Monday, January 31, 2022

Southern Bancorp to buy fellow Arkansas bank

Southern Bancorp in Arkadelphia, Ark., has agreed to buy FCB Financial Services in Jonesboro, Ark. 

The $2.1 billion-asset Southern said in a press release Monday that it expects to buy the parent of the $200 million-asset Premier Bank of Arkansas in the second quarter. It did not disclose the price it will pay. 

The agreement comes less than two months after Southern received an infusion of capital from the Treasury Department's Emergency Capital Investment Program. 

“We are excited to introduce the Premier Bank team and its customers to Southern Bancorp’s mission-driven approach to banking,” Darrin Williams, Southern’s CEO, said in the release. 

Southern, a community development financial institution, has bought four banks since 2009, closing its purchase of Arkansas County Bank last year.

Heartland moving ahead with charter consolidation

Heartland Financial USA in Dubuque, Iowa, is moving ahead with a plan to consolidate its 11 bank charters. 

The $19.3 billion-asset company said in a press release Monday that the banks will collapse into a single Colorado-based charter. Each bank will operate under its own brand after the consolidation. 

The effort is expected to begin in mid-2002 and be completed by the end of 2023. 

Heartland expects to incur $19 million to $20 million of restructuring charges, with $1.9 million incurred last year. The move should save the company $20 million annually.

Banner County in Nebraska to buy Wyoming bank

Banner County Ban Corp. in Harrisburg, Neb.., has agreed to buy Bankers Capital in Lusk, Wyo. 

The $228 million-asset Banner County said in a press release that it expects to complete the purchase of Bankers Capital and its $68 million-asset Lusk State Bank in the second quarter.

Banner County did not disclose the price it will pay. 

Banner County will gain a branch in Wyoming. Lusk State will operate as an independent bank after the deal closes. 

Olsen Palmer and Spierer Woodward Corbalis & Goldberg advised Bankers Capital. Koley Jessen advised Banner County.

Midland States in Ill. to continue working with GreenSky

Midland States Bancorp in Effingham, Ill, will continue to work with GreenSky to develop a pipeline of consumer loans.

The $7.4 billion-asset company said during its quarterly earnings call that the relationship will continue through at least 2023. GreenSky is being acquired by Goldman Sachs in a deal that is expected to close later this quarter.

Midland States has been working with GreenSky for about a decade.

Midland States has nearly 413,000 GreenSky-related loans, totaling $875 million, on its balance sheet, or roughly 16.7% of its total loans.

The delinquency rate for those loans is about 0.26%.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Fed approves Old National-First Midwest merger

Old National Bancorp in Evansville, Ind., has received approval from the Federal Reserve to buy First Midwest Bancorp in Chicago. 

The Fed announced its approval of the $2.5 billion acquisition on Thursday. 

The $24.5 billion-asset Old National agreed in June to buy the $21.8 billion-asset First Midwest. The deal is expected to close by early this year. 

The merger has met some resistance. 

Several consumer advocacy groups asked regulators in July to conduct public hearings to look at Old National’s lending in low-income areas. The Fair Housing Center of Indiana filed a lawsuit against Old National last fall that alleged mortgage discrimination. 

Old National denied the claims in the lawsuit. 

Old National shareholders will own 56% of the company, which will have dual headquarters in Evansville and Chicago. 

Jim Ryan, Old National’s chairman and CEO, will remain CEO, while Michael Scudder, First Midwest’s chairman and CEO, will become executive chairman. The 16-member board will be evenly split with Old National and First Midwest directors.

MVB in W.Va. promotes CFO to serve as president

MVB Financial in Fairmont, W.Va., has a new president. 

The $2.8 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that Donald Robinson had transitioned into the role. He will remain MVB’s chief financial officer as the company conducts a national search for a replacement. 

Robinson succeeded Larry Mazza, who will remain CEO. 

