Look At Who Is Attending Acquire or Be Acquired

In just 20 days, we raise the lights on our 23rd annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  This is Bank Director’s biggest event of the year, one primarily focused on banking’s “great game” — mergers and acquisitions.  My team has spent considerable time and energy developing a spectacular event focused on growth-related topics that range from exploring a merger to preparing for an acquisition; growing loans to capturing efficiencies; managing capital to partnering with fintech companies.  To see the full agenda, click here.

Widely regarded as one of the banking industry’s premier events, we have more than 1,000 people registered to attend AOBA later this month — an all-time high.  We couldn’t do this alone, and over the course of these 2 ½ days, executives from many of our industry’s leading professional services firms and product companies share their perspectives on “what’s now” and “what’s next.”  I invite you to take a look at all of the corporate sponsors joining us:

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As I shared in a recent post, bank executives and their boards face some major issues without clear answers.  Before heading out west, I’ll share more about the banks (and 660+ bankers) joining us at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.  Until then, I invite you to learn more about the companies supporting this conference by hopping over to bankdirector.com. To follow the conversations happening around this conference on Twitter, I’m @aldominick and we are using #AOBA17.

Mid-April Bank Notes

I recently wrote How the Math Works For Non-Financial Service Companies.  Keeping to the quantitative side of our business, I’m finding more and more advisors opining that banks of $500 – $600M in asset size really need to think about how to get to $2B or $3Bn — and when they get there, how to get to $7Bn, $8Bn and then $9Bn.  With organic growth being a bit of a chore, mergers and acquisitions remain a primary catalyst for those looking to build.  But what happens if you don’t have a board (or shareholder base for that matter) that understands what it takes to grow a company through acquisitions?  This question — not deliberately rhetorical — and two more observations, form today’s post.

A Collection of Individual Relationships

Just because a bank is in a position to consider a merger or acquisition doesn’t mean it is always the best approach to building a business.  This thought crossed my mind with Nashville-based Pinnacle Bank’s recent acquisition of Chattanooga’s CapitalMark Bank & Trust — the first deal struck by the bank in the last eight years (h/t to my fellow W&L’er Scott Harrison at the Nashville Business Journal for his writeup).  Run by Terry Turner, the bank enjoys a great reputation as a place to work and business to invest in.  As Terry shared with the audience at this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference, he doesn’t hire someone who’s been shopping their resume, a point that stuck with me and resonated with a number of other executives I was seated near.  So when I think of team building, his institution is one I hold in high regard.

The same can be said for First Republic, who like Pinnacle, is known for organic growth and fielding a standout team.  The bank recently posted a 90 second video from its CEO and Founder, Jim Herbert, that gives his thoughts on culture and teamwork.  Having written about Jim as part of a “Best CEO” series, this clip highlights the foundation for their continued success.

General Electric decides it no longer needs to be a bank

If you somehow missed GE’s announcement, the Wall Street Journal reported this is the conglomerate’s most significant strategic move in years.  While I will let others weigh in on the long-term benefits in selling its finance business that long accounted for around half the company’s profits, it was nice to see our friends at Davis Polk advising GE through the sale of most of GE Capital’s assets.  So the assets of the 7th largest bank in the country, some $500 billion in size, will be sold or spun off over the next two years.  Why?  “The company concluded the benefits aren’t worth bearing the regulatory burdens and investor discontent.”  Feel free to share your comments on this below.

Time To Sell The Bank?

From the the appeal of spreading into new geographies to the attractiveness of acquiring exceptional talent to drive new sources of revenue, the need and desire to grow exists at virtually every financial institution. For those pursuing another bank, a merger or acquisition (M&A) provides an avenue to drive earnings while improving operating leverage, efficiency and scale. I have written about M&A from a potential buyers point-of-view (e.g. Acquire or Be Acquired – Sunday Recap); today’s piece flips the script and highlights three issues that may precipitate a sale.

Compliance Costs

Banks are facing some very significant challenges in the years ahead — and not just from consolidation.  As KPMG shared in its An Industry At a Pivot Point, “the costs and time stresses created by the regulatory environment are not going away, and will continue to affect four areas for banks: strategy and business models, interactions with customers and client assets, data and reporting structures, and governance and risk capabilities.”  Certainly, the sharply increased cost of regulatory compliance might lead some to seek a buyer; others will respond by trying to get bigger through acquisitions so they can spread the costs over a wider base.

Capital Concerns

Some banks will have to raise capital just to meet the Basel III requirements, while others will have to raise capital to do an acquisition or support their organic growth. The required levels are so much higher now that banks will have to manage their capital much more closely than they did before.  (*If you’re looking for a central resource for the many ongoing regulatory changes that are reshaping bank capital and prudential requirements in the United States, take a look at Davis Polk’s excellent Capital and Prudential Standards Blog.)

Earnings Pressure

As the attractiveness of branch networks and deposit franchises dwindles, lack of top-line growth will lead to further industry consolidation. With little overall changes in our economy, in-market mergers between banks with significant overlap in branches and operations offer tremendous cost-saving opportunities when done skillfully.

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To comment on this piece, click on the green circle with the white plus sign on the bottom right. Aloha Friday!

Giving Thanks

Winston Churchill once said, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  I believe we all aspire to see the proverbial glass as half full — so this quote is one I thought to share as we wrap up this Thanksgiving week.  As I do each Friday, what follows are three things I’m thinking about; in this case, what I’m grateful for — in a professional sense — that reflects Churchill’s sentiment.

(1) The Harvard Business Review ran a piece this April entitled Three Rules for Making a Company Truly Great.  It began “much of the strategy and management advice that business leaders turn to is unreliable or impractical. That’s because those who would guide us underestimate the power of chance.”  Here, I want to pause and give thanks to my tremendous colleagues at Bank Director — dreamers and implementors alike — who prove that fortune really does favor the prepared mind (and team).

(2) I believe that leadership is a choice and not a position.  As a small company with big ambitions, I find that setting specific directions — but not methods — motivates our team to perform at a high level and provide outstanding support and service to our clients.  This parallels the principle value of McKinsey & Co., one eloquent in its simplicity: “we believe we will be successful if our clients are successful.”  I read this statement a number of years ago, and its stuck with me ever since.  As proud as I am for our company’s growth, we owe so much to the trust placed in us by nearly 100 companies and countless banks.  Personally, I am in debt to many executives for accelerating my understanding of issues and ideas that would take years to accumulate in isolation.  Since returning to Bank Director three years ago, I have been privileged to share time with executives from standout professional services firms like KBW, Sandler O’Neill, Raymond James, PwC, KPMG, Crowe, Grant Thornton, Davis Polk, Covington, Fiserv… and the list goes on and on.  These are all great companies that support financial institutions in significant ways.  Spending time with executives within these firms affords me a great chance to hear what’s trending, where challenges may arise and opportunities they anticipate for their clients.  As such, I am thankful to be in a position where no two days are the same — and my chance to learn never expires.

(3) Finally, I so appreciate the support that I receive from my constituents throughout our industry.  It might be an unexpected compliment from a conference attendee, a handwritten thank you note from a speaker or the invitation to share my perspectives with another media outlet.  Regardless of how it takes shape, let me pay forward this feeling by thanking our newest hires, Emily Korab, Taylor Spruell and Dawn Walker, for expressing an interest in the team we’ve assembled and goals we’ve set.  Taking the leap to join a company of 17 strong might scare some towards larger organizations, but I’m really excited to work with all three and expect great things from each.

A late Happy Thanksgiving and of course, Aloha Friday!

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