15 Banks and Fintechs Doing it Right

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Many bank CEOs and their executive teams are looking for emerging methods, products and services to reach new customer segments to drive growth. Today, I identify fifteen banks in the United States, all under $20Bn in asset size, that are growing with the help of fintech companies.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

With the rise of many innovative, non-traditional financial services companies, leaders of financial institutions can find themselves overwhelmed when it comes to selecting the right partners.  If you are running a bank that doesn’t have multiple incubators, accelerators and skunk work projects already under way, knowing where to participate with the fintech community can prove quite the challenge.  Should it be with an upstart touting a new credit decisioning models?  What about one with a new lending model?  In the quest to become more “nimble” and responsive to consumer demands, do you partner? Refer business? Accept referrals?  The list of not-so-rhretorical questions goes on and on…

Now, quite a bit of digital ink has been spilled over the creativity and aspirations of the fintech community (and its many investors) to transform banking.  But not nearly as much for banks looking to do the same.  While the efforts of major players like Wells Fargo and Capital One garner well-deserved attention, it is my belief that for fintech companies keen to collaborate (and not compete) with banks, developing relationships with banks from $1Bn to $10Bn — there are approximately 550 — and those from $10Bn to $50Bn — there are approximately 75 — may prove as lucrative over the next few years as working with the 30 banks that have assets from $50Bn up.

With this parameter in mind, I polled a few of my team at Bank Director to compile a list of banks, all under $20Bn in asset size, that “play well” with fintechs to show that you don’t have to be the biggest of the big to benefit from this wave of new market participants.  Here, in no particular order, are fifteen banks with notable relationships and/or efforts.

  1. Eastern Bank checks in at $9.7B in asset size, and the Massachusetts-based bank stands out for bringing on some great fintech talent; notably, hiring ex-Perkstreet CEO Dan O’Malley and several of his colleagues to lead its innovation unit;
  2. California’s Fremont Bank ($2.7B) caught our eye, as the bank was a fast adopter of Apple Pay;
  3. River City Bank ($1.3B, Sacramento) has a fintech guy — Ryan Gilbert, Better Finance — on their board;
  4. The Bancorp ($4.5B) backs a lot of fintech/nonbank firms like Moven and Simple;
  5. Radius Bank (just under $1Bn) is a Boston institution with just two physical locations — but is forming alliances with fintech startups to be “everywhere;”
  6. Union Bank & Trust in Nebraska works with Betterment, an automated investing service, to offer its customers a smart, simple and easy way to invest;
  7. A real pioneer, CBW Bank ($14.5B) is a community bank in Kansas and one of the first U.S. banks to use the Ripple protocol for modern, real-time payments between the U.S. and other countries globally;
  8. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington Trust ($4B) is vocal on being tech-friendly;
  9. In Texas, First Financial ($6B) is big on mobile and being innovative — working with Mitek, they are the first regional bank to offer mobile photo bill pay);
  10. Banc of California ($6B) uses nCino to automate and standardize its commercial and SBA lending;
  11. PacWest ($16B) are all about lending to technology and fintech companies;
  12. The Bank of the Internet, BofI, is a full-service internet bank with $5 billion in assets;
  13. Everbank ($16B) plays well with Fintech while adorning the stadium of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars;
  14. Rockland Trust has a SVP of digital and payments innovation, which is unusual for a $5.6 billion dollar bank; and
  15. The $17 billion-asset First National Bank of Omaha hosts a weekend-long hackathon, a competition common in the tech world but rarely hosted by banks, to attract talent into its ranks.

By no means is this a complete list of community banks collaborating with fintechs in the U.S.  If I was to expand the list up in size, you can bet larger regional standouts like KeyBank would merit recognition for their work with companies like HelloWallet.  In the spirit of learning/sharing, who else should be added to this list?  Let me know via twitter or by leaving a comment below.

Giving Thanks for Great Leadership

We are getting close to that time of year when people start writing their top ten lists, providing year-in-review posts and taking out the proverbial crystal ball.  In this spirit, my post-Thanksgiving piece provides a list of bank CEOs I met this year that impressed me with both their bank’s performance & personal leadership styles.  From the outside looking in, I have to assume shareholders and employees alike appreciate what each has done for their organization.

A few days ago, David Reilly authored a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Wanted: Dance Partners for Bank Merger Ball” (sorry, registration required).  Citing Bank Director’s annual M&A research report, he reminded us that it takes two to tango — and “that is still the issue for investors expecting, or hoping for, a significant pickup in bank merger activity in 2015.”  As we showed in our survey of about 200 bank directors and executives, 47% said they planned to purchase a healthy bank in the next 12 months — but 87% also said they had no intention to sell.  So a steady hand to lead an institution strikes me as imperative for those banks seeking growth through traditional, or acquisition-based, means.  This got me thinking…

Over the course of the year, I am lucky to meet Chief Executive Officers from all over the country.  To build on three posts from earlier this year (my “FI Tip Sheet: Some of Banking’s Best CEOs,” “FI Tip Sheet: Great Bank CEOs” and “FI Tip Sheet: The Top Women in Banking“) here, in no particular order, are nine community bank CEOs that made memorable impressions on me in 2014:

