Do You Know These 3 Cs of Banking?

Quickly:

  • When it comes to talk about bank mergers and acquisitions, It has been written that the questions rarely change — but the conversations prove irresistible.

By Al Dominick, CEO of DirectorCorps — parent co. to Bank Director & FinXTech.

PHOENIX, AZ — If you’re with us here at the Arizona Biltmore for Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, you’ve heard that banks with low‐cost core deposits continue to attract interest from acquirers.  So as banks wrestle with increased funding costs, that observation sparked an idea about what constitutes the “three Cs” of banking today:

  1. Compliance
  2. Cost Control
  3. Consolidation

For instance, having good on-going relations with one’s regulators is hugely important. In fact, I heard several prominent attorneys share that regulatory risk remains the greatest obstacle to completing an M&A deal.  So having the bank in position to act quickly and confidently when an opportunity arises is a major advantage in today’s competitive M&A environment.  I take this to mean no enforcement actions, satisfactory CRA, good HCR results, etc.

As was discussed yesterday afternoon, when an acquirer can present a credible narrative that a potential deal is consistent with a well-considered strategy — and that the company has the infrastructure appropriate to the new organization, you find a well received merger.

In terms of consolidation, we saw a number of presentations note the 261 bank M&A deals, worth an aggregate $26.38 billion, announced in 2017.  As a point of reference, 241 deals were announced — worth an aggregate $26.79 billion — in 2016.  According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the median deal value-to-tangible common equity ratio climbed significantly in 2017 to 160.6%, compared to 130.6% for 2016.  Last December alone, 32 deals worth a combined $1.84 billion were announced and the median deal value-to-tangible common equity ratio was 156.5%.

Throughout the fourth quarter, there were 74 bank deals announced in the US, which was the most active quarter since 83 deals were announced in the fourth quarter of 2015. However, last quarter’s $4.4 billion aggregate deal value was the lowest since the third quarter of 2015, which totaled $3.43 billion.

These are by no means the only Cs in banking.  Credit, core technology providers, (tax) cuts… all, huge issues.  So along these lines, I made note of a few more issues for buyers, for sellers — and for those wishing to remain independent.  Take a look:

If you are interested in following the final day of the conference via our social channels, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector, or search #AOBA18 to see what is being shared with (and by) our nearly 1,200 attendees.

On Recent Bank Mergers and Acquisitions

Earlier this week, American Banker’s Robert Barba wrote that bank M&A could reach an “inflection point” (sorry, paywall). With bank valuations increasing — and asset quality improving — I’m seeing deal premiums make a comeback, along with banks able to pay them.  The title of Robert’s piece caught my attention, as did his look at BB&T’s agreement in early September to buy the $2 billion-asset Bank of Kentucky Financial in Crestview Hills.  While that high-stakes deal has generated headlines, let me share some observations about another transaction that “shows well.”

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As Robert wrote on Tuesday, the $188 billion-asset BB&T is “often viewed as one of the bigger banks most likely to acquire. It managed to make a few deals during the downturn, including buying the operations of BankAtlantic from its holding company and picking up Colonial Bank’s assets and deposits from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.”  While this deal alone does not represent a resurgence of big bank M&A, it might foreshadow a pick up in activity.

Of course, no two deals are alike — and as the structure of certain deals becomes more complex, bank executives and boards need to prepare for the unexpected. 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.  For this reason, I wrote a piece for BankDirector.com called “Deciding Whether to Sell or Go Public” earlier this week (no registration required).  As you can read, David Brooks, the chairman and CEO at $3.7-billion asset Independent Bank Group based in McKinney, Texas, and Jim Stein, the former CEO of the Bank of Houston and now vice chairman of Independent Bank, talked with me about their experiences and decision to merge their banks.

