyder, shares in her welcoming letter, banks tend to have the usual board committees (think audit, compensation and risk).  But we know that few have a board-level technology committee.  So I wonder if 2017 is the year that more institutions decide to create such a group to become better informed and better prepared as the digitization of the banking industry continues?

Concomitant to this issue’s release, Chris Skinner shared his perspectives on the state of FinTech our FinXTech platform.  In his words, “it is apparent that the fintech industry has become mainstream just as fintech investing cools. What I mean by this is that fintech has matured in the last five years, going from something that was embryonic and disruptive to something that is now mainstream and real. You only have to look at firms like Venmo and Stripe to see the change. Or you only have to consider the fact that regulators are now fully awake to the change and have deployed sandboxes and innovation programs. Or that banks are actively discussing their fintech innovation and investment programs… Fintech and innovation is here to stay.”

Clearly, the pace of change in the banking space continues to accelerate.  Accordingly, I encourage you to check out what we’re doing with both Bank Director and FinXTech to help companies who view banks as potentially valuable channels or distribution partners, banks looking to grow and/or innovate with tech companies’ help and support; and institutional investors, venture capitalists, state & federal regulators, government officials and academicians helping to shape the future of banking.

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.


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

FinXTech’s Advisory Group

I’m checking in from the edge of the Rocky Mountains — from the iconic Broadmoor in Colorado Springs — where I’m joined by FinXTech’s President, Kelsey Weaver and Bank Director’s Director of Client Relations, Laura Proffitt.  The three of us are here to participate in the Association for Financial Technology’s (AFT) Fall Summit where later today, I will have the opportunity to introduce a new partnership between AFT and FinXTech.  In advance of those comments, I thought to pull the curtains back on a special  Advisory Group that we are building to develop FinXTech in the “best” possible manner. 

As new approaches to delivering financial services emerge, nearly every technology company here in Colorado has practical tools, techniques and talent to help financial institutions prepare for the future.  It is an exciting time to be part of a community like the one AFT draws, as I believe new players will continue to emerge while traditional participants transform their underlying business models to better participate and compete in the coming years.

As the financial industry continues to evolve, so too does the community that my team supports.  As a peer-to-peer based platform powered by Bank Director, FinXTech connects a hugely influential audience around shared areas of interest and innovation; specifically:

  • FinTech companies who view banks as potentially valuable channels or distribution partners;
  • Banks looking to grow and/or innovate with FinTech companies’ help and support; and
  • Institutional investors, venture capitalists, state & federal regulators, government officials and academicians helping to shape the future of banking.

Rather then create this community in isolation, we are doing so with the help and support of industry leaders with various backgrounds.  Case-in-point, we are recruiting highly opinionated, ridiculously informed thought leaders to “think around the corner” with us as part of FinXTech’s Advisory Group.

So as we get ready to spend a few days with our peers at this week’s conference, Kelsey, Laura and I are proud that the following men and women have accepted our invitation to share their time and intelligence with us as part of FinXTech’s council:

  • Thomas P. Brown, Partner, Paul Hastings LLP
  • Michael Butler, President & CEO, Radius Bank
  • Michael M. Carter, Founder & CEO, BizEquity
  • Ryan Gilbert, General Partner, Propel Venture Partners
  • John C. Gill, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Risk Officer, Somerset Trust Company
  • Joe Guastella, Global & U.S. Managing Principal, Financial Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • James C. Hale, III, Founding Partner, FTV Capital
  • Aditya Khujekar, CEO & Co-Founder, Let’s Talk Payments
  • Jimmie Lenz, Director of Technology Risk, Wells Fargo, Wealth and Investment Management
  • Vivian Maese, Partner, Latham & Watkins
  • Bill McNulty, Entrepreneur in Residence, Capital One
  • John E. Pizzi, CEO, BaseVenture
  • Gregg M. Schoenberg, Founder, Westcott Capital
  • Chris Skinner, CEO, The Finanser Ltd
  • Christa Steele, Former President, CEO & Board Member, Mechanics Bank; Founder, Boardroom Consulting LLC
  • John Thompson, SVP & Leader, Program Team, CFSI
  • Andres Wolberg-Stok, Director, Citi Fintech
  • Jon Zanoff, Founder, Empire Startups

In addition to this awesome group, we have some pretty powerful folks that we recently invited (so this list can and will expand in the coming weeks).  But for those of you here at AFT, you will hear Kelsey, Laura and me talk about our enthusiasm for this group & the efforts being made to establish FinXTech as a catalyst that (1) connects a highly influential group of people who care about the future of financial services, (2) are committed to meaningful transformation and are (3) empowered to make change happen.


To learn more about what we’re doing, I invite you to visit FinXTech.com, a site we designed to deliver authoritative, relevant and trusted content for banks, Fintech companies, investors and services firms.

3 Key Takeaways from Bank Director’s Audit & Risk Conference

A quick check-in from the Swissotel in Chicago, where we just wrapped up the main day of Bank Director’s 10th annual Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference.  This is a fascinating event, one focused on key accounting, risk and regulatory issues aligned with the information needs of a bank’s Chairman, CEO, Bank Audit Committee, Bank Risk Committee, CFO, CRO and internal auditor.  Risk + strategy go hand in hand; today, we spent considerable time debating risk in the context of growing the bank.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO of Bank Director

Earlier today, while moderating a panel discussion, I referenced a KPMG report that suggests “good risk management and governance can be compared to the brakes of a car. The better the brakes, the faster the car can drive.”  With anecdotes like this ringing in my head, allow me to share three key takeaways:

  1. A company’s culture & code of conduct are critical factors in creating an environment that encourages compliance with laws and regulations.
  2. Risk appetite is a widely accepted concept that remains difficult, in practice, to apply.
  3. As a member of the board, do not lose sight of the need to maintain your skepticism.

This year’s program brings together 150+ financial institutions and more then 300 attendees. The demographics reflect the audience we serve, so I thought to share three additional trends.  Clearly, boards of directors are under pressure to evolve.  Financial institutions need the right expertise and experience and benefit greatly when their directors have diverse backgrounds.

Further, as more regulatory rules are written, board members need to understand what they mean and how they can affect their bank’s business.  Finally, technology strategies and risks are inextricably linked to corporate strategy; as such, the level of board engagement needs to increase.

Given the many issues — both known and unknown — a bank faces as our industry evolves, today made clear how challenging it can be for an audit or risk committee member to get comfortable addressing risk and issues.  Staying compliant requires a solid defense and appreciation for what’s now.  Staying competitive?  This requires a sharper focus given near constant pressures to reduce costs while dealing with increasing competition and regulation.


To see what we’re sharing on our social networks, I encourage you to follow @bankdirector @fin_x_tech and @aldominick.  Questions or comment?  Feel free to leave me a note below.

The FinTech Ecosystem

Last Friday, I had the pleasure to be invited to the White House’s FinTech Summit, where, as the Wall Street Journal reported, the half-day event “largely focused on how government agencies can tap into the innovation, in which new firms are offering small-business owners and consumers faster forms of loans and digital payments.”  Certainly, collaboration between technology companies and traditional financial institutions has increased — think proofs of concept, partnerships and strategic investments — but much still needs to be done.  As I took notes during the event, I did so with an eye towards the platform we built — and the ecosystem beginning to develop — with FinXTech.

FinXTech is a platform that promotes collaboration between the most forward thinkers in the industry – in order to create real innovation, change and a better future for all.

As new technology players emerge and traditional participants begin to transform their business models, there is growing sentiment that successful institutions need to enable financial services for life’s needs through collaboration and partnerships with the very fintech companies that once threatened to displace them.  I tackled this issue in a piece I wrote (A Fear of Missing Out).  A few things didn’t make the final cut that I thought to share here.  Of note:

  • I asked Michael Tang, partner and head of global digital transformation and innovation at Deloitte, how might bank executives determine the amount of money they should allocate to innovation.  He shared that industry metrics range from 2-7% of revenues (and also depend on incremental or moonshots-type initiatives).
  • Even as technology will force narrowing margins, there may be opportunities to develop new profit pools and forcing some incumbents to “move upstream” to serve more sophisticated and profitable cohorts (source: Disaggregating the impact of fintech).
  • The playing field will level as firms of all sizes will be able to take advantage of emerging networks and platform-based services. Ultimately lowering cost, improving compliance, and focusing on markets where they have a true competitive advantage (source: Disaggregating the impact of fintech).

The rapid transformation of the financial services industry — due to technological innovations and shifting customer expectations — is quite remarkable.  If you missed what Adrienne Harris, special assistant to the president for economic policy, wrote in a blog post following the White House FinTech Summit, it is worth your time to read.