“To fully execute our strategic plan and to move MVB forward on the financial frontier, we need to ensure that we are set up for success,” Mazza said in the release. “As our needs as an organization evolve, so must the organizational structure in place to support MVB’s key initiatives.” 

Robinson had a key role in several initiatives, including the sale of MVB branches in West Virginia, the FDIC-assisted purchase of First State Bank of Barboursville and several fintech-related acquisitions. 

MVB said it had promoted several other executives to roles that will include more responsibilities.

John Marion, MVB’s chief risk officer, will become chief operating officer. Jamie Nalls, regional president for CoRe Banking, will become the group’s president. Brad Greathouse, chief people and culture officer, will become chief administration officer.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

HarborOne taps insider as next CEO

HarborOne Bancorp in Brockton, Mass., has lined up its next CEO. 

The $4.5 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that James Blake will retire, effective May 18. Joseph Casey, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will succeed Casey. 

Blake and Casey will remain on the company’s board. 

Blake joined HarborOne Bank – then known as Brockton Credit Union – in 1993. He has been the CEO since 1995, overseeing the credit union’s conversion to a bank in 2013. HarborOne had its second-step conversion in 2019. 

Casey, who joined the bank in 2004, became president and COO in February 2017. 

“My fellow directors and I are pleased that Joe Casey will be stepping in,” Michael Sullivan, HarborOne’s chairman, said in the release. “Joe understands and embodies the mission, culture and values that have helped drive HarborOne … over more than a century of service, growth and diversification.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Central Pacific discloses first BaaS client relationship

Central Pacific Financial in Honolulu provided more information on its new Banking-as-a-Service platform, which it plans to lean on for mainland expansion. 

The $7.4 billion-asset company said in a press release Wednesday that it will make an equity investment in Swell, a new fintech that will work with credit-constrained consumers. Central Pacific will also serve as the bank sponsor for Swell, which is scheduled to launch its first product later this year. 

Central Pacific said it has a revenue-sharing agreement with Swell. The bank will also collaborate with Swell and Elevate Credit, a firm that provides digital lending solutions. 

Central Pacific in November launched Shaka, an all-digital checking account. The product allows clients to receive paychecks up to two days early, among other things. More than 3,300 people have signed up for the product since its launch on Nov. 8.

Midland States expanding with deposits, loan purchase

Midland States Bancorp in Effingham, Ill., has agreed to buy deposits and loans from FNBC Bank & Trust in La Grange, Ill. 

The $7.1 billion-asset company said in press release Wednesday that it will buy $86 million of deposits and $26 million of loans tied to branches in Mokena and Yorkville, Ill. Midland States will also buy the Mokena branch. 

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter. 

The deposits being acquired have an overall cost of less than 0.10%, with more than a third being noninterest bearing. 

Midland, which did not disclose the price it will pay, said it expects the transaction to be slightly accretive to earnings. 

“This transaction will provide additional attractively priced core deposits, while increasing our exposure to faster growing markets in northern Illinois,” Jeffrey Ludwig, Midland States’ president and CEO, said in the release. 

“With our expansion into the Mokena market, we will also improve our positioning to capitalize on new talent and client acquisition opportunities created by bank merger activity in the greater Chicagoland area,” Ludwig added.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

N.Y. bank merger delayed due to slow reg approval

Another bank merger is facing a delay tied to pending regulatory approval. 

Executives at Community Bank System in DeWitt, N.Y., said during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings that they expect the acquisition of Elmira Savings Bank to close in May. The companies originally forecast a first-quarter completion. 

The revised guidance resulting from “the progress and the dialogue with regulators," Mark Tryniski, Community Bank System’s president and CEO, said during the conference call. 

"There's nothing of note or concern,” Tryniski added. “I think it's just right now with the administration and pending appointments of some of the agency leadership and, I'll call it, the interest of all the regulatory agencies on every single transaction, even those who have a, let's call it, tangential involvement, it's a lot more complicated." 

