18 Banks that Fintech Companies Need to Know

To build on last week’s piece (15 Banks and Fintechs Doing it Right), I put myself in the shoes of an early stage fintech company’s Founder.  Specifically, as someone with a new idea looking to develop meaningful financial relationships with regional and community banks in the United States.  With many exciting and creative fintech companies beginning to collaborate with traditional institutions, what follows is a list of 18 banks — all between $1Bn and $25Bn in size — that I think should attract the tech world’s interest.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Believe it or not, but bank CEOs and their teams are working hard to grow revenue, deposits, brand, market size and market share.  So a hypothetical situation to tee-up today’s column.

Imagine we developed a new, non-disruptive but potentially profit-enhancing software product (let’s put it in the “know-your-customer” sector since banks already spend money on this).  As the Founders, we want to approach banks that might be ready to do more than simply pilot our product.  While our first instinct would be to focus on recognizable names known for taking a technology-based, consumer-centric focus to banking, the low hanging fruit might be with CEOs and executive teams at publicly traded community banks — many of whom are above $1Bn in asset size and are just scratching the surface of developing meaningful fintech relationships.

With the idea that smaller banks can act faster to at least consider what we’re selling, we cull the field, knowing that as of June 1 of this year, the total number of FDIC-insured institutions equaled 6,404; within this universe, banks with assets greater than $1Bn totaled just 699.

So now we are focused on a manageable number of potential customers and can spend time getting smart on “who’s-doing-what” in this space.  Can we agree that we want to approach banks that share common characteristics; namely, strong financial performance that sets them apart from their peers and operations in strong local markets or big economic states?  Good, because assuming we are starting from scratch in this space, here are our top prospects (listed in no particular order with approximate asset size):

  1. Citizens Business Bank in California ($7.3Bn)
  2. Pinnacle Financial in Tennessee ($6Bn)
  3. Farmers & Merchants in California ($5.5Bn)
  4. Western Alliance in Arizona ($10Bn)
  5. Eagle Bank in DC ($5.2Bn)
  6. Prosperity in Texas ($21.5Bn)
  7. BankUnited in Florida ($19.2Bn)
  8. BofI “on the internet” ($5.2Bn)
  9. First NBC in Louisiana ($3.7Bn)
  10. Burke & Herbert in Virginia ($2.6Bn)
  11. Banner in Washington ($4.7Bn)
  12. Bank of Marin in California ($1.8Bn)
  13. Cardinal Bank in Virginia ($3.4Bn)
  14. State Bank in Georgia ($2.8Bn)
  15. TCF Financial in Minnesota ($19.3Bn)
  16. United Bank in Connecticut ($5.5Bn)
  17. Boston Private in Massachusetts ($6.8Bn)
  18. Opus Bank in California ($5.1Bn)

At a time when the concept of service is fast changing to reflect highly functional technology and “always-available” customer experiences, these eighteen banks — already successful in their own right — strike me as just the types to think about approaching.

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*Now I’m not suggesting everyone pick up the phone and call each’s institutions CEO.  But If you are with a fintech thinking about partnerships and collaboration, you could do a whole heckuva lot worse than spending some time learning what makes all of these banks more than just financially strong and consumer relevant.

From Acquire or Be Acquired: A Video Recap of Today’s L. William Seidman CEO Panel

Former FDIC Chairman and Bank Director’s Publisher, the late Bill Seidman, was a huge advocate of a strong and healthy community bank system.  We honor his memory and this sentiment with a CEO panel each year.  My thanks to David Brooks, Chairman & CEO of the Independent Bank Group, Mark Grescovich, President & CEO of the Banner Corporation, Edward Garding, President & CEO of First Interstate BancSystem and Daryl Byrd, President & CEO of IBERIABANK, for sharing their thoughts on a variety of growth-related issues earlier today.

Bank Director’s 2015 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference

Banks are increasingly interested in the topic of mergers and acquisitions, which must have something to do with our record attendance at this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The fun begins at The Phoenician (pictured above) this weekend with Bank Director’s 21st annual “AOBA.”  Last year, we welcomed 435 officers & directors from 271 financial institutions to the Arizona Biltmore.  This year, we have 522 bankers and bank board members from more than 300 banks in attendance. Merger activity is clearly gaining steam, and this is bringing more interested parties to the table.

