Hazy Outlook for Bank M&A in 2023

The bank M&A landscape in 2023 will likely be affected by several factors, including concerns about credit quality and turmoil in the stock market, says Rick Childs, partner at Crowe LLP. While sellers will naturally want to get the best price possible, rising interest rates and weak bank stock valuations will impact what buyers are willing to pay. Bankers that do engage in dealmaking will need to exercise careful due diligence to understand a seller’s core deposits and credit risk. Concern about the national economy could prompt bankers to look more closely at in-market M&A, when possible. 

Topics include: 

  • Credit Quality 
  • Customer Communication 
  • Staff Retention
  • Impact of Stock Valuations 

The 2023 Bank M&A Survey examines current growth strategies, including expectations for acquirers and what might drive a bank to sell, and provides an outlook on economic and regulatory matters. The survey results are also explored in the 1st quarter 2023 issue of Bank Director magazine.

The Bumpy Road Ahead

Banks are in the risk business, and 2023 is shaping up to be a risk-on environment that will keep management teams busy. 

The transformation of last year’s tailwinds into this year’s headwinds is stunning. Slowing economic growth, driven by monetary policy aimed at halting inflation, could translate into weaker loan growth. Piper Sandler & Co. analysts expect net interest margins to peak in the first quarter, before being eroded by higher deposit costs. Credit costs that cannot go any lower may start to rise. Banks may see little boost from fee income and may grapple with controlling expenses. Piper Sandler expects that financial service firms will have a “bumpy” 2023. 

The environment is so novel that Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi made headlines by describing a new phenomenon: not a recession but a coming “slowcession — growth that comes to a near standstill but that never slips into reverse.” The research firm is baking a slowcession into its baseline economic forecast, citing “generally solid” economic fundamentals and well-capitalized banks, according to a January analysis.

This great uncertainty — and the number of ways banks can respond to it — is on my mind as I get ready for Bank Director’s 2023 Acquire or Be Acquired conference, which will run from Jan. 29-31 in Phoenix. Is growth in the cards this year for banks, and what would it look like? 

Historically, growth has been a necessity for banks. As long as banks can generate growth that outpaces the costs of that growth, they can generate increased earnings. Banks grow their asset base organically, or through mergers and acquisitions, have been two popular ways to generate growth. In a slowdown, some banks may encounter attractive opportunities to buy other franchises at a discount. But growth won’t be in the cards for all — and maybe that’s a blessing in disguise.

“[W]ith the threat of a recession and dramatically increasing cost of funds, there is a solid argument to be made that banks should be shrinking rather than growing,” wrote Chris Nichols in a recent article. Nichols is the director of capital markets at the $45 billion banking company known as SouthState Corp., in Winter Haven, Florida. Growth can exacerbate issues for banks that are operating below their cost of capital, which can push them toward a sale faster. Instead, he’s focused on operational efficiency.

“Financial pressure will be greater, and bank margins will be higher. This combination means that banks will need to focus on the quality of their earnings,” he wrote. Instead of growth, he argued bankers should focus on making their operations efficient, which will direct more profits toward their bottom line.

It makes sense. In a bumpy slowcession, banks aren’t able to control the climb of interest rates and the subsequent changes in economic activity. They may not encounter growth opportunities that set them up for long-term success in this type of environment. But they can control their operational efficiency, innovation and execution — and we’ll talk about that at #AOBA23.

Why Mutual Banks Won’t Sell

Two Massachusetts banks hope to preserve their mutual status for years to come by merging their holding companies now, in an example of how M&A tends to be a different story for mutual institutions.

Newburyport Five Cents Bancorp and Pentucket Bank Holdings recently received board approval to merge into a single holding company. The combined organization, with $2.5 billion in assets, will likely get a new name, Newburyport CEO Lloyd Hamm told a local news outlet. Meanwhile, $1.5 billion Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and $947 million Pentucket Bank will maintain their separate brands.

“We definitely want to emphasize it’s not a merger of the banks, and we will likely select a new name for the co-branded holding company,” Hamm told The Daily News in Newburyport. The new organization also plans to change its bylaws in order to make it more difficult for a future leadership team to take the company public. “This is ensuring mutuality for decades to come,” Hamm said.

All employees of the two banks will keep their jobs, and executives intend to invest more in technology, training and talent, and increase charitable giving under the combined holding company. No branch closures are planned as part of the deal.