The $15.6 billion-asset Community Bank System agreed to buy the $649 million-asset Elmira in October for $83 million. 

New York Community Bancorp pushed back its planned closing date for buying Flagstar Bancorp. The proposed merger of Blue Ridge Bankshares and FVCBankcorp in Virginia was delayed – then terminated – after the deal hit a snag with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Customers to let BM Technologies deposit pact end

Customers Bancorp in West Reading, Pa., will let its deposit servicing agreement with BM Technologies lapse at the end of this year.

The $19.6 billion-asset company said in a press release Monday that the agreement, tied to its January 2021 divestiture of BankMobile Technologies, will save it about $60 million a year.

Customers expects about $1.8 billion of deposits serviced by BM Technologies to run off by Dec. 31.

The company is replacing the deposits with accounts gained from the launch of its blockchain-based instant payments token. A soft launch of TassatPay in October ushered in $1.9 billion of deposits. Customers recently hired a crypto team from Silvergate Capital to continue building out its platform.

A full launch took place earlier this month, and Customers said it expects deposits “to grow significantly in 2022.”

Separately, Customers said it bought a $313 million portfolio of Paycheck Protection Program loans in December at a discount in a move that should increase deferred revenue recognition in future quarters.

Zions reports $12M gain tied to new tech campus

Zions Bancorp. in Salt Lake City is close to opening a new corporate technology center. 

The $93 billion-asset company said in a press release Monday that it should occupy the building in mid-2022. 

The move allowed Zions to consolidate and sell a number of bank-owned facilities. The sales were largely responsible for $12 million in “other income” recording during the fourth quarter.

Zions announced plans in May 2020 for the 400,000-square-foot facility in Midvale, Utah. The building will house more than 2,000 employees.

New York Community pledges $28B to back underserved

New York Community Bancorp in Hicksville, N.Y., has committed $28 billion of loans, investments and other financial support to underserved communities as part of its planned purchase of Flagstar Bancorp in Troy, Mich. 

The $58 billion-asset New York Community said in a Monday press release that it had made the pledge as part of an agreement with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. 

The agreement includes $21.7 billion of community lending and affordable-housing commitments and $6 billion of residential mortgages to underserved and low- and moderate-income borrowers and majority-minority neighborhoods over five years.

Specifically, the company will originate $5.7 billion of loans for home purchases, refinances, home improvement, and home equity loans, along with a $10 million downpayment assistance fund. The agreement calls for $542 million of small-business loans. 

New York Community will also commit $16.5 million in philanthropic support to nonprofits that meet the needs of low- and moderate-income groups and majority-minority communities and individuals. 

“Over the past several months, members of both NYCB’s and Flagstar’s leadership teams have met with NCRC and nearly 80 of its member organizations and were humbled by everything they do for their communities,” Thomas Cangemi, New York Community’s chairman, president and CEO, said in the release. 

The agreement “reflects our commitment to provide greater economic opportunities for LMI communities and communities of color in both of our market areas and bridge the racial wealth gap that exists today,” Cangemi added. 

New York Community agreed to buy Flagstar last April

New York Community said in October that it expected the deal to close early this year, a delay compared to the original forecast of a late 2021 completion.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Republic First in Penn. delays plan to raise capital

Republic First Bancorp in Philadelphia is delaying plans to raise more capital. 

Executives of the $5.6 billion-asset company made the disclosure during a Thursday conference call to discuss fourth-quarter results. 

“As the quarter progressed, we made the decision that it would be in the best interest of not only the bank but our shareholders to do that raise at a time that would be most optable from a stock price perspective,” Frank Cavallaro, Republic First’s chief financial officer, said during the call. 

“We'll continue to monitor market conditions and assess alternative strategies as we get into” 2022, Cavallaro added. “At this time, we are comfortable with our capital levels at the levels they're at today.”

