Should More Community Banks Be B Corporations?

Banks face a highly competitive landscape filled with thousands of other banks, credit unions and financial technology companies. Could proving your values be a powerful way to differentiate your institution in such an environment? A 2021 Edelman survey found that 61% of consumers will advocate for brands they trust, and 86% expect them to “act beyond their product or business,” wrote Richard Edelman, CEO of the global communications firm. “[B]rands will need to operate at the intersection of culture, purpose and society.”

Sunrise Banks, a $1.9 billion community development financial institution (CDFI) based in St. Paul, Minnesota, aspires to be “the most innovative bank empowering financial wellness,” says Bryan Toft, its chief revenue officer. That mission “attracts customers [who] really care about those values,” he says. “Passionate employees are attracted to it as well, who work hard and want to make a difference because of that mission, as opposed to a paycheck.” In addition to its community bank footprint around St. Paul, Sunrise also offers a banking-as-a-service platform, choosing partner fintechs through a “social filter” that considers how those companies align with its mission.

Toft views this as a competitive advantage, not one that detracts from profitability. Sunrise Banks’ quarterly return on assets averaged 1.22% from March 2018 through Sept. 30, 2021. Performance during this period was fueled by commercial loan growth, new fintech relationships and fee income through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Certifying as a B corporation, Toft says, was a natural fit for the bank. These businesses are redefining what it means to run a successful enterprise, according to B Lab, which certifies B corporations. B Lab likens its certification to Fair Trade USA’s standard for coffee, providing a way to assess and verify a company’s social and environmental impact. The nonprofit has certified more than 4,600 companies worldwide and 1,691 B corporations in the U.S., including ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s and clothing retailer Patagonia. Eleven of these B corporations are U.S. banks. Becoming a B corporation doesn’t guarantee higher profits; few reported an ROA on par with Sunrise as of third quarter 2021.

B corporations must score a minimum 80 points on B Lab’s “B Impact Assessment,” a tool the nonprofit developed to “measure, manage, and improve a company’s positive impact performance” in the following areas:

  • Governance, including mission, ethics and transparency.
  • Workers, including health, wellness and safety, and career development.
  • Community, including economic impact, civic engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Environment, including the company’s impact on air, water, land and biodiversity.
  • And customers, including products and services as well as data privacy and security.

“We have to look at all aspects of our business,” says Toft. The assessment features 200 questions, he says, and explores questions such as, “What percent of your employees are paid a living wage? How do you support diversity, equity and inclusion? What are some of the things that you measure in terms of environmental impact? … How do you know [that] your products make an impact positively in your customers’ lives?”

The assessment is free and can help a company benchmark its performance in the examined areas.

While the assessment is free to use, certification isn’t. The annual fee charged by B Lab to verify B corporation status ranges from $1,000 to $50,000 or more, based on the company’s revenue. In addition to the initial assessment, B Lab selects a subset of questions for additional documentation, and assessed companies must meet B Lab’s risk standards. And B corporations are legally required to consider all stakeholders; opting to become a public benefit corporation — a legal structure available in most states where a company commits to creating a positive social impact — offers a way to fulfill this requirement.

For $2.5 billion Mascoma Bank, the multi-stakeholder approach aligns with its mutual bank charter. “Our governance does not require us to give primacy to shareholders, because the community is primarily the shareholder,” says Clay Adams, CEO of the Lebanon, New Hampshire-based bank. “We measure ourselves versus peers. How do we maximize profitability but also maximize stakeholder results?”

B Corporation companies must recertify every three years, says Adams, a process he compares to a “kinder, gentler version of a regulatory exam.” Average scores range from 40 to 100 out of 200 possible points, according to B Lab. (The score for each bank appears in the below table.) And companies demonstrate different strengths; both Sunrise and Mascoma scored in the top 5% globally in the governance category in 2021.

Toft and Adams both believe that B corporation values align with community banking values, with customers and employees seeking to do business with banks that do good in their communities.

“Where [customers] put their money matters” to them, says Toft. “A lot of banks do great things in their communities, and this is a way to have a third party verify that. … A lot of banks probably could be certified as B corps, because inherently what they do is all about the mission in their respective community.”

B Corporation Banks

Bank Name/Location Asset Size (000s) Return on Assets (ROA) 9/30/2021 B Corp Start Date B Impact Score
Beneficial State Bank
Oakland, CA
$1,496,354 1.21% 9/17/2012 158.9
Virginia Community Capital (VCC Bank)
Richmond, VA
$235,502 1.14% 5/14/2012 149.3
City First Bank, N.A.
Washington, DC
$1,061,371 -0.20% 4/17/2017 146.8
Sunrise Banks
St. Paul, MN
$1,882,632 1.16% 6/23/2009 144.2
Spring Bank
Bronx, NY
$336,177 1.42% 4/13/2016 136.2
Southern Bancorp Bank
Arkadelphia, AR
$1,967,438 1.00% 9/9/2019 122.3
Amalgamated Bank
New York, NY
$6,866,385 0.77% 1/11/2017 115.1
Mascoma Bank
Lebanon, NH
$2,546,655 0.88% 6/28/2017 114.9
Brattleboro Savings & Loan
Brattleboro, VT
$304,363 0.51% 12/18/2018 96.7
Androscoggin Savings Bank
Lewiston, ME
$1,371,816 0.57% 1/26/2021 91.1
Piscataqua Savings Bank
Portsmouth, NH
$338,598 0.43% 5/16/2019 81.1

Source: B Lab, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The B Impact score reflects the most recent score received by the bank in B Lab’s B Impact Assessment; a company can receive a maximum of 200 points. On average, companies score between 40 and 100 points; a minimum of 80 is required to be certified as a B corporation.