According to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, there have been just three combinations of mutual banks in the past five years, including the deal between Newburyport Bank and Pentucket Bank, which was announced in December 2022.

The dearth of mutual bank M&A essentially comes down to numbers: The U.S. had just 449 mutual institutions at the end of 2021, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., out of 4,839 total banks. In some respects, mutual banks may more closely resemble credit unions than public or privately held banks, though credit unions have been more actively acquiring FDIC-insured institutions, accounting for 56 deals over the past five years. Mutual banks have no shareholders and are effectively owned by their depositors. Any profits they generate are returned to their depositors in some fashion, for example, in the form of lower rates on mortgages. Last year, the FDIC approved the first de novo mutual bank to launch in over 50 years, Walden Mutual in Concord, New Hampshire.

Because mutual banks don’t have shareholders, they don’t need to always focus on the next, most profitable move, says Stan Ragalevsky, who has worked extensively with mutual banks as a partner with K&L Gates in Boston.

“If you’ve been sitting on the board of a small [mutual] bank, you realize there’s a lot of changes going on in banking, but you also think ‘We’re making money. We may not be making 80 basis points, but we’re making 45 basis points,’” Ragalevsky says. “They feel comfortable that they’re doing the right thing.”

Some of those sentiments showed up in Bank Director’s 2023 Bank M&A Survey: 77% of mutual bank executives and directors participating in the survey say they’re open to M&A but focus primarily on organic growth. Just 12% want to be active acquirers, compared to 23% of all respondents.

Furthermore, all of the 20 mutual participants say their bank’s board and management would not be interested in selling within the next five years, compared to 52% overall. When asked why they were unlikely to sell, many refer back to their institution’s mutual status and a wish to maintain an independent banking option in their communities.

Compared with deals involving publicly held banks, mutual bank deals also tend to be driven by the board more than the management, Ragalevsky adds. While board members may be motivated to some degree by personal self interest — retaining a board seat, for example — “there’s also a sense of commitment to the community,” he says.

Additionally, many prospective mutual bank sellers may be constrained by a lack of like-minded buyers. This very reason is partly why $1.4 billion Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, based in Hyannis, Massachusetts, is unlikely to sell anytime soon, says CEO and Chair Lisa Oliver.

“We don’t sell, because there’s nobody to buy [us]. We’re owned by our depositors in a non-stock kind of way. If anything, it would be a merger for lack of succession planning, if that were really critical,” Oliver says. “But there are plenty of potential candidates that can be hired to become CEOs of a small bank.”

Some also argue that mutuals’ independent streak is, to some degree, woven into their history. Many mutual banks, particularly in the Northeast, trace their roots back over 100 years, when they were initially founded to provide banking services for poor and working class families.

“The mutual bank movement has been one of the greatest, most successful social and business experiments,” Ragalevsky says. “Mutual banks were formed to improve people’s lives — they weren’t formed to make money. They were formed to improve people’s lives, and they’ve done that.”

4 Critical Success Factors for Bank M&A in 2023

After rebounding in 2021, bank merger and acquisition, or M&A, activity slowed again in 2022, a trend that is likely to continue.

In this economic environment, growth-oriented organizations need to make the most of the limited acquisition opportunities they find. To maximize the potential of sought-after deals in 2023, bank directors and executive teams should recognize the current critical factors that contribute to successful acquisitions.

Modest Growth Expectations
Bank M&A activity accelerated in 2021 from 2020’s pandemic-depressed levels, but the pace fell off again in 2022. By the end of the third quarter, only 123 deals had been announced, compared to 160 deals over the same period in 2021, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The 2023 Bank Director M&A Survey suggests this situation will probably continue. Although 85% of survey respondents said their banks either plan to be active acquirers or were at least open to acquisitions, only 11% said they were very likely to acquire another bank in 2023, and 28% said they were somewhat likely.

Even fewer said they expect to acquire nondepository business lines, such as wealth management, fintechs or other technology companies. So although conventional acquisitions likely will remain the most common type of transaction during 2023, bank M&A activity overall could remain sluggish. 

4 Bank M&A Success Factors
With fewer opportunities available, the success of every deal becomes even more crucial. Bank boards and executive teams must take care to increase the likelihood that acquisitions produce expected results. Four critical success factors can greatly improve the chances, particularly in the bank-to-bank acquisitions that could make up most of 2023’s activity.