With merger activity on the rise, more boards of directors are considering whether the time is right for their financial institution to find a strategic partner, especially if they want to maintain the strategic direction of the institution or capture additional returns on their shareholders’ investment.  In the end, no one knows what will happen with bank M&A in the coming months, but looking at deals like the one Robert wrote about and the one I shared… well, one can guess.

Aloha Friday!

Mele Kalikimaka

The banking marketplace today is dramatically different from what it was just three years ago.  Since returning to the industry in 2010, I’ve seen a lot of change — and not all good.  Nonetheless, I am bullish on the future of banking.  While some in the media tend to criticize financial institutions and harp on measures like one’s Texas ratio (which models a bank’s risk profile to fail — and also inspired this site’s name), I prefer to focus on financial institutions as the fabric of our neighborhoods and communities.  When I write About That Ratio it is in stark contrast to those who deride the importance of banks.  I am not blind to the problems facing many bankers today, nor ignorant of errors and indiscretions made by some of our larger names.  Still, count me an optimist that better times are ahead.  So before my family and I take off for Christmas in Tulum, Mexico, one last About That Ratio for 2013 that shares three things from the week that was.

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(1) While many year-end blogs take a look back,  Jim Marous authored a comprehensive forward-looking post on his “Bank Marketing Strategies” blog.  His 2014 Top 10 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions compiles opinions from 60 global financial services leaders — including bankers, credit union executives, industry providers, financial publishers, editors and bloggers, advisors, analysts and fintech followers.  I appreciated his invitation to contribute and thought to share the crowd’s top three trends for 2014:

  1. The “Drive-to-Digital” trend will impact delivery, marketing and service usage;
  2. Payment disruption will increase vis-a-vis new players, technologies and innovations; and
  3. Increased competition from “neobanks” and non-traditional players will accelerate.

Take a read through these and the subsequent seven points offered up.  As Jim writes, “disruption will continue at an unprecedented pace and that the industry will look different this time next year.”

(2) It is hard to escape the reshaping of the banking industry through merger activity; in particular, the return of negotiated, strategic bank combinations.  While in San Francisco a few months ago, I wrote about Heritage Financial’s combination with Washington Banking Co.  Forgive the use of “merger of equals” to describe the deal; however, that misnomer best represents the agreement.  Some see these deals becoming more popular as bankers seek to build value for the next few years in order to sell at higher multiples.  Others cite a desire to create more immediate value through cost cuts and efficiencies.  Regardless of who’s driving and who’s riding, there were quite a few notable deals in 2013; for example, Umpqua and Sterling and the recent “51/49” deal between United Financial Bancorp and Rockville Financial.  I get the sense that more boards will consider deals structured like these to accelerate “scaling up” without utilizing cash as the currency for an acquisition.  Time will tell if I’m right.

(3) Finally, I readily admit my excitement to welcoming men and women from across the country to various Bank Director events next year.  From our BIG M&A conference at the Arizona Biltmore in January to The Growth Conference at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans in May to a peer exchange for officers & directors at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, we have a lot planned.  These events are a big part of our 23 year-old company’s business — and its pretty darn cool to participate in various conversations that relate to growth, innovation and “what’s working.”  I’m not alone in thinking it is time for bank CEOs and their boards to go on the offensive.  Competing successfully in a marketplace, managing shareholder expectations, overcoming regulatory obstacles, developing talent and leadership for the next generation, and, most of all, ensuring that one’s institution has the option of choosing whether to “acquire or be acquired”… yup, topics galore for me to cover here in 2014.

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I end every Friday post with a nod to my mother-in-law (who passed away four years ago).  She lived on the Big Island for several years and became quite fond of the “Aloha Friday” tradition; hence, the sign off.  The only Hawaiian saying that puts a bigger smile on my face is today’s title: Mele Kalikimaka!

Can Banking Be Right-Sized?

Size matters?
Size matters?

