The SouthState Podcast: My Take On Banking, Leadership and FinTech

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with Tom Fitzgerald and Caleb Stevens on their Community Bank Podcast. Produced by SouthState’s Correspondent Division, the two dedicate their pod to helping community bankers grow themselves, their team — and their profits. For about 23 minutes, the three of us explored:

  • The hallmarks of a great business leaders;
  • The biggest trends I’ve observed in banking over the last 5 years;
  • The role of community banks (less than 1B in assets);
  • Who’s gaining traction in the bank technology space; and
  • How I feel about curiosity & empathy.

Oh yes, and I botched my ice cream analogy early on. As someone with a sweet tooth, I meant to reference Baskin & Robbins‘ 31 flavors of ice cream while talking leadership characteristics. As a child in Needham, MA, the idea that I’d have to choose between chocolate, coffee, oreo, cookie dough, etc posed a real challenge — especially as we’d go as a post-dentist treat! So when Caleb asks me about key facets of leadership in banking today, please understand my Covid-brain took me back to those fun childhood memories… which is how I wound up bellyflopping on the analogy!!

On the Horizon for Bank CEOs, Their Leadership Teams and Boards

WASHINGTON, DC — Can community banks out-compete JP Morgan, BofA and Wells Fargo?  This is the elephant in the room awaiting 853 bank executives and board members — representing 432 Banks — at our upcoming Acquire or Be Acquired Conference.  The lights don’t officially come up on our 25th annual event at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge until Sunday, January 27.  So in advance, three big questions I anticipate fielding in the desert.

Does 2019 Become the Year of BigTech?

As noted by H2 Ventures and KPMG, Amazon is providing payment services and loans to merchants on its platform, while Facebook recently secured an electronic money licence in Ireland.  Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have become dominant operators in China’s $5.5 trillion payments industry.  Add in Fiserv’s recent $22B acquisition of First Data and Plaid’s of Quovo and we might be seeing the start of a consolidation trend in the financial technology sector.  Will such investments and tie-ups draw the attention of big technology companies to the financial services industry?

Has the window to sell your bank already closed?

When I heard the rumor that BBVA might be buying UK-based Atom Bank — one of the proverbial European challenger banks — I started to look at acquisition trends here in the U.S.  Case-in-point, we put together the following graphic in December for


We know that some community banks have been holding out hopes of higher pricing multiples or for a strategic partner.  These institutions might find the window of opportunity to stage an exit isn’t as open as it was just a few years ago. This doesn’t mean the window has shut — but I do think an honest assessment of what’s realistic, at the board level, is appropriate.

Wither the bond market?

A NY Times op-ed piece  posits that the bond market reveals growing cracks in the financial system.  Authored by Sheila Bair, the former chairwoman of the FDIC, and Gaurav Vasisht, director of financial regulation at the Volcker Alliance, it warns that “regulators are not doing enough to make sure that banks are prepared.”  While the duo calls for thicker capital cushions for big banks and tighter leveraged loan underwriting standards, I wonder how executives joining us in Arizona feel about this potential threat to our economy?
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As the premier bank M&A event for bank CEOs, senior management and board members, Bank Director’s 25th annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference brings together key bank leaders from across the country to explore merger & acquisition strategies and financial growth opportunities. If you’re joining us in the desert, I’ll share a few FYIs later this week. If you’re unable to join us in Phoenix, AZ, I’ll be tweeting from @aldominick and using #AOBA19 when sharing on social platforms like LinkedIn.

Lessons Learned at Lagunitas


While I continue to get my proverbial legs under me here, I don’t want to forget some of the pieces I wrote for my DCSpring21 blog. Being that Twitter is pulling the plug on the blogging platform I’ve used to publish my thoughts since 2008 (adios Posterous), I’m going back through the 352 posts I shared to see what’s worth saving. One, from last November, resulted from a weekend trip to Petaluma, CA. I thought it an appropriate share as I enjoy a super hoppy Maximus.

So I found myself in Sonoma late Saturday afternoon. Little did I suspect, as I walked through a brewery tour at the purveyors of my favorite beers (the wicked awesome Lagunitas Brewing Company), that I’d come away with some business inspiration. But from one small business to another, cheers to the great folks behind Brown Shugga, IPA Maximus, Hop Stoopid Ale and the greatest named holiday beer of all time, Lagunitas Sucks.

As evidenced by the picture above, I enjoyed a taste or two of the good stuff. I also found myself scribbling down some takeaways. Specifically, my take on how they built their brand and reputation. I believe it applies to most all businesses:

  • You need character — and characters — to be successful & memorable;
  • Know your business — and be proud of the past and passionate about the future;
  • Tell a good story (or two, or three);
  • Be serious, but don’t take yourself too seriously; and
  • Don’t be shy about being the best.

So refreshing, in both senses, to spend an evening in Sonoma County. If you have a chance to head up to the brewery, a tour led by Louis comes highly recommended.


A pop quiz for you Laganitas lovers:

Q: Wilco Tango Foxtrot – does it make you smirk/smile?

Q: Why is 420 on the labels?

Q: What is censored — and what rapper’s 90’s CD caused the label flap?

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