1. Detailed Analysis of the Loan Portfolio. Loan quality always matters, but with a potential industrywide increase in credit losses on the horizon, a buyer having a granular understanding of the seller’s loan portfolio is essential to determine if its allowance for losses is adequate.

Current economic expectations and likely rate changes during the interval between a deal’s announcement and completion mean it is important to analyze the portfolio as early as possible during due diligence. Advanced data analytics can help acquiring banks identify patterns — such as certain loan types, industries, geographic areas, and loan officers — that merit special attention.

Additionally, banks should prepare loan valuations as a part of due diligence. They should include expected rate increases in that analysis, as it is important to home in on the metrics that suggest the quality of the deal.

2. In-depth Understanding of the Deposit Customer Base. In addition to reviewing loan customers during credit due diligence, it’s important that prospective buyers also analyze the deposit customer base. Changing interest rates mean liquidity can become a concern if customers leave for higher returns or online competitors.

Pinpointing top customers, identifying the services they use, quantifying the revenue those relationships generate and developing customized communication plans to ease the transition are prudent initial steps. These plans should assign specific responsibility for communicating with customers; management should be ready to implement them immediately upon the transaction announcement, when such accounts become particularly vulnerable.

3. Proactive Talent Management. Although banks normally eliminate or consolidate positions in an acquisition, they still need to retain the best talent. Losing personnel with critical skills could jeopardize the investment thesis of the transaction; banks should identify these individuals before announcing the transaction. Consistent and open communication helps preempt rumors and minimizes employee uncertainty, while early retention bonuses and other tools can target essential team members who might be vulnerable to poaching while the transaction is pending.

Fair treatment for those who leave is also important. Outplacement services, severance packages, and other transition programs are worth their one-time costs for buyers, since they can help assuage negative community perceptions that could escalate quickly on social media.

4. Effective Technology Integration. Not every bank has adapted to digitization in the same way or at the same speed. Glitches in routine processes, such as online account access, direct deposits or electronic funds transfers, can alienate customers and employees, creating a bad first impression for the blended organization.

A gap analysis that identifies differences in virtual banking, remote workplace policies, fintech relationships and other technology issues is an important early step to successful M&A. This analysis should be followed quickly by a comprehensive technology integration plan that draws on the best ideas from each organization.

In view of the mixed bank M&A outlook for 2023, addressing these four broad issues can help bank directors and executives meet their fiduciary responsibility to recognize potential opportunities, while still managing the risk that is inherent in today’s banking environment.

Issues in Selling to a Non-Traditional Buyer

We have seen a surge in the number of sales of smaller banks to non-traditional buyers, primarily financial technology companies and investor groups without an existing bank.

This has been driven by outside increased interest in obtaining a bank charter, the lack of natural bank buyers for smaller charters and, of course, money. Non-traditional buyers are typically willing to pay a substantially higher premium than banks and including them in an auction process may also generate pricing competition, resulting in a higher price for the seller even if it decides to sell to another bank. Additionally, buyers and sellers can structure these transactions as a purchase of equity, as opposed to the clunky and complicated purchase and assumption structure used by credit unions.

But there are also many challenges to completing a deal with a non-traditional buyer, including a longer regulatory approval process and less deal certainty. Before going down the road of entertaining a sale to a buyer like this, there are a few proactive steps you can take to increase your chances for success.

The Regulatory Approval Process
It is important to work with your legal counsel at the outset to understand the regulatory approval process and timing. They will have insights on which regulators are the toughest and how long the approval process may take.

If the potential buyer is a fintech company, it will need to file an application with the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company. In our recent experience, applications filed with the Federal Reserve have taken longer, in part because of the increased oversight of the Board in Washington, but also because the Federal Reserve conducts a pre-transaction on-site examination of the fintech company to determine whether it has the policies and procedures in place to be a bank holding company. Spoiler alert: most of them don’t.

If the potential buyer is an individual, the individual will need to file a change in control application with the primary federal regulator for the bank. The statutory factors that regulators need to consider for this type of application are generally less rigorous than those for a bank holding company application. We have seen the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show more openness to next-generation business plans, as they understand the need for banks to innovate.

Conduct “Reverse” Due Diligence
Find out more about the buyer. You would be surprised at what a simple internet search will uncover and you can bet that the regulators will do this when they receive an application. We have encouraged sellers take a step further and conduct background checks on individual buyers.

