Bank M&A

Want to buy a bank? Look for that fatigued banker near you.

Bank directors are fatigued, many aren’t having much fun anymore, and that’s creating an environment where bank acquisitions are going to increase as some bankers just give up, according to investment bank Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.’s managing director Collyn Gilbert and executive vice president Ben Plotkin.

The two spoke today, on the first morning of Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, which lasts through Tuesday in Scottsdale, Arizona. Close to 700 people have signed up to attend.

“One thing I see diminished is passion for what you are doing,’’ said Gilbert, an analyst for Stifel, speaking to a crowd of about 350 bankers, consultants and bank directors. “If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, your vision for the business gets crowded.”

But it’s not just a general sense of malaise that’s going to lead to more acquisitions. Loan growth also is slow and banks have lots of capital they aren’t using all that effectively, Gilbert said. Buying other banks is one way to put that money to work.

Plotkin said that prices banks have to pay to buy other banks will go up in the future as the economy gets past its post-traumatic stress. Opportunities to buy at a good price are diminishing.

“I think it’s really that moment of truth in banking,” he said.  

Small banks under $1 billion are the most likely to sell to other banks because it will be so challenging for them to make a profit.

But the string of FDIC-assisted deals is slowing and becoming less attractive for acquiring banks, Plotkin said.  Private equity is competing heavily for those deals and it is taking a long time to close, leading to even further deterioration in the acquired bank’s value, he said.

Commercial real estate may have hobbled many a community bank’s bottom line, but that doesn’t mean the community bank business model is broken, Plotkin said.

Community banks can provide banking services, loans and fee-based products to small businesses, continuing to serve their local communities.

Improving execution of the bank’s strategy will be the key to success, he said.


Naomi Snyder


Editor-in-Chief Naomi Snyder is in charge of the editorial coverage at Bank Director. She oversees the magazine and the editorial team’s efforts on the Bank Director website, newsletter and special projects. She has more than two decades of experience in business journalism and spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.