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On the BB&T/SunTrust Merger…

On the BB&T/SunTrust Merger…

February 7, 2019

Authored by: Jonathan Hightower

Many of us who are native Southerners sat with mouths agape as we read the announcement of the $66 billion (!) all-stock merger of equals between super regional banks BB&T and SunTrust. Few of us who grew up in Georgia have not been personally impacted by these banks in some way or another. For me, my aunt worked at Trust Company Bank when I was a kid, and BB&T bought a local thrift (Carrollton Federal), making its way into our home market where it remains today. After college, law school barely beat out an offer to work in SunTrust’s commercial lending training program, and BB&T currently holds the mortgage on my home. With all of those ties, I feel somewhat nostalgic when reading that the bank will be rebranded as a part of the merger.

With that said, the real time business implications for all of us are even larger. The day before the merger, my friend Jeff Davis wrote a smart piece ($) detailing the virtues of merger of equals transactions in today’s world. BB&T recently discussed on its earnings call that it was accelerating cost savings initiatives in order to invest more in its digital offerings. With the announced merger, one can assume that the lab for digital innovation of the combined bank (to be based in Charlotte, a bit of a disappointment to the Atlanta community) will make a massive effort to transform the banking experience of the bank’s customers, a truly meaningful segment of the market. We have recently commented that the transformation of the Atlanta banking market is now a reality, and this combination promises to further evolve how many banking customers think of and interact with their banks.

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Roleplaying as Chief Strategy Officers

On January 25th, Jonathan and I returned to the studio to record the latest podcast for The Bank Account. We’re trying to live up to our commitment to podcast more often in 2019 then we did in 2018; nothing like setting a low bar!

We first briefly discuss the latest IRS regulations for the taxation of Subchapter S banks and the reactions that we’ve seen from our clients on tax reform. Generalization appears virtually impossible, as we’ve seen reactions ranging from terminating Subchapter S elections, doing transactions and forgoing Subchapter S elections, sticking with the status quo, and, as Jonathan puts it, “Sub S or Die.”

We then turn to a hypothetical scenario that both Jonathan and I think about from time to time; what if we decided to cease providing legal services and instead attempted to become bank officers. What would our first steps be as a new Chief Strategy Officer of a hypothetical depository institution. Jonathan suggests beginning with the question of whether the institution is a true “community bank,” with a provocative definition for the term. Per Jonathan, a “community bank” is one whose existence is self-justified, as an irreplaceable benefit to the community it serves. (Jonathan than proceeds with an approach that even he admits might be better suited for a visual presentation.)

I suggest instead that the first question should be what is expected/desired by the institution’s shareholders. Depending on the shareholder base and their expectations for the institution, different strategic approaches are called for.

Please click to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Android, Email or MyCast. It is also now available in the iTunes and Google Play searchable podcast directories.

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A Holiday Buffet of Banking News

A Holiday Buffet of Banking News

December 28, 2018

Authored by: Robert Klingler

On December 27th, Jonathan and I returned to the studio to record the latest podcast for The Bank Account. We haven’t discussed New Year’s Resolutions, but we’ll try to return to a little more normalcy in 2019!

For those that have missing our voices, (a) please seek help… that’s not normal and (b) we were also recently guests on the ABA Banking Journal Podcast. In a lively conversation with Evan Sparks and Shaun Kern, Jonathan and I discussed our 2019 M&A Outlook for the ABA Banking Journal. For those of you who have missed that podcast (or article), I encourage you to listen/read before listening to this podcast, as we follow-up on some of these themes.

Our first substantive conversation on this podcast is a look at some of the transactions announced in the Metro Atlanta market in 2018. With State Bank’s merger with Cadence, Fidelity Bank with Ameris Bank, and National Commerce with CenterState, the Atlanta banking market, and particularly the M&A market, will look radically different in 2019 and beyond.

Following the M&A discussion, our attention turned to the newly proposed Community Bank Leverage Ratio. While it is solely a proposed rule and, if adopted in its current structure, will be an entirely optional framework for banks under $10 billion in assets, it also provides the potential for significant regulatory relief for those institutions that can take advantage of the capital (particularly risk-based) relief.

