Preparing for an Uncertain Future

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

Mergers and acquisitions may be sidelined for the foreseeable future because of considerable economic and market uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic, but PNC’s Financial Institutions Group anticipates activity will likely reignite when market volatility eases, and asset quality can be confidently assessed.

Savvy bankers and investors recognize that the best deals generally occur when bank valuations are low, but the credit downturn may just be starting, so the timetable for a pickup in deal activity remains unclear. Not to mention, there may be many coronavirus-related issues to still sort out, so the possibility of future government-assisted deals cannot be ruled out.

Recent history supports this post-crisis resumption. Deal activity slowed measurably at the start of the Great Recession, dropping from 285 deals in 2007 to 174 in 2008, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. It picked up again once potential buyers gained more clarity regarding both their own balance sheets as well as those of potential sellers.

Credit Quality is Key
The uncertain environment underlines that nothing is more significant to a bank’s capital and earnings than its credit quality. It is anticipated that credit costs will continue to climb and remain elevated for quite some time following the sudden and shocking increase to unemployment and government-mandated business closures. So, looking at balance sheets — not income statements — will provide the necessary clues to differentiate banks in a downward credit cycle. But these issues will eventually get resolved.

The uncertainty could give way to wider pricing disparity among community banks. Bank earnings for the quarter ending on March 31 were inconclusive, and eclipsed by coronavirus-related economic developments and stock market volatility. The vast majority of companies did not provide guidance, but the overall lower direction appears clear, as credit will likely be a major concern for the next several quarters.

Investors and analysts appear to have a wide range of opinions; high levels of market angst seem likely to persist into the foreseeable future. There will, however, be winners and losers among banks across the nation. This emerging pricing gap could lead to increased M&A activity as more deals make financial sense.

Cash, Capital Rule
Bank boards should consider all liquidity and capital options under various economic scenarios to construct stronger balance sheets as credit conditions start to deteriorate. This preparation holds true for all banks: potential buyers, sellers and those committed to independence.

Along with more dynamic trading strategies, there will be a need to vigorously assess capital-raising options, cash dividend payments and stock repurchase programs. To start, companies should seriously consider emphasizing internal “burn down” tangible book value models. We believe that sensitivity models tailored to individual banks can best identify additional capital needs and, if so, what form of capital is best suited for current and longer-term strategic plans.

Equity offerings carry their own pros and cons. They can strengthen bank balance sheets but dilute earnings per share. Given current market conditions, these issuances may be difficult to achieve and limited to high-quality institutions that can issue equity on financially attractive terms (including tangible book value accretion).

The benefits from an equity capital raise include, but are not limited to: the ability to grow organically above the sustainable growth rate; stronger capital ratios and a bigger cushion to withstand the credit downturn; greater liquidity and visibility from institutional investors; and providing support for M&A opportunities, which may be abundant in the post-coronavirus landscape.

Some institutions may find issuing subordinated debt (“sub debt”) to be a better alternative than raising additional equity capital. Debt remains relatively inexpensive due to attractive interest rates and favorable tax treatment. The market for sub debt became more stable by early June, which has facilitated several issuances at favorable pricing levels.

The question for bank directors and management going forward is how to properly value capital raising and any M&A initiatives. They will need to take a hard look at financial models to determine required rates of return and sustainable growth rates along with regulatory needs. Efficient capital management that optimizes long-term shareholder value should always be the primary goal of directors in good markets, bad markets and those in-between.

The views expressed in this article are the views of PNC FIG Advisory, PNC’s investment banking practice for community and regional banks.

Bank M&A: Pricing Considerations for 2018



Forty-four percent of the bank executives and directors responding to Bank Director’s 2018 Bank M&A Survey indicate that rising bank valuations made it more difficult to compete for acquisition targets, and higher prices didn’t result in a significant increase in deal activity in 2017. Rick Childs, a partner at survey sponsor Crowe Horwath LLP, explains how today’s environment fuels his expectations for the year, and why he thinks regulatory relief could result in fewer transactions.

  • Bank Valuations and Pricing
  • Impact of Regulatory Relief on M&A

In accordance with applicable professional standards, some firm services may not be available to attest clients. © 2018 Crowe Horwath LLP, an independent member of Crowe Horwath International. crowehorwath.com/disclosure

Navigating Today’s M&A Market



Bank deal activity in 2017 is likely to be on par with 2016, as the bank executives and board members responding to Bank Director’s 2017 Bank M&A Survey reflect lower levels of optimism for the bank M&A environment. In this video, Rick Childs, a partner at survey sponsor Crowe Horwath LLP, provides his perspective on the survey results and explains why, despite a lower number of sellers, it really is a buyer’s market today.

  • Expected Deal Activity for 2017
  • What Successful Buyers Look For in a Target
  • Factors That Sink a Deal

In accordance with applicable professional standards, some firm services may not be available to attest clients. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Please seek guidance specific to your organization from qualified advisers in your jurisdiction. © 2016 Crowe Horwath LLP, an independent member of Crowe Horwath International. crowehorwath.com/disclosure

New Factors Impacting Bank M&A


As the industry heads into 2017, new factors including commercial real estate concentrations and a potential rise in interest rates could affect the pace of mergers and acquisitions. In this video, Jim McAlpin and Jonathan Hightower, both partners at Bryan Cave LLP, detail the drivers of M&A.

  • What is driving M&A in today’s environment?
  • What could shift M&A expectations in 2017?
  • What was the best deal announced in 2016?
  • What makes a successful deal?

Bank M&A Update: Oil Prices and Low Interest Rates May Be Hurting Deals


The state of the bank merger and acquisition (M&A) market thus far in 2016 has been tepid compared to prior years. 2015 began the same way, but was helped by a tremendous fourth quarter in which the number of deals announced was more than 25 percent higher than the average of the first three quarters of the year. At the end of 2015, many bankers and industry experts hoped that the euphoria from the fourth quarter would carry over into 2016. Instead, the first quarter of 2016 saw M&A deals retreat to the moderate levels experienced in the first three quarters of 2015, with a modest increase in the second quarter giving way to a much lower third quarter. Year-to-date, announced deals are down a modest 5.6 percent compared to the same time period last year.

M&A Activity by Region

Quarter Mid Atlantic Midwest Northeast Southeast Southwest West Other* Total Deals
2015-Q1 7 26 2 12 10 8   65
2015-Q2 5 27 5 14 11 7   69
2015-Q3 9 24 3 9 12 6 1 64
2015-Q4 13 30 3 24 6 7   83
2016-Q1 4 38 1 10 5 5 1 63
2016-Q2 6 29 2 14 7 8   66
2016-Q3 4 25 1 14 6 7   57

*No geography listed
Source: SNL Financial, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence

The Midwest has been bolstering the modest numbers experienced year-to-date. This impact on the overall percent change in M&A activity for 2015 and the first three quarters of 2016 is apparent when compared to the other regions.

Indicators Affecting Bank M&A
Oil prices have had an impact on the number of deals in the Southwest. Credit quality does have an impact on deal volume, but between Jan. 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, credit quality has been fairly good compared to the levels experienced in years 2008 to 2010.

The decline in longer-term interest rates could have an impact on buyers’ perceptions of banks’ future earnings prospects with already compressed net interest margins. The 10-year U.S. Treasury constant maturity rate has flattened in 2016, and this could be a contributing factor in the number of announced bank M&A deals.

As shown below, average deal pricing has declined, which also could be contributing to the decline in the number of M&A deals announced.

Pricing Over Time

Pricing ratios.PNG

Although not shown, a review of the trailing 12-month return on assets for the selling banks and also the level of tangible equity and tangible assets shows they are fairly consistent quarter to quarter, so these financial metrics are not responsible for the decline in either pricing ration.