Risk & Innovation: Bridging The Gap



In today’s age of innovation, risk management can no longer be the office of ‘no.’ When risk managers are included in strategic discussions, they can help drive innovation and provide additional value to their organizations. In this video, Crowe’s John Epperson explains how successful banks bridge the gap between risk and innovation to truly bring value to their institutions.

  • Why Banks Should Transform Risk Management
  • Creating a Competitive Advantage Through Risk and Compliance

Well Conceived and Executed Bank Acquisitions Drive Shareholder Value


acquisition-2-21-18.pngRecent takeovers among U.S.-based banks generally have resulted in above-market returns for acquiring banks, compared to their non-acquiring peers, according to KPMG research. This finding held true for all banks analyzed except those with greater than $10 billion in assets, for which findings were not statistically significant.

Our analysis focused on 394 U.S.-domiciled bank transactions announced between January 2012 and October 2016. Our study focused on whole-bank acquisitions and excluded thrifts, acquisitions of failed banks and government-assisted transactions. The analysis yielded the following conclusions:

  • The market rewards banks for conducting successful acquisitions, as evidenced by higher market valuations post-announcement.
  • Acquiring banks’ outperformance, where observable, increased linearly throughout our measurement period, from 90 days post-announcement to two years post-announcement.
  • The positive effect was experienced throughout the date range examined.
  • Banks with less than $10 billion in assets experienced a positive market reaction.
  • Among banks with more than $10 billion in assets, acquirers did not demonstrate statistically significant differences in market returns when compared to banks that did not conduct an acquisition.

Factors Driving Value

Bank size. Acquiring banks with total assets of between $5 billion and $10 billion at the time of announcement performed the strongest in comparison with their peers during the period observed. Acquiring banks in this asset range outperformed their non-acquiring peers by 15 percentage points at two years after the transaction announcement date, representing the best improvement when compared to peers of any asset grouping and at any of the timeframes measured post-announcement.

Performance-chart.png 

Acquisitions by banks in the $5 billion to $10 billion asset range tend to result in customer expansion within the acquirer’s market or a contiguous market, without significant increases in operational costs.

We believe this finding is a significant factor driving the value of these acquisitions. Furthermore, banks that acquire and remain in the $10 billion or less asset category do not bear the expense burden associated with Dodd-Frank Act stress testing (DFAST) compliance.

Conversely, banks with nearly $10 billion in assets may decide to exceed the regulatory threshold “with a bang” in anticipation that the increased scale of a larger acquisition may serve to partially offset the higher DFAST compliance costs.

The smaller acquiring banks in our study—less than $1 billion in assets and $1 billion to $5 billion in assets—also outperformed their peers in all periods post-transaction (where statistically meaningful). Banks in these asset ranges benefited from some of the same advantages mentioned above, although they may not have received the benefits of scale and product diversification of larger banks.

As mentioned earlier, acquirers with greater than $10 billion in assets did not yield statistically meaningful results in terms of performance against peers. We believe acquisitions by larger banks were less accretive due to the relatively smaller target size, resulting in a less significant impact.

Additionally, we find that larger bank transactions can be complicated by a number of other factors. Larger banks typically have a more diverse product set, client base and geography than their smaller peers, requiring greater sophistication during due diligence. There is no substitute for thorough planning, detailed due diligence and an early and organized integration approach to mitigate the risks of a transaction. Furthermore, alignment of overall business strategy with a bank’s M&A strategy is a critical first step to executing a successful acquisition (or divestiture, for that matter).

Time since acquisition. All three acquirer groups that yielded statistically significant results demonstrated a trend of increasing returns as time elapsed from transaction announcement date. The increase in acquirers’ values compared to their peers, from the deal announcement date until two years after announcement, suggests that increases in profitability from income uplift, cost reduction and market expansion become even more accretive with time.

Positive performance pre-deal may preclude future success. Our research revealed a positive correlation between the acquirer’s history of profitability and excess performance against peers post-acquisition. We noted this trend in banks with assets of less than $1 billion, and between $1 billion and $5 billion, at the time of announcement.

This correlation suggests that banks that were more profitable before a deal were increasingly likely to achieve incremental shareholder value through an acquisition.

Bank executives should feel comfortable pursuing deals knowing that the current marketplace rewards M&A in this sector. However, our experience indicates that in order to be successful, acquirers should approach transactions with a thoughtful alignment of M&A strategy with business strategy, an organized and vigilant approach to due diligence and integration, and trusted advisers to complement internal teams and ensure seamless transaction execution.