Please click to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, Android, Email or MyCast. It is also now available in the iTunes and Google Play searchable podcast directories.

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Acronym Soup: A Discussion of Regulatory Reform

On September 28th, Jonathan and I recorded a brief podcast on the impact of regulatory reform on community banks in 2018.  Before turning to substance, I first congratulated Jonathan on his ability to combine two of our shared passions: college football and mergers & acquisitions.  Jonathan’s post on a Football Fan’s Guide to M&A Transactions is an excellent application of college football coaching strategies that can be applied in any strategic planning discussions by boards of directors of any organization.  His further exploration of some of the principles that other SEC teams bring to bear on M&A thinking on Twitter is also something I encourage everyone to read.

On substantive issues, we primarily focused on reforms enacted under The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, or EGRRCPA, but also touched on the modernization of the Georgia banking code. Specific topics discussed include:

  • the expansion of the Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement;
  • the relaxation of the reciprocal brokered deposit rules;
  • Volcker Rule relief;
  • the upcoming regulatory off-ramp (or at least rest stop, if not fully an off-ramp); and
  • the increased threshold for the 18-month examination cycle and short-form call reports.
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The Football Fan’s Guide to M&A Transactions

With both college and professional (not to mention fantasy) football in full swing, we find many conversations with clients drifting to topics from the
gridiron at this time of year.  Given that many of us are devoting a significant amount of our personal time to following our favorite teams, many times business points are best illustrated at this time of year by using football analogies.

Certain sports agents have posited that the highest achieving football coaches could easily run Fortune 500 companies but instead chose to coach football for a living.  While that point is debatable, we can certainly draw from the talking points of today’s best coaches in setting a framework for approaching a merger transaction.  While we can’t deliver Nick Saban, Bill Belichick, or Kirby Smart to your boardroom, use these sound bites to your advantage in setting the tone for how your board addresses an M&A transaction.

    1. Trust the process. “The Process” has become a hallmark of the University of Alabama’s championship dynasty.  Coach Saban focuses on the individual elements that yield the best results by the end of the season.  Similarly, a well-planned process can be trusted to yield the best long-term results.  This simple point is among the easiest for boards to miss.  We are often concerned when clients engage in “opportunistic” M&A activity.  Instead, we prefer to see a carefully planned process that includes the following fundamental elements:
      * Parameters around the profile that potential partners should have, including market presence, lines of business, and size;
      * Clearly defined financial goals and walkaway points; i.e., those metrics beyond which no deal can be justified;
      * For sellers, the forms of consideration that will be acceptable (i.e., publicly-traded stock, privately-held stock, or cash); and
      * Selection of qualified advisors.
    2. Self-scout. Great football teams have an honest self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and grasp them on a deeper level than their opponents.  Buyers and sellers should also have a frank assessment of their shortcomings.  In planning for the M&A process, those weaknesses should be addressed in advance to the extent possible.  To the extent they cannot be fixed in advance of embarking on an M&A process, parties should provide a transparent assessment of their weaknesses to potential partners.  Doing so enhances credibility and builds trust in the other facets of due diligence.
    3. Know the tendencies of your opponent. On the other side of self-scouting is a great team’s ability to understand and address the weaknesses of its opponents.  While we never advise clients to think of M&A partners as adversaries, advance due diligence of a potential partner to identify their needs can certainly help lead to a successful transaction.  At its core, a good M&A transaction is about giving a potential partner something it does not have and cannot build for itself.  To the extent that parties can identify the needs of potential partners in advance of their initial conversations, they can speak directly to those needs at the outset, thus positioning themselves as an optimal partner in a crowded M&A field.
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We’re Back! And Having a Conversation with Terry Ammons

Our unannounced and unplanned summer hiatus is over, and Jonathan and I are back in the studio to provide the latest episode of The Bank Account.  Between travel for various banking conferences, a full work plate, and a few summer vacations, we stepped away from the podcasting studios for a few months (or three months exactly), but now we’re bank and re-energized!