Vernon Will, Republic First’s chairman and CEO, added that the company would consider several factors, including growth rates, pricing and dilution to tangible book value, before revisiting the capital raise. 

“We have actually slowed our growth rate down,” Hill said during the call.

"If you notice, our new store count is down in the last few years as we're slowing it down,” Hill added. “It's being offset by the growth per store. … We're just going to have to look at all the facts at the time to make a decision, and we'll keep everybody up to date.” 

The disclosure comes a month after an activist investor voiced his objections to the capital raise. 

 Driver Management has said it will nominate three candidates for the company’s board at the next annual meeting. Driver wants the company to replace Hill with an independent chairman. 

Republic First’s earnings increased by 49% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, to $6.1 million.

H&R Block debuts challenger bank Spruce

H&R Block in Kansas City, Mo., has created a challenger bank. 

The tax preparation company said in a press release Thursday that it had launched Spruce, a mobile banking platform that will include a spending account with a debit card. 

Meta Financial’s MetaBank is providing the banking products for Spruce, which will look to address the needs of underserved markets. 

“Spruce is a financial technology platform that combines the best features of leading neobanks with H&R Block’s trusted brand,” Jeff Jones, the company’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“Creating and launching Spruce is a huge milestone for our company as we continue to execute on our transformation and growth strategy, Block Horizons 2025,” Jones added. 

Block Horizons is the company’s five-year growth and transformation plan. 

Spruce’s features include a no-fee spending account, cash-back rewards, credit score monitoring, early access to paychecks and up to $20 of overdraft protection.

Sterling in Mich. improves governance to settle investor claim

Sterling Bancorp in Southfield, Mich., has implemented numerous governance measures to resolve a shareholder demand for change. 

The $3.1 billion-asset company said in a press release Friday that the settlement of the July 2020 shareholder action will also include payment of the shareholder’s attorneys’ fees and expenses in exchange for the release of all defendants from all alleged claims.

Sterling noted that it had appointed three independent directors since July 28, adding that the shareholder’s demand “was a substantial factor” for those additions. 

The company has also created the roles of chief risk officer, who will report to the CEO, and a chief compliance officer, who will report to the CRO. 

The company formed a disclosure committee that includes the CEO, chief financial officer, controller, general counsel and CRO to go over all public announcements. It also created a board-level risk committee and an ethics and compliance committee. 

Sterling said its CRO and CCO are supervising the creation of a rigorous training and compliance program, which will be mandatory for all directors and employees. 

Sterling has been operating under a formal agreement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency since June 2019 tied to Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering compliance.

The company fired several employees and abruptly discontinued a low-documentation mortgage program in December 2019 after discovering alleged fraud. Suspension of the program created a significant revenue hole for Sterling. 

Thomas Lopp, who was named CEO shortly before the mortgage program was discontinued, resigned in May 2020, citing health reasons. A month later, Sterling hired Thomas O’Brien, a veteran turnaround expert, as CEO. 

O’Brien has since closed some branches, returned Sterling to profitability and settled a shareholder lawsuit alleging that disclosures about the company’s residential lending practices violated federal securities laws.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Blue Ridge, FVCBankcorp in Va. call off merger

Blue Ridge Bankshares in Charlottesville, Va., and FVCBankcorp in Fairfax, Va., no longer plan to merge.

The $3.2 billion-asset Blue Ridge and the $2 billion-asset FVCB said in a press release Thursday that they had agreed to terminate the all-stock deal. Each company will bear its own costs and expenses in connection with the terminated transaction. 

No termination fees will be paid. 

“Our boards of directors mutually concluded after careful consideration that it would not be prudent to continue to pursue the proposed merger of our companies,” Brian Plum, Blue Ridge’s president and CEO, and David Pijor, chairman and CEO of FVCB, said in the release. 

The termination “positions both companies to focus on the consistent growth and value creation they have each delivered through the years,” the executives said. 

The companies announced the $307 million deal in July, with Blue Ridge as the legal acquirer. 