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Three Days in the Desert

Why banks are bought (or sold) involves much more than just the numbers making sense.  Moreover, to successfully negotiate a merger transaction, buyers and sellers must bridge the gap between a number of financial, legal, accounting and social challenges. So allow me to sketch out what’s on tap for this massive three-day event.

On Sunday…

To kick things off, we take a macro-level look at capital markets and operating conditions for banks nationwide. Additionally, we look at how M&A fits within a broad range of strategic options for a bank’s board and how some successful acquirers have aligned transactions to achieve strategic goals.  Of note, we welcome the perspectives of CEOs from high performing banks like Pinnacle National Bank, Banner Corp.First Interstate BancSystem, IBERIABANK and CVB Corp. as part of several presentations. On stage, these men will share their thoughts on what it takes to build and lead successful institutions.

On Monday…

Building on the first day of the conference, we turn our attention to the long-term preparation required by both a buyer and seller.  For instance, regulatory planning remains critical to getting deals done for both sides — especially on compliance issues.  Thematically, Monday builds on Sunday’s presentations, with sessions dedicated to helping a bank’s board make a rational buy, sell or hold decision.

On Tuesday…

To put a bow on this year’s event, we start with a look at what the biggest banks are doing today followed by a series of breakout sessions on more in-depth topics.  To conclude, we welcome the perspectives of our friends from NASDAQ who will look at trends, issues and the “movers and shakers” in the technology world that may impact growth and innovation within the financial community.  As much as AOBA explores one’s financial growth opportunities, this final session examines what’s happening outside of our industry that may precipitate new changes or challenges to a bank’s growth aspirations.  Oh and in the afternoon… we swap suits for cleats, wrapping up AOBA with our annual golf tournament.

Can’t Make it?

For those not able to join us — but interested in following the conversations — I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector, and search & follow #AOBA15 to see what is being shared with our attendees.

Seeking Size and Scale

With Wednesday’s announcement that BB&T has a deal in place to acquire Susquehanna Bancshares in a $2.5 billion deal, I felt inspired to focus on the mergers & acquisitions space today.  You see, if 2013 was the year of the merger-of-equals (MOEs), it seems that 2014 has become the year of “seeking size and scale.”

As I’ve shared in past posts, 2013 was characterized by a series of well-structured mergers which produced a dramatic improvement in shareholder reaction to bank M&A.  For example, Umpqua & Sterling,  United Financial Bancorp & Rockville Financial and Bank of Houston & Independent Bank.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some pretty interesting transactions announced that are not MOEs; specifically, Sterling Bancorp buying Hudson Valley Holding in New York, Banner picking up AmericanWest Bank in the Pacific Northwest and the afore-mentioned BB&T deal.

Don’t Be Fooled, Size Matters

As evidenced by the Sterling and Banner acquisitions, the desire for scale and efficiencies is prompting certain institutions to expand.  While regulatory costs and concerns have been cited in previous years as deterents to a transaction, isn’t it interesting that both of these deals position the acquiring institution near the $10Bn threshold (*important as crossing this asset threshold invites new levels of scrutiny and expense).  But like John Thain suggested earlier this year, “the key is being big enough so that you can support all of the costs of regulation.”  Still, comments made by Richard Davis, chairman and chief executive of U.S. Bancorp, about the BB&T agreement should temper some enthusiasm about the biggest players jumping in to the M&A space a la the $185 Bn-in-size BB&T. “This is not a deal you’d ever see us do,” he said at conference in New York hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, adding “it’s both out-of-market and it’s fairly expensive.”

I’m Serious, It Matters?!?

Earlier this year, Deloitte published The Top Ten Issues for Bank M&A.  In light of the BB&T deal, it is worth revisiting.  To open, the authors opine “size matters when it comes to regulatory constraints on the banking sector: The bigger the players, the more restrictions on banking activities, including M&A. Banks with less than $10 billion in total assets face the least restriction, while the very largest Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs) experience the highest level of constraints. Among the major regulatory actions that are expected to hold considerable sway over bank M&A in 2014 are the Volcker Rule, Basel III capital requirements, global liquidity rules, stress testing, and anti-money laundering (AML) and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) compliance laws.”

Who I’m Taking to Buy a Lottery Ticket

Finally, a tip of the hat to Frank Cicero, the Global Head of Financial Institutions Group at
Jefferies. He reminded me on Wednesday that every prediction he made in a piece he wrote for BankDirector.com at the beginning of the year has come to pass…fewer MOE’s, bigger premiums, regional banks returning to bank M&A.  Personally, I’m wondering if he wants to walk into the lotto store with me this weekend?

Aloha Friday!

Know Your Tribe

So… I initially planned to dive into interest rate risk this morning. Prevalent in most M&A conversations taking place in bank boardrooms today, I thought to focus on banks working to protect their equity value as interest rates rise. However, in reviewing the outline for today’s piece, I realized a different kind of risk inspired me: the risk of becoming something you are not.  While I do anticipate posting a piece on interest rate risk in the near future, today’s column parallels the thoughts of Seth Godin.  Specifically, a blog he authored this week entitled “In Search of Meaningful.”

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In his piece, Seth looks at online media and how “people have been transfixed by scale, by numbers, by rankings… how many eyeballs, how big is the audience, what’s the pass along, how many likes, friends, followers, how many hits?  You cannot win this game and I want to persuade you… to stop trying.”  It strikes me that he could just as well be writing about financial institutions competing for relevance in today’s competitive and crowded environment.  While I’ve linked to his post above, see if you follow my logic based on this representative quote:

It’s no longer possible to become important to everyone, not in a reliable, scalable way… But it is possible to become important to a very-small everyone, to a connected tribe that cares about this voice or that story or this particular point of view. It’s still possible to become meaningful, meaningful if you don’t get short-term greedy about any particular moment of mass, betting on the long run instead.

Over the past six months, I have been fortunate to hear how numerous bank CEOs and Chairmen plan to position their institutions for long-term growth.  As I process Godin’s perspective, let me pay his perspectives forward with three of my own specific to community banks:

#1 – You Don’t Have To Be BIG To Be Successful

By this I mean smarts trumps size any day of the week.  While more banks put their liquidity to work, fierce competition puts pressures on rates and elevates risk.  While easy to frame the dynamics of our industry in terms of asset size, competing for business today is more of a “smart vs. stupid” story than a “big vs. small” one.

#2 – You Don’t Have To Be Everywhere

Nor can you be — so stick to what you know best.  I know that margin compression and an extra helping of regulatory burden means times couldn’t be more challenging for growth in community or regional banking.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be all things to all people.  Case-in-point, I was lucky to spend some time with Burke & Herbert Bank’s CEO in Northern Virginia earlier this week.  As they say, “the world has changed quite a bit since 1852 (*the year the bank opened its doors) – that you may be conducting most of your life from your computer, smartphone and/or whatchamajiggy. That’s why we constantly adapt to the way you live and bank.”  Today Burke & Herbert Bank has more than $2 billion in assets and 25 branches throughout Northern Virginia.  Still, they remain a neighborhood bank, choosing to “stay local” as Virginia’s oldest bank.

#3 – You Don’t Have To Do What Everyone Else Does

As Godin writes, the “problem with generic is that it’s easy go as well as easy come.”  Just because USAA rolls out a new mobile offering doesn’t mean you need to — and if BofA decides to reprice a product, can you really compete with them on price?  So which community banks are doing it right in my opinion?  Well, if you’re in Nashville and focused on the medical and music & entertainment industries you probably know Avenue Bank, if you’re a business in the Pacific Northwest, you most likely work with (or at least respect) Banner Bank.  And if you are in the oil and gas business in Texas, First Financial is a big player.  The common thread that binds these three banks together: they have a laser-like focus on their ideal customer base.

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To comment on this piece, click on the green circle with the white plus (+) sign on the bottom right. If you are on twitter, I’m @aldominick. Aloha Friday!

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.

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(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!