Ask the buyer what steps have been taken to prepare for the transaction. Has the investor had any preliminary meetings with the regulators? What advisors has the buyer hired, and do they have a strong track record in bank M&A? Does the buyer have adequate financial resources?

Understand the key aspects of the buyer’s proposed business plan. Is it approvable? Are the new products and services to be offered permissible banking services? A business plan that adds banking as a service is more likely to be approved than one that adds international payments or digital assets. Does the buyer have a strong management team with community bank experience? What impact will the business plan have on the community? Regulators will not approve an application if they think the charter is being stripped and a community is at risk of being abandoned. We have seen buyers offer donations to local charities and engage in community outreach to show the regulators their good intentions.

Negotiate Deal Protections in the Agreement
Additional provisions can be included in the definitive agreement to protect the selling bank. For example, request a deposit of earnest money upon signing that is forfeitable if the buyer does not obtain regulatory approval. Choose an appropriate drop-dead date for the transaction. Although this date should be realistic, it should also incentivize the buyer to move quickly. We have seen sellers offer buyers options to pay for extensions. The contract should also require the buyer to file the regulatory application promptly following signing and to keep the selling bank well informed about the regulatory approval process.

While a transaction with a non-traditional buyer may be more challenging, under the right circumstances it can present an appealing alternative for a bank looking to maximize its sale price in a cash transaction.

Six Priorities for Successful Post-Merger Integration

Is your bank properly resourced for an efficient and effective post-merger integration?

Most banks head into post-merger integration with long to-do lists but find they are not equipped with the people, processes and technology integral to achieving valuable post-close results. Managing data, applications, and infrastructure to integrate the target company to drive the return your institution is expecting is critical to the merger’s success.

Depending on the scope and scale of each transaction, the first 120 days can vary greatly. Boards and executives should keep these six priorities in mind when planning the days following the merger for a smoother transition to full integration. A well-executed and communicated plan avoids delays, unnecessary costs and long-term unfavorable consequences.

Document everything, assume nothing. Memorialize the value creation strategy. What is the integration approach? Where is the value? And what’s the time frame to realize this value? When a bank defines these goals, it allows the integration team to set the right priorities. Communicate it and then communicate it again, and again.

Prioritize consistent communication between key players. The right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing. That does not mean constant meetings between every member of the integration team, but the moving pieces — for example, the merger and acquisition leaders, operations and the finance team — must regularly sync. Boards need to set an expectation for communication cadence early.

Agree on the integration approach. Is this acquisition an absorption, holding, value creation or integration? Agreeing on what the end game looks like creates a solid, common vision and strategy, quiets the noise around non-priorities for the near term and universally defines what success looks like in zero to 90 days, 90 to 120 days and beyond.

Realistically assess team skills and what’s missing. In most banks, everyone on the integration team has a day job and few have the experience or bandwidth to handle onetime tasks and niche elements of M&A, including core system conversions. For most banks, this may be the first time they’ve been through the process, or the last deal was years ago. If your institution doesn’t have time for training, consider contracting outside talent that regularly performs these types of transactions to handle your institution’s integration efficiently.

Core system conversion planning. Core system conversion readiness and availability of vendors is a key part of the post-integration plan. This component alone could demand a separate team of bank personnel from both organizations. Use this time to review your technology vendor contracts.

Understand (and respect) the culture. Every transaction will affect people: employees, customers, shareholders, and vendors. Recognize the impact, plan for it and communicate what you know when you know it. Focus on the value creation for each audience.

As early as possible, rightsize the project team with a trusted advisor that understands the nuances of the banking industry, has nimble processes, a broad range of knowledge and expertise, and most importantly — the ability to execute.

The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, accounting, investment, or tax advice or opinion provided by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CliftonLarsonAllen) to the reader. CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP) is an independent network member of CLA Global. See CLAglobal.com/disclaimer. Investment advisory services are offered through CliftonLarsonAllen Wealth Advisors, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor. 

A Challenging Deal Environment In 2023

The year ahead is likely to present a challenging environment for M&A. According to Dory Wiley, president and CEO of Commerce Street Holdings, the rising interest rate environment, possible deposit runoff and economic uncertainty are likely to tamp down deal activity in 2023. Nonbank deals could be more attractive to some buyers, in part because they draw less regulatory scrutiny. And banks focused primarily on organic growth need to shore up capital at the holding company level to make sure they have options, too.