An overrepresentation of the banks in the Midwest also has had an impact on why the median pricing ratios have declined. The sellers in this region tended to be smaller, and the size of the seller does affect the price realized:

Median Price/Tangible Book Value Jan. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2016

Asset Size of Seller Mid Atlantic Midwest Northeast Southeast Southwest West Total
<$50 Million N/A 121.9% NA 96.9% 115.3% 50.1% 115.3%
$50M – $100M 129.1% 108.4% 146.7% 96.3% 132.7% 128.1% 114.4%
$100M – $500M 122.6% 126.2% 142.6% 136.2% 150.1% 133.5% 133.3%
$500M – $1B 161.5% 136.0% 125.7% 161.4% 165.8% 178.7% 157.7%
$1B – $5B 152.8% 179.3% 164.2% 194.9% 156.9% 222.1% 179.3%
$5B – $15B 219.4% 155.7% N/A 233.0% N/A N/A 219.4%
>$15B 159.8% 199.3% N/A 151.5% N/A 272.1% 171.4%

More than 80 percent of the transactions announced involve sellers with less than $500 million in assets, which explains the lower realized pricing ratios. The Midwest contains a significant number of bank charters with less than $500 million in assets and, as a result, if this region’s total deal volume is up and the rest of the regions are down or flat, the impact on the overall pricing still will trend down.

Looking Ahead
The big questions remaining are what will happen in the fourth quarter of 2016 and whether the industry’s experience this year will be a predictor for 2017.

None of the economic factors are expected to materially improve for the fourth quarter. The Federal Reserve is expected to increase interest rates modestly, but there are Fed governors who favor no interest rate increase this year. As a result, it appears unlikely that the compression of net interest margin will improve drastically over the next 15 months. What does seem likely to occur is consistent quarter-to-quarter deal totals, although a reduction in the number of deals in the Midwest region could lead to even lower M&A totals for 2017.

Beyond M&A: Staying Relevant Through Innovation & Transformation


Banks of all sizes are facing a fiercely competitive environment, reduced interest margins and regulation. While many in the industry are leveraging acquisitions to address these pressures, some are thinking outside the box. In his presentation at Bank Director’s 2016 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, Andrew Wooten of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP reveals how leading banks are adapting their business models, and the role technology plays in that transformation.

Highlights from this video:

  • Forces Shaping Banking
  • Fintech Landscape
  • Becoming Digital: Build, Buy Or Partner?

Building An M&A Blueprint



Scale is driving buyers and sellers today, with acquirers seeking growth and sellers seeing scale as an obstacle. Christopher Olsen of Olsen Palmer outlines how both buyers and sellers can plan for a successful deal, and explains how even banks focusing on organic growth strategies will be impacted by consolidation.

  • Scale and M&A
  • A Buyer’s Plan
  • A Seller’s Plan
  • Impact on Organic Growth Strategies

M&A: What Today’s Sellers Need To Know


Pricing is often a deal-breaker in bank M&A, and sellers are seeking the best price possible for their shareholders. Dory Wiley of Commerce Street Capital explains that while pricing likely won’t rise in 2016, some banks will be better positioned for the best price and, more importantly, the best deal.

  • Which Banks Will Get a Higher Price
  • Expected Pricing Trends in 2016
  • How to Get the Best Deal

Key Trends & Topics in 2016


Small and midsized banks should continue to outperform the market, but “challenger banks” are positioned to take on even more market share. Tom Michaud, president and CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, identifies these “challenger banks,” which include innovators such as Silicon Valley Bank and Opus Bank, growing due to a focus on technology and niche expertise, and strong performers such as Bank of the Ozarks and Pinnacle Financial Partners, more traditional models with strong cultures that attract talent. Speaking to the audience at Bank Director’s 2016 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, Michaud outlines expectations for the industry in 2016, including exposure to commercial real estate, a receptive IPO market and whether we’ll see more partnerships between banks and fintech companies.

Highlights from this video:

  • Current State of the Banking Industry
  • 2016 Banking Outlook & Emerging Trends
  • The Rise of Challenger Banks
  • The IPO Market for U.S. Banks
  • Fintech Partnerships
  • Consolidation Trends