Consolidation Trends in Banking

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

Quickly:

  • Nationwide consolidation in the banking space will continue; at least, that is my sense based on conversations and presentations at Crowe Horwath’s Bank Leadership and Profitability Improvement Conference.

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So much of this morning was spent talking about growth through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) that I couldn’t help but flash back to January’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference.  Thematically, I went into that event expecting the unexpected.  Given this morning’s presentations on growing one’s bank, I believe that mindset still holds water.

For example, Tom Michaud, the president and CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, described 2016 and 2017 as one bumpy ride.  From recession fears to lower-for-longer rates, the initial euphoria after the presidential election (at least in terms of stock prices, which went up 27% – 30%) to the uncertainty of regulatory relief, he reminded us of where we are coming from relative to where we might be heading.  I am always curious to hear what Tom thinks about the state of banking; below, ten things I learned from him this morning:

  1. The interest rate outlook is a bit cloudier than it was in November;
  2. Regional banks have had excellent earnings per share growth relative to the overall market;
  3. We have an active pace of consolidation — nearly 5% of the industry is merging;
  4. The most prolific acquirers can buy 2, maybe 3 banks, at best each year;
  5. M&A deals are getting bigger — not ’97 or ’98 levels, but bigger than where they’ve been;
  6. Large buyers are not in the game right now — buyers $25Bn and below continue to drive M&A activity (case-in-point, 95% of total M&A deals since 2011 have buyer assets less than $25Bn);
  7. Buyers are completing their acquisitions in 6 months or less;
  8. Banks with strong tangible book value multiples are dominating M&A;
  9. There have been 37 bank IPOs since 2013 — and the market today is open to small bank IPOs; and
  10. If you’re running a bank, you better be watching (like a hawk) the FinTech charters being pursued by companies like SoFi.

Following Tom’s presentation, we doubled down on growing-the-bank type topics with a session involving Rick Childs, a partner at Crowe Horwath, Jim Ryan, the CFO at Old National Bancorp, Jim Consagra, EVP and COO at United Bancshares and Bryce Fowler, chief financial officer at Triumph Bancorp.

From pricing discipline to acquisitions of privately-held/closely-held companies, the guys made clear that “there are only so many deals out there.”  They shared how boards need to determine the size they want to be, honestly assess the talent they have relative to such aspirations and determine how growth through M&A aligns with enterprise risk management positioning.  Essentially, their remarks made clear that a successful merger or acquisition involves more than just finding the right match and negotiating a good deal.

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As I shared with yesterday’s post, my thanks to Crowe Horwath, Stifel, Keefe Bruyette & Woods and Luse Gorman for putting together this year’s Bank Leadership and Profitability Improvement Conference at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California.

The Intersection of Leadership and Profitability

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

Quickly

  • Key takeaways from one of my favorite summer banking events, Crowe Horwath’s Bank Leadership and Profitability Improvement Conference.

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This morning, on the first of my two flights from Washington National to Monterey, California, I learned that Walmart customers might soon be able to get installment loans for big-ticket items through Affirm, a San Francisco-based FinTech I first wrote about in 2014 (For Banks, the Sky IS Falling).  Per the Wall Street Journal, the companies reportedly are nearing an agreement on a pilot program.  This potential partnership caught my eye as I prepared for today and tomorrow’s conference.  Indeed, relationships like these make clear that when it comes to growth and efficiency, the digital distribution of financial goods and services is a significant issue for the banking industry.

This idea took further shape when I walked into the conference center at the Inn at Spanish Bay.  Immediately upon entering the room, I found John Epperson, a partner at Crowe and Jay Tuli, senior vice president retail banking and residential lending at Leader Bank, sharing their opinions on partnership strategies involving banks and FinTechs.  From the stage, they touched on increasing net interest margins via improved pricing strategies on commercial loans, approaches to streamline mortgage application processes, ideas to reduce staff counts for loan administration processes and how to improve customer experiences through online rent payment solutions.

Their perspectives lined up with those we recently shared on BankDirector.com.  To wit, “many banks have realized advantages of bank-FinTech partnerships, including access to assets and customers.  Since most community banks serve discreet markets, even a relatively simple loan purchase arrangement can unlock new customer relationships and diversify geographic concentrations of credit.  Further, a FinTech partnership can help a bank serve its legacy customers; for instance, by enabling the bank to offer small dollar loans to commercial customers that the bank might not otherwise be able to efficiently originate on its own.”