Blue Ridge disclosed in November that the deal would be delayed due to an issue raised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The company never disclosed the issue.

Famers and Merchants in Md. to begin CEO search

Farmers and Merchants Bancshares in Hampstead, Md., is looking for its next CEO. 

The $716 million-asset company said in a press release Thursday that James Bosley Jr. will also retire as president and the end of this year. Bosley, 60, joined the bank in 1983 and has been its president and CEO since 1995.

Bosley will remain on the board until his term ends in 2024. 

Bosley “has helped to build the company into a high-performing, community-centric bank that is relationship-focused and aligned to the needs of all stakeholders” Bruce Schindler, the company’s chairman, said in the release. 

Farmers said it had hired Kaplan Partners, an executive search firm, to initiate a formal search to identify a successor.

Synovus on track with cost cutting, revenue goal

Synovus Financial in Columbus, Ga., said it feels comfortable with its ability to achieve the $175 million in expense cuts and added revenue from its current efficiency effort. 

The $57 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that the Synovus Forward program reduced annual expenses by $55 million and added $55 million in revenue in 2021. 

The progress puts Synovus on pace to meet its overall goal by the end of this year. Synovus said the cost cuts included third-party spending discipline and the consolidation of branches and office space. 

Synovus announced in December that it would close about 40 branches, or roughly 15% of its network, in 2022. 

Noninterest expense decreased by 7% in 2021 from a year earlier, to $1.01 billion.

On the revenue side, the company received better pricing for its Treasury and payment solutions products, reduced deposit costs and improved the risk-adjusted returns in its balance sheet. 

Synovus plans to cut another $15 million to $20 million of expenses in 2022 through the continued rationalization of its third-party spending and more branch and corporate real estate reductions. 

The company said it will add $45 million to $50 million in revenue by delivering more advisory services and adding more customer products.

Fifth Third to buy solar energy lender POS lender

Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati is making a move in point-of-sale lending with an agreement to buy Dividend Finance in San Francisco. 

The $211 billion-asset Fifth Third said in a press release Wednesday that it expects to acquire the home-improvement fintech in the second quarter. The price was not disclosed. 

Dividend Finance, founded in 2013 and majority owned by LL Funds, focuses on sustainable energy solutions. About 80% of its originations are tied to solar projects; the rest is associated with home improvement projects. 

The point-of-sale lender, which operates in 44 states, had $1 billion of originations last year. Fifth Third said it expects $1.7 billion of originations this year, including $1 billion in the second half of 2022. 

Fifth Third said the loans should have an average 8% yield. 

Fifth Third said it expects to incur $75 million to $80 million of expenses, including $50 million of operating costs, this year tied to Dividend Finance. The company will likely bring in $55 million to $60 million of revenue in 2022 from the acquisition. 

The deal comes months after Fifth Third bought Provide, a fintech that lends to health care professionals.

The deal will also help Fifth Third achieve its targeted $8 billion sustainable finance goal. 

Several banks have been buying point-of-sale and home improvement lenders. Truist has an agreement to buy POS lender Service Finance for $2 billion, and Goldman Sachs is buying GreenSky. Regions Financial recently acquired EnerBank USA, a home improvement lender.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Bank First in Wis. to bolster ag lending with bank deal

Bank First in Manitowoc, Wis., has agreed to buy Denmark Bancshares in Denmark, Wis. 

The $2.9 billion-asset Bank First said in a press release Wednesday that it will pay $119.5 million in cash and stock for the $688 million-asset parent of Denmark State Bank. The deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, priced Denmark as 175% of its tangible book value.

Denmark has seven branches, $479.4 million of loans and $614.5 million of deposits. 

Bank First said Denmark’s clients will benefit from its 49.8% ownership of UFS, a technology firm that provides digital, core, cybersecurity, managed IT and cloud services to banks in the Midwest. 

Denmark, