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.

9 Banks I Bet People Will Be Talking About at Acquire or Be Acquired

I planned to write about a number of banks I was excited to see this weekend at AOBA.  But as Steve Jobs once shared “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” In this spirit, let me highlight nine banks that I anticipate our attendees will be talking about in Arizona at Bank Director’s annual M&A conference.

In a few minutes, I’ll hop an American flight to Phoenix for this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  Before I depart the cold and slush of D.C. for some warmth and sun in the desert, this is my take on the banks I anticipate people talking about when we’re all together:

  • Bank of the West — and not just because their CEO is keynoting this year’s conference.  The bank, with more than 700 branches in the Midwest and Western United States, has long been a personal favorite of mine and competes in markets where many look for inspiration.
  • Bank of North Carolina — because they’ve been wheeling and dealing and are a great example of how an acquirer successfully integrates cultures (*yes, their CEO also speaks at AOBA this year on a CEO panel entitled Finding the Right Partners).
  • United Bank — having picked up a trophy franchise of their own in my hometown (another personal favorite of mine, Bank of Georgetown) they’ve made a number of interesting deals over the past few years and I bet have more on their mind.
  • BB&T — having dealt for Susquehanna in ’14 and National Penn in ‘15, it is fair to ask: who’s next?

By no means are these all of the banks that will come up in conversation; rather, those that are top of mind.

One final thought before hopping my flight west.  The recent volatility in the stock market may be impacting institutions considering a capital raise, IPO or acquisition — but this week’s deal pace is far different then at this time in recent years.  The patterns I’m beginning to see is a concentrated effort to get to over the $5Bn asset mark and into that sweetest of spots: the $5Bn to $50Bn asset class.  A point I’ll elaborate on in an upcoming post/video.

So if you are interested in following the conference conversations via social channels, 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) our attendees.  Safe travels to those 930 men & women joining us this weekend!

FI Tip Sheet: Some of Banking’s Best CEOs

Last month on Yahoo Finance, Sydney Finkelstein, professor of management and an associate dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, produced a list of the Best CEOs of 2013, one that includes Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Pony Ma of Tencent,  John Idol of Michael Kors, Reed Hastings of Netflix and Akio Toyoda of Toyota.  Inspired by his picks, I reached out to a number of colleagues that work for professional services firms to ask their thoughts on the top CEOs at financial institutions — along with why they hold them in such regard.  What follows in this morning’s tip sheet are myriad thoughts on some of the best CEOs in the business today — broken down into three categories: the “biggest banks” with $50Bn+ in assets, those with more than $5Bn but less than $50Bn and finally, those in the $1Bn to $5Bn size range.

AboutThatRatio = image for Jan 10.001

(1) Top CEOs at financial institutions over $50Bn

The names and logos of institutions over $50Bn — think M&T with some $83Bn in assets, KeyCorps with $90Bn, PNC with $305Bn and US Bancorp with $353Bn — are familiar to most.  Leading these massive organizations are some tremendously talented individuals; for example, John Stumpf, the CEO at Wells Fargo.  Multiple people shared their respect for his leadership of the fourth largest bank in the U.S. (by assets) and the largest bank by market capitalization.  According to Fred Cannon, the Director of Research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, John “has created and maintains a unified culture around one brand, (one) that demonstrates strength and stability.  Wells is exhibit #1 in the case for large banks not being bad.”

Similarly, U.S. Bancorp’s Richard Davis garnered near universal respect, with PwC’s Josh Carter remarking “Richard has continued to steer US bank through stormy seas, continuing to stay the course running into the downturn, taking advantage of their position of relative strength, weathering the National Foreclosure issues and managing to avoid being considered part of ‘Wall Street’ even though US Bank is one of the 6 largest banks in the U.S.”

Finally, Steve Steinour, the CEO at Huntington Bancshares, inspired several people to comment on his work at the $56Bn institution.  Case-in-point, Bill Hickey, the co-Head of the Investment Banking Group at Sandler O’Neill, pointed out that since taking the helm in 2009, Steve has led a “remarkable turnaround… Huntington is now a top performer and is positioned to be the dominant regional bank in the Midwest.”

(2) Top CEOs at financial institutions between $5Bn and $50Bn

For banks between $5Bn and $50Bn, Greg Becker at Silicon Valley Bank garnered quite a few votes.  Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, I think they are one of the most innovative banks out there — and several people marveled that it has only grown and diversified under Greg’s leadership.  According to Josh Carter, “what they’re doing is a good example of how a bank can diversify their lending approach while maintaining a prudent credit culture.”  This echoes what Fred Cannon shared with me; specifically, that the $23Bn NASDAQ-listed institution is “the premier growth bank with a differentiated product.”  

Fred also cited the leadership of David Zalman, the Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Prosperity Bancshares Inc., a $16 billion Houston, Texas-based regional financial holding company listed on the NYSE.  According to Fred, David demonstrates how to grow and integrate through acquisitions that is a model for other bank acquirors.  C.K. Lee, Managing Director for Investment Banking at Commerce Street Capital, elaborated on David’s successes, noting their development “from a small bank outside Houston to one of the most disciplined and practiced acquirers in the country and more than $20 billion in assets. The stock has performed consistently well for investors and the acquired bank shareholders – and now they are looking for additional growth outside Texas.”