Of all the difficult issues that bank leadership must deal with, I am inclined to place technology at the top of the list.  Banks have long been reliant on technology to run their operations, but in recent years, technology has become a primary driver of retail and small business banking strategy.  John and Jay simply reinforced this belief.

In addition to their thoughts on collaboration, this afternoon’s sessions focused on ‘Liquidity and Balance Sheet Management,’ ‘Fiscal Policy During Regulatory Uncertainty’ and ‘Managing Your Brand in a Digital World.’  While I took note of a number of issues, three points really stood out:

  • Yes, banks can make money while managing decreasing margins and a flat yield curve.
  • Asset growth without earnings growth is a concern for many because of loan pricing.
  • How a CFO sets a target(s) for interest rate risk may start with an “it depends” type response — but gets nuanced quickly thereafter.

Finally, I’m not holding my breath on the industry receiving regulatory relief any time soon.  I get the sense many here aren’t either.  But it would be nice to see some business people brought in to run various agencies and I’m looking forward to the perspectives of tomorrow’s first guest speaker, Congressman John Ratcliffe.

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My thanks to Crowe Horwath, Stifel, Keefe Bruyette & Woods + Luse Gorman for putting together this year’s Bank Leadership and Profitability Improvement Conference at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California.  I’ll check in with additional takeaways based on tomorrow’s presentations.

Quick Guide: Banking’s Digital Transformation (#Payments)

Developing faster payments capabilities is a critical element within the banking industry’s digital transformation.

In yesterday’s post (The 5 Corners of Technological Innovation in Financial Services), I looked at the introduction of an Innovation Group at Wells Fargo that, in the words of their CEO, “puts an even larger focus on creating the products, services, and technologies” that will allow the institution to stay competitive and allow its customers to do their banking when, where, and how they would like.

As I dug into the Wells story — which received a lot of play from the press — It strikes me that to successfully transition one’s business model, innovation teams such as this one need to work in concert with major business groups like wholesale and commercial banking, commercial real estate, trust and wealth management, and payments / consumer banking.  As I consider how banks actually operate — e.g. how work is done, the degree of automation, the pricing and design of products and underlying compensation systems — I revisited several videos from Bank Director’s annual FinTech Day @ NASDAQ.  One, of Ben Plotkin, Vice Chairman of Stifel / Executive Vice President of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, stands out, as he shares his perspective on how banks of all sizes can find success.

Ben touched on the payments space, and I too am curious to explore the role banks must play in the emerging payments ecosystem.  Here, Accenture provides valuable context as the world becomes more digital: “speed in all aspects of financial services is increasingly important. The payments ecosystem is no exception. Faster payments are taking shape across the globe—and may become industry standard.  While faster payments can enhance the customer experience and improve cash flows, it introduces a number of complexities, such as capital costs, and accounting and fraud systems impacts. In the short term, providing the impression of a near-real-time payment through memo posting and verifying the certainty of payment could be implemented sooner, and may meet expected market demand.”

Certainly, the trend toward digital money continues to gain momentum, and when it comes to the payment space, there are emerging technologies that have the potential to dominate the financial landscape (e.g. P2P & Blockchain methods).  Case-in-point, Stripe, the California-based online payments company, has raised new investments which have raised the company valuation to $5 billion.  Per a report in yesterday’s Let’s Talk Payments (h/t Brad Leimer @leimer), the funding “was led by financial giant Visa and experts believe this is a huge endorsement for Stripe. The company had previously raised a total funding of $190 million from high-profile investors including PayPal co-founders, Sequoia Capital, Box CEO Aaron Levie, Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and others.”  As The New York Times reported, the companies’ strategic alliance will give Stripe access to Visa’s global network of issuers and acquirers.  BI Intelligence Payments Insider notes the companies will also collaborate to create online checkout solutions and buy buttons that can be plugged into developers’ websites anywhere.

How we pay, borrow and invest continues to change the way we conduct our financial payments.  It is fascinating to watch as companies like Stripe, PayPal, Dwolla, etc hustle to simplify how businesses accept payments through mobile applications while banks like Wells Fargo invest to do the same.