Joining us in the studio is Terry Ammons.  Terry is a partner with Porter Keadle Moore LLC and the host of GroundBanking, PKM’s podcast on innovation in the financial industry.  If you’ve enjoyed The Bank Account, I suggest you also give GroundBanking a listen; I know I’ve enjoyed the first several episodes.

Before turning to the intersection of banking and fintech, we spend a little time on another industry focus for PKM that personally interests Jonathan and me, craft beverages.   We also each select our “rest of life” beer:  Terry selected Automatic by Creature Comforts Brewing Company, Jonathan selected a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and I went with a 420 Extra Pale Ale by Sweetwater Brewery.

Terry, Jonathan and I then turned to looking at some of the interesting interactions we’ve each seen between depository institutions and fintech companies.  We looked at the strengths of each and how partnerships can help each thrive in the 21st century.  We also examined some of the diligence items that are necessary in any such partnership.

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The Atlanta Banking Landscape

Jonathan and I discuss the evolving landscape for banking in our hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, in this latest episode of The Bank Account.

the-bank-accountSince the beginning of 2018, there has been steady stream of significant deals affecting the Atlanta MSA.

  • January – Ameris Bancorp’s acquisition of Hamilton State Bancshares for $405 million, priced at 2.05x tangible book;
  • March – Renasant Corporation’s acquisition of Brand Group Holdings for $453 million, priced at 2.35x tangible book;
  • April – CenterState Bank Corporation’s purchase of Charter Financial Corporation for $362 million, priced at 1.95x tangible book;
  • April – National Commerce Corporation’s purchase of Landmark Bancshares for $115 million, priced at 2.22x tangible book; and
  • May – Cadence Bancorporation’s purchase of State Bank Financial Corporation for $1.4 billion, priced at 2.48x tangible book.

The landscape looking forward is significantly changed.  Below is a pro forma list of the community banks (for these purposes, banks with total deposits of less than $15 billion) with the largest remaining presence in the Atlanta MSA.

Bank Atlanta MSA Deposits Percentage of Total Deposits in Atlanta MSA
Fidelity Bank $3,062,430 78%
Renasant Bank (with Brand) 2,740,319 30%
United Community Bank 2,533,770 27%
Atlantic Capital Bank 1,572,642 74%
Ameris Bank (with Hamilton) 1,416,141 18%
Cadence Bank (with State Bank) 1,271,128 11%
United Bank 980,658 84%
National Bank of Commerce (with First Landmark) 754,549 25%
Metro City Bank 740,409 78%
CenterState Bank (with Charter) 711,779 8%
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Ragnar!

Ragnar!

April 20, 2018

Authored by: Robert Klingler

On April 13 and 14, 2018, the Financial Services Corporate and Regulatory Team of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner sponsored two teams at the Atlanta Ragnar Trail race.  On this episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss the Ragnar race, our thoughts about the Ragnar race, the ambiance of the Ragnar race, the decline of multi-bank charter bank holding companies, and a few final thoughts about the Ragnar race.  We also give thanks to so many colleagues that helped us with the Atlanta Ragnar Trail race.  In other words, if you’re interested about the Atlanta Ragnar Trail race, this is a great episode.

 

The BCLP Ragnar Teams

We divided into two teams, Team BSA (Bankers Speed Ahead) and Team AML (Awkwardly Moving Lawyers).  On paper, it looked like it would be a tight race.  However, the trails proved to be significantly different than running on paper.  In addition, the Awkwardly Moving Lawyers became significantly more awkwardly moving (and slower) when our fastest colleague, Dan Wheeler, badly twisted his ankle on his first leg of the race.  (As one banker commented, the lawyers were quite effective in ensuring that their clients would prevail.)

Team BSA finished in 21 hours, 51 minutes and 50 seconds; 23rd overall and 1st in the corporate team division.

The bankers that sped ahead were as follows:

  • Charlie Crawford, Hyperion Bank
  • Heath Fountain, Planters First Bank
  • Bo Brannen, Georgia Bankers Association
  • Nick Clark, Charter Bank
  • Jim Walker, PrimeSouth Bank
  • JW Dukes, Ameris Bank
  • Jackson McConnell, Pinnacle Bank
  • Dennis Zember, Ameris Bank

Several hours later, Team AML finished in 23 hours, 38 minutes and 19 seconds; 63rd overall and 6th in the corporate team division.

The awkwardly moving lawyers were as follows:

  • Ryan Barrow, Porter Keadle Moore (but an honorary lawyer for the weekend)
  • Megan Canning
  • Crystal Homa
  • Dan Wheeler
  • Kevin Strachan
  • Jonathan Hightower
  • Sean Christy
  • Myself

Charlie Crawford, Jackson McConnell, and Dennis Zember were the three fastest runners for the weekend from Teams BSA and AML, but I believe all had a good time.

the-bank-accountIn actual banking news, we discussed Hilary Burns story in the American Banker, “Do multiple charters still make sense?” In our discussion of the landscape of the U.S. banking environment last year, we touched on the statistical decline in multi-bank charters.

  • In 2016, 632 charters were held by 241 multi-bank holding companies (representing 2.6 charters each).
  • In 2006, 1,670 charters were held by 518 multi-bank holding companies (representing 3.2 charters each).

In 2018, we struggle (and in the podcast, the struggle is awkward silence) to provide any material benefit to the multi-bank charter structure.

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Introducing BCLP and Barry Hester

Jonathan and I discuss two major deals for our us: the formation of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) and the return or Barry Hester in this latest episode of The Bank Account.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is the result of the mergers of historically U.S.-based Bryan Cave LLP and historically U.K.-based Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.  As a truly global firm with over 1,600 lawyers operating literally around the clock, we believe Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner is well positioned to serve clients around the globe.  Our blog is still available at BankBryanCave.com, but is also now available at BankBCLP.com.  We’ll figure out over time what our branding looks like.

the-bank-accountBarry Hester re-joins our financial institutions practice after serving for many years as an assistant general counsel for EverBank and TIAA FSB.  In this episode of The Bank Account, we talk with Barry about his experience with the “good guy” and “bad guy” banking compliance laws.  The “good guy” laws include the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Lending Act, while the “bad guy” laws include the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering laws.  As noted in the podcast, Barry has already been busy contributing good content for our blog, with a post last week about FinCEN’s new FAQ on the Customer Due Diligence rules.

As discussed previously, we are sponsoring two teams, one of lawyers and one of bankers, for the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Run on April 13th and 14th.  Sixteen of us will be taking turns running five mile legs at the Georgia International Horse Park over a 24-hour (or so) period.  Team BSA (or Bankers Speed Ahead) will generally consist of our friendly bankers, while Team AML (or Awkwardly Moving Lawyers) will consist of our compatriots from the firm.  I expect our next podcast will relay some interesting stories from the trails.

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Getting to Yes: A Conversation About Deal Certainty

the-bank-accountJonathan and I discuss deal protections and considerations – from the initial emotions of deciding to sell through deal signing in this latest episode of The Bank Account.

This episode has, in my opinion, some great information for banks looking to undertake M&A activity, from either the buyer or seller’s perspective.  But, I’m most impressed with our smooth transition from friendly banter about our upcoming Ragnar race to our substantive discussion.  (Of course the face that I’m impressed only emphasises that I shouldn’t quit my day job.)

As noted on the podcast and previously, we are sponsoring two teams, one of lawyers and one of bankers, for the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Run on April 13th and 14th.  Sixteen of us will be taking turns running five mile legs at the Georgia International Horse Park over a 24-hour (or so) period.  Today we settled on team names: Team BSA and AML.  Team BSA (or Bankers Speed Ahead) will generally consist of our friendly bankers, while Team AML (or Awkwardly Moving Lawyers) will consist of our compatriots from the firm.  We’re pretty comfortable that the names will accurately reflect the results.

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