One crucial component of the merger and acquisitions process is due diligence, which needs to be performed efficiently within a limited amount of time as opportunities arise. Senior management is primarily responsible for this task, but may need assistance from key areas such as compliance, and often uses third-party support. If your bank is considering an acquisition, consider these three risks and document them as part of your due diligence.
1. Credit Risk
Potential acquirers must perform rigorous due diligence on the target bank’s credit portfolio — it’s imperative to the success of any merger. Executives at the acquiring bank need to understand the loan portfolio, including the types of credits offered, underwriting practices and problem loan management. This includes reviewing sample credits, including the top borrowers, adversely classified loans, watch list loans, loans to insiders and a sample of loans of each collateral type, if possible.
While there is no required portfolio coverage for due diligence, executives should have a flavor for the lending practices at the target bank.
2. Financial Risk
As part of due diligence, executives need to gain an understanding of the balance sheet and income statement at the target bank. Consider:
As 2022 unfolds, the Federal Reserve indicated it will continue increasing rates in an attempt to reduce inflation, which has created significant unrealized losses in many bond portfolios. This is after many banks invested the flux of cash generated by pandemic-era programs into their bond portfolios in an effort to achieve some return throughout 2021.
Consider the impact this could have on bond portfolios in acquisitions, including the value in a sale of the full portfolio, the long-term market rate forecast or even hedging strategies.
Review significant on- and off-balance sheet liabilities, including major contracts such as the core system contract, employment contracts, equity plans or stock options. These contracts could result in additional liabilities for the acquiring bank.
Acquirers will need an independent valuation of the target bank, including an estimate of the goodwill, core deposit intangibles, fair value adjustments to loans and other fair value adjustments that will be considered as part of the transaction. This valuation should be fluid, starting with the preliminary stages of the merger discussions, and evolving and refining as the merger proceeds.
Executives should prepare pro forma and projected financial statements to depict what the combined organization will look like at the merger date and going forward. In addition, those financial statements should determine the rate of return on the acquisition and the earn-back period.
3. Reputational Risk
Many banks are heavily involved and invested in their local communities, including deep and long-standing relationships with many bank customers. The art of combining two institutions and selling the “new” institution to the existing customers takes planning and care.
In addition, the employees and branches of the target bank are part of that same community. If the transaction includes retaining all employees and branches, communicate that as part of the press releases. If necessary, consider stay bonuses to retain the talent of the target bank. The new combined entity will want to uphold a positive and strong reputation throughout the community.
Bonus: Cyber Risk
Here’s a bonus tip to consider during your due diligence process: Cyber risk continues to be top of mind for advisors and regulators alike. As part of the transaction, assess the target bank’s information technology environment. That includes reviewing any external reports or assessments, and understanding any findings and the related remediation. In addition, identify material gaps or issues in due diligence so the bank is not surprised by additional costs at merger consummation.
If mergers and acquisitions are part of your bank’s strategic plan, having a proper plan in place to direct due diligence can help you execute the transaction seamlessly and with success. Put together an internal team that can help you review those risks or explore external options to assist.
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.