  • Jay Sidhu, the Chairman and CEO of Customers Bank, ran Sovereign Bank for nearly 20 years and started Customers Bank from scratch in ’97.  The bank has grown from its original five branches in the suburbs of Philadelphia to 14 offices in three states — Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Thanks to Jay’s disciplined approach to growth, Customers has seen its assets increase to $6.5 billion as of August 25.
  • Down in Texas, Scott Dueser, the Chairman, President & CEO at First Financial, embodies the concept of loyalty — to his employees, his customers and to the First Financial family as a whole (he’s been a part of it for more than 38 years).  Oh, and his bank placed first in the $5 billion to $50 billion asset category in Bank Director’s annual Bank Performance Scorecard — a ranking of the 200 largest publicly traded bank holding companies in the United States based on their 2013 financial data.
  • Up in RedSox country (sorry, CT might be a swing state between Yankees and RedSox fans, but the team from my home town is far superior), Bill Crawford leads United Financial Bancorp, the bank holding company for United Bank and Rockville Bank.  A $5 billion community bank founded in 1858 with 60 branches in New England, Bill’s determination to merge the two proverbial “equals” as seamlessly as possible reflects a real commitment to the combined teams, client bases and cultures.
  • Billed as the “bank for VCs and entrepreneurs,” Doug Bowers, the President & CEO at Square 1 Bank, oversees the NC-based bank with more then $1bn in assets.  As he shared, their focus on banking entrepreneurs and their investors is all that that they do.  Yes, it is 100% of their business.
  • Robin McGraw, embodies “intrapeneurship.”  The Chairman & CEO of Tupelo, MS-based Renasant Corporation, the parent of Renasant Bank, runs the 110-year-old financial services institution.  With approximately $5.8 billion in assets, Renasant operates more than 120 banking, mortgage, financial services and insurance offices in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Under Robin’s watch, the bank made in-sourcing their IT work a priority — which puts them in a favorably competitive position as the world becomes even more digital.
  • I know Daryl Byrd, President & CEO at IBERIABANK Corporation, sees quite a few potential deals cross his desk as he runs the oldest and largest bank headquartered in Louisiana.  The financial holding company operates 280 combined offices and successfully serves a niche commercial and private banking target audience.  Over the past few years, IBERIABANK has been held up as one of the better acquirers in terms of integrating a team/brand into its own — something they will do again with their recently announced acquisition of Old Florida Bancshares.
  • Any time I am able to spend time with Mike Fitzgerald, the Chairman, President & CEO at Bank of Georgetown in Washington, D.C., I come away inspired.  Being a local presence since 2005 — with a great reputation for growing organically — Mike and his team have quickly made this one of the best community banks in the Washington metropolitan area.
  • John Corbett, the President & CEO at CenterState Bank of Florida, runs one of the fastest growing community banks headquartered in the Sunshine State.  Founded in 1999, CenterState Bank has grown to nearly $4 billion in assets.  Just last month, John talked with us about the need to innovate or risk becoming stagnant and losing the ability to compete for exceptional talent.
  • In terms of taking risks, David Brooks, of Independent Bank Group in Texas, can share a story or two.  As I wrote for BankDirector.com in October (Deciding Whether to Sell or Go Public), David was one of the first to take a bank public following the financial crisis, guiding the bank’s 2012 IPO that raised $100 million at 2.2 times tangible book value. The company has announced eight acquisitions since 2010; most notably, with Bank of Houston in a deal that added more than $1 billion in assets to Independent Bank when the deal closed in April.
  • Finally, a tip of my hat to Leon Holschbach, the Vice Chairman, CEO and President of Midland States Bancorp. Leon stands out for his recruitment & retention efforts and has graciously shared how his company develops executives, attracts leadership and approaches compensation in our highly competitive and economically challenging world.

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.

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!

Its Growth Week

Its finally here… “Growth Week” at Bank Director.  Yes Discovery Channel, you can keep your shark week.  What we’re about to get into is far more interesting (at least, to some): what’s working in banking today.  Most of our team heads down to the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans tomorrow and Wednesday for our 2014 Growth Conference.  Before they do, the first of five posts dedicated to building a business.

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Think Distinct

Innovation means doing things differently.  Not just offering new products or offerings — but doing things differently across the entire business model.  Going into this event, I know many believe there are simply too many banks offering similar products and services.  I tend to think institutions are challenged when it comes to being distinctive compared with the competitor across the street.  This is not a new issue; however, there are more and more strategies emerging and enablers coming to market that can drive brand value, customer satisfaction and profitable growth.  Case-in-point: the work of our friends at StrategyCorps, whose idea is “be bold… go beyond basic mobile banking.”  One of the sponsors of the conference, I am excited to hear how  financial institutions, like First Financial, benefit from their mobile & online consumer checking solutions in order to enhance customer engagement and increase fee income.

Looking Back in Order to Look Ahead

While easy to frame the dynamics of our industry in terms of asset size, competing for business today is more of a “smart vs. not-so-smart” story than a “big vs. small.” During one of my favorite sessions last year — David AND Goliath — Peter Benoist, the president and CEO of St. Louis-based Enterprise Financial Services Corp, reminded his peers that as more banks put their liquidity to work, fierce competition puts pressures on rates and elevates risk.  As I went back to my notes in advance of this week’s event, my biggest takeaway from his presentation was we all talk about scale and net interest margins… but it’s clear that you need growth today regardless of who you are.  It is growth for the sake of existence.

Getting Social

To keep track of the conversation pre-, on-site and post-event on Twitter, use #BDGrow14 and/or @bankdirector + @aldominick.  In addition, I plan to post every day this week to About That Ratio, with tomorrow’s piece touching on the diminished importance of branch networks to underscore the importance of investments in technology.