Although its been said many times, many ways, I can’t tell you what size really matters in banking today. Pick a number…  $500M in asset size?  $1Bn?  $9.9Bn?  Over $50Bn?  7,000 institutions?  6,000?  3,000? Less?  As a follow-up to last week’s guest post by Bank Director magazine’s editor, I spent some extra time thinking about where we are heading as an industry — and the size and types of banks + bankers leading the way.  What follows are three things I’m thinking about to wrap up the week that shows that size matters; albeit, in different ways.

(1) Not a single de novo institution has been approved in more than two years (astonishing considering 144 were chartered in 2007 alone) and the banking industry is consolidating.  Indeed, the number of federally insured institutions nationwide shrank to 6,891 in the third quarter after this summer — falling below 7,000 for the first time since federal regulators began keeping track in 1934, according to the FDIC.  Per the Wall Street Journal, the decline in bank numbers, from a peak of more than 18,000, has come almost entirely in the form of exits by banks with less than $100 million in assets, with the bulk occurring between 1984 and 2011.   I’ve written about how we are “over-capacity;” however, an article on Slate.com takes things to an entirely different level.  In America’s Microbank Problem, Matthew Yglesias posits America has “far far far too many banks…. (that) are poorly managed… can’t be regulated… can’t compete.”  He says we should want the US Bankcorps and PNCs and Fifth Thirds and BancWests of America to swallow up local franchises and expand their geographical footprints.  He sees the ideal being “effective competition in which dozens rather than thousands of banks exist, and they all actually compete with each other on a national or regional basis rather than carving up turf.”  While I have no problem with fewer banks, limiting competition to just the super regional and megabanks is a terrible thought.  Heck, the CEO of Wells Fargo & Co. wrote in the American Banker this August how vital community banks are to the economy.  So let me cite a rebuttal to Slate’s piece by American Banker’s Washington bureau chief Rob Blackwell.  Rob, I’m 100% with you when you write “small banks’ alleged demise is something to resist, not cheer on” and feel compelled to re-share Mr. Stumpf’s opinion:

…we need well-managed, well-regulated banks of all sizes—large and small—to meet our nation’s diverse financial needs, and we need public policies that don’t unintentionally damage the very financial ecosystem they should keep healthy.

(2) To the consolidation side of things, a recent Bank Director M&A survey found 76% of respondents expect to see more bank deals in 2014.  Within this merger mix exists strategic affiliations.  While the term “merger of equals” is a misnomer, there are real benefits of a strategic partnership when two like-sized banks join forces.  Case-in-point, the recent merger between Rockville Bank and United Bank (which will take the United name).  Once completed, the institution will have about $5 billion in assets and be the 4th largest bank in the Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT metropolitan area.  According to a piece authored by  Jim Kinney in The Republican, United Bank’s $369 million merger with the parent of Connecticut’s Rockville Bank “is a ticket to the big leagues for both banks.”  In my opinion, banks today have a responsibility to invest in their businesses so that they can offer the latest products and services while at the same time keep expenses in check to better weather this low interest rate environment.  United Bank’s president-to-be echoed this sentiment.  He shared their “dual mandate in the banking industry these days is to become more efficient, because it is a tough interest rate environment, and continue to grow… But it is hard to grow and save money because you have to spend money to make money.”   Putting together two banks of similar financial size gives the combined entity a better chance to this end.

(3) In terms of growth — and by extension, innovation — I see new mobile offerings, like those from MoneyDesktop, adding real value to community banks nationwide.  This Utah-based tech firm provides banks and credit unions with a personal financial management solution that integrates directly with online banking platforms.  As they share, “account holders are changing. There is an ongoing shift away from traditional brick & mortar banking. Technology is providing better ways for account holders to interact with their money, and with financial institutions.”  By working directly with online banking, core and payment platforms, MoneyDesktop positions institutions and payment providers as financial hubs and offers marketing tools that dramatically impact loan volume, user acquisition and wallet-share.  As technology levels the playing field upon which institutions compete, banks that leverage account holder banking information to solidify relationships bodes well for bank and customer alike.

Aloha Friday!

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