Topics include:

  • Interest Rates’ Impact on Valuations
  • Appeal of Nonbank M&A
  • Emphasis on Capital

Fundamental Investing Principles for Banks

A bank’s liability mix is a significant competitive advantage that acts as an organic interest rate hedge for both the assets in the investment portfolio and the full balance sheet.

There are many opportunities in the fixed income universe right now, given the significant increase in both yields and yield spreads. In such a volatile interest rate environment, a thorough investment process becomes even more critical in evaluating such opportunities. We advise all of our financial institution clients to focus on process, rather than considering individual investment options in the context of the rate outlook. Regardless of any bank’s specific objective for its portfolio, the ultimate goal should be to maximize return per unit of risk taken.

It’s critical that banks have a well-defined investment process and decision-making framework to ensure the portfolio generates reasonable risk-adjusted returns. A successful fixed income manager should use both rigorous trading-level analytical models and a data- and research-oriented framework. As a best practice, managers should also consider relative value analysis using robust trading level analysis in an option and credit adjusted framework.

Exhibit 1 displays a portfolio management process that begins with an assessment of the overall balance sheet risk profile.

Banks should manage the securities portfolio within a sound asset liability management framework, which accounts for the balance sheet’s existing relationship between the asset and liability risk profiles. Depository investors don’t manage their investment portfolios in a vacuum; overall balance sheet interest rate, liquidity and credit risks should be considered in the development of the investment strategy and overall portfolio objectives. Once executives establish portfolio objectives, it’s important to ensure the guidelines/policy allow for successful implementation of the strategy.

From here, top-down market themes lead the way through the investment process. Top-down themes communicate the current assessment of various market metrics and risk factors, which drive sector allocation decisions. Security selection, risk budgeting and risk measurement round up the assessment, followed by post-performance evaluation.

Actively managed fixed income portfolios are at some stage of this process at all times. It’s important to note that there’s no discussion here on the direction of rates or when and how the Federal Reserve is going to move. Portfolio management decisions dependent upon a particular path of interest rates have no place in this in this process. Instead, portfolio performance comes from risk measurement and management, as well as sector and security selection.

Why Banks Need Analytical Models
It’s vital that banks have analytical models to identify and measure risks and potential returns. In today’s dynamic fixed income markets, the complexity of the assets or asset classes means there’s an increased need for robust models.

Exhibit 2 shows this graphically. The line in the sand is clearly drawn between option and credit embedded assets and their other, simpler cousins.

Mortgage-backed securities are better evaluated using Monte Carlo simulations, given the path-dependent nature of the prepayment option, while it’s best to evaluate callable bonds using a lattice approach. Interest rate and option models should price market instruments accurately and be arbitrage free; prepayment models should exhibit a “best data fit” approach. Without these tools, banks will be unable to properly evaluate market pricing of such assets.

Don’t forget the popular phrases “model users beware” and “use models at own risk.” Models are only as good as the assumptions that go into them, requiring human capital investments to properly manage robust analytical systems. Proceed cautiously: understand the inputs and assumptions and be critical of outputs. That’s why feedback loops are such an important component of the overall investment process: Models can help us make decisions, but they are not the end all, be all.

Third-Party Considerations
A growing number of banks are turning to experienced external advisors, both for guidance and to outsource specialized functions like investment and balance sheet advisory. An institutional asset manager can provide the tools and resources — both systems and human capital —to build and maintain high performing bond portfolios at a fraction of what it may cost to attain those resources internally.

When seeking outside counsel on investing, banks must understand how that advisor is compensated, such as fee based or commission, and measure performance relative to the stated portfolio objectives. That said, a thoughtful and disciplined investment process can lead to more consistent and predictable earnings from the fixed income portfolio.

 

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The content in this article is provided for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as recommendations or financial planning advice. We encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance issues. While such information is believed to be reliable, no representation or warranty is made concerning the accuracy of any information presented. Statements herein that reflect projections or expectations of future financial or economic performance are forward-looking statements. Such “forward-looking” statements are based on various assumptions, which assumptions may not prove to be correct. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that such assumptions and statements will accurately predict future events or actual performance. No representation or warranty can be given that the estimates, opinions or assumptions made herein will prove to be accurate. Actual results for any period may or may not approximate such forward-looking statements. No representations or warranties whatsoever are made by ALM First Financial Advisors as to the future profitability of investments recommended by ALM First Financial Advisors.

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Using Sub Debt To Play Offense

Subordinated debt can be an attractive capital option for many banks. Will Brackett, managing director at Performance Trust Capital Partners, breaks down how bankers can think through their approach to using subordinated debt. He recommends that every financial institution take a hard look at its balance sheet and how it could perform under myriad interest rate scenarios. Those banks with strong track records, and little or no existing subordinated debt, are best positioned to fetch better than market pricing in an issuance. 

Topics include: 

  • Advantages of Subordinated Debt
  • Which Banks Benefit Most 
  • Achieving the Best Pricing 

2023 Bank M&A Survey: Complete Results

Bank Director’s 2023 Bank M&A Survey, sponsored by Crowe LLP, surveyed 250 independent directors, chief executives, chief financial officers and other senior executives of U.S. banks below $100 billion in assets to examine current growth strategies, particularly M&A. The survey was conducted in September 2022, and primarily represents banks under $10 billion in assets. Members of the Bank Services program have exclusive access to the full results of the survey, including breakouts by asset category.

Despite a significant decline in announced deals in 2022, the survey finds that acquisitions are still part of the long-term strategy for most institutions. Of these prospective buyers, 39% believe their bank is likely to acquire another financial institution by the end of 2023, down from 48% in last year’s survey who believed they could make a deal by the end of 2022.

Less than half of respondents say their board and management team would be open to selling the bank over the next five years. Many point to being closely held, or think that their shareholders and communities would be better served if the bank continues as an independent entity. “We obviously would exercise our fiduciary responsibilities to our shareholders, but we feel strongly about remaining a locally owned and managed community bank,” writes the CEO of a small private bank below $500 million in assets.

And there’s a significant mismatch on price that prohibits deals from getting done. Forty-three
percent of prospective buyers indicate they’d pay 1.5 times tangible book value for a target meeting their acquisition strategy; 22% would pay more. Of respondents indicating they’d be open to selling their institution, 70% would seek a price above that number.

Losses in bank security portfolios during the second and third quarters have affected that divide, as sellers don’t want to take a lower price for a temporary loss. But the fact remains that buyers paid a median 1.55 times tangible book in 2022, based on S&P data through Oct. 12, and a median 1.53 times book in 2021.

Click here to view the complete results.

Key Findings

Focus On Deposits
Reflecting the rising rate environment, 58% of prospective acquirers point to an attractive deposit base as a top target attribute, up significantly from 36% last year. Acquirers also value a complementary culture (57%), locations in growing markets (51%), efficiency gains (51%), talented lenders and lending teams (46%), and demonstrated loan growth (44%). Suitable targets appear tough to find for prospective acquirers: Just one-third indicate that there are a sufficient number of targets to drive their growth strategy.

Why Sell?
Of respondents open to selling their institution, 42% point to an inability to provide a competitive return to shareholders as a factor that could drive a sale in the next five years. Thirty-eight percent cite CEO and senior management succession.

Retaining Talent
When asked about integrating an acquisition, respondents point to concerns about people. Eighty-one percent worry about effectively integrating two cultures, and 68% express concerns about retaining key staff. Technology integration is also a key concern for prospective buyers. Worries about talent become even more apparent when respondents are asked about acquiring staff as a result of in-market consolidation: 47% say their bank actively recruits talent from merged organizations, and another 39% are open to acquiring dissatisfied employees in the wake of a deal.

Economic Anxiety
Two-thirds believe the U.S. is in a recession, but just 30% believe their local markets are experiencing a downturn. Looking ahead to 2023, bankers overall have a pessimistic outlook for the country’s prospects, with 59% expecting a recessionary environment.

Technology Deals
Interest in investing in or acquiring fintechs remains low compared to past surveys. Just 15% say their bank indirectly invested in these companies through one or more venture capital funds in 2021-22. Fewer (1%) acquired a technology company during that time, while 16% believe they could acquire a technology firm by the end of 2023. Eighty-one percent of those banks investing in tech say they want to gain a better understanding of the space; less than half point to financial returns, specific technology improvements or the addition of new revenue streams. Just one-third of these investors believe their investment has achieved its overall goals; 47% are unsure.

Capital to Fuel Growth
Most prospective buyers (85%) feel confident that their bank has adequate access to capital to drive its growth. However, one-third of potential public acquirers believe the valuation of their stock would not be attractive enough to acquire another institution.