Keeping things in the Lone Star state, C.K. also mentioned Dick Evans at Frost Bank.  In C.K.’s words, “this is a bank that stayed true to its Texas roots, maintained a conservative lending philosophy, executed well on targeted acquisitions and a created distinctive brand and culture. As Texas grew into an economic powerhouse, Frost grew with it and Mr. Evans was integral to that success.”

Finally, Nashville’s Terry Turner, the CEO of Pinnacle Financial Partners, drew Bill Hickey’s praise, as he “continues to successfully take market share from the larger regional competitors in Nashville and Knoxville primarily as the result of attracting and retaining high quality bankers. Financial performance has been impressive and as a result, continues to trade at 18x forward earnings and 2.4x tangible book value.”

(3) Top CEOs at financial institutions from $1Bn to $5Bn

For CEOs at banks from $1Bn to $5Bn, men like Rusty Cloutier of MidSouth Bank (“a banker’s banker”), David Brooks of Independent Bank Group (“had a breakout year in 2013”) and Leon Holschbach from Midland States Bancorp (“they’ve not only grown the bank but added significant presence in fee-income businesses like trust/wealth management and merchant processing”) drew praise.  So too did Jorge Gonzalez at City National Bank of Florida.  According to PwC’s Josh Carter, Jorge took over a smaller bank in 2007 “with significant deposit concentrations, large exposures to South Florida Real Estate, weathered a pretty nasty turn in the economy and portfolio value and emerged with a much stronger bank, diversified loan portfolio and retained key relationships.  Jorge has also managed to maintained an exceptional service culture, with a significant efficiency level and has combined relationship driven sales to grow the bank.  Jorge has also diversified the product mix and is one of the few smaller banks that can really deliver on the small bank feel with big bank capabilities.”

In addition, Banner Bank’s CEO, Mark Grescovich, won points for his work at the commercial bank headquartered in Walla Walla, Washington.  Mark became CEO in August 2010 (prior to joining the bank, Mark was the EVP and Chief Corporate Banking Officer for the $24Bn, Ohio-based standout FirstMerit). In Fred Cannon’s words, the transformation “is truly exceptional and Mark accomplished this by encouraging and utilizing a talented team of bankers from legacy Banner.”

Finally, Ashton Ryan at First NBC in New Orleans is one I’ve been told to watch.  Indeed, C.K. Lee shared how “Ryan capitalized on the turmoil in New Orleans banking to turn in strong organic growth, with targeted acquisitions along the way. The bank is recently public and has been rewarded by the market with a strong currency to go with its strong balance sheet and earnings.”

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In addition to the list above, I have been very impressed by Peter Benoist at Enterprise Bank in St. Louis, look up to Michael Shepherd, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Bank of the West and BancWest Corporation and respect the vision of Frank Sorrentino at ConnectOne.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I realize there are many, many more leaders who deserve praise and recognition.  Click the “+” button on the bottom right of this page to comment on this piece and let me know who else might be recognized for their leadership prowess.

Aloha Friday!

To Zig or Zag

While President Obama’s nomination of Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen to lead the central bank garnered significant attention this week, the twittersphere was ablaze with news on emerging payments and financial services.  Personally, I focused a lot of my time on retail banking, advertising and marketing stories — a pleasant diversion from the political showdown here in Washington.  Accordingly, this week’s column highlights the creative side of building relationships and engaging with potential customers.  Please let me know what you think via Twitter (@aldominick) or by commenting below.

(1) How Do You Introduce a Mobile-Only Bank? With a Mobile Orchestra, Of Course.  Now, I realize most banks in the U.S. have nowhere near the budget needed for an advertisement like this. Still, BNP Paribas‘ “Hello Bank!” — which claims to be Europe’s first fully digital mobile bank — pulls off “a smart orchestra stunt.” According to AdAge, “the campaign brought together the talents from the musical and tech world for a one-of-a-kind performance by the orchestra that showed what you could do with just your mobile phone.”  Taped during a performance in Prague, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra’s 60 musicians put aside their instruments for a special performance of “Carmen.”  Take a look:

(2) From your ears to your eyes, a test of your social media savvy: #PACYOURBAGS. Do you get the hashtag?  Here’s a hint: this is a promotion run by Bank of the West (a wholly owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas).  Still confused?  While many still wrestle with a social media strategy, the San Francisco-based bank has taken to Instagram and Facebook to offer exclusive Pac-12 content — including news, events and videos — to better engage with current and potential customers under this hashtag.

Bank of the West hashtag

Visit their Facebook page and you’ll be invited to “capture any great moments from this week’s college football games… Tag them with #PACYOURBAGS on Instagram to enter and you could win $250 and a trip for two to the Rose Bowl Stadium on 1/1/14!”  Dare I say, #Cool.

(3) From Prague to the Pac-12, we’ve covered a lot in a short amount of time.  To wrap things up, let me share a story closer to home.  This one involves a few plucky upstarts taking on the biggest of the big.  No, this isn’t a tale of a community bank competing head on with Bank of America; rather, a link to an article that shows multiple startups trying to disrupt various sectors within the consumer goods industry.  Much like their BofA and Wells Fargo brethren, P&G and Unilever “have scale but are under constant assault from savvy upstarts.”  Yes, I’m drawing a parallel between the razor blades you might find in your bathroom to the battle for bank customers vis-a-vis “How Tiny Startups Like Hello and 800Razors Are Stealing Share From CPG Giants.” The premise: “smaller brands’ ability to break through goes to digital disruption in media and retailing.”  An interesting parallel, especially for those bankers willing “to zig away from the strategic and creative zags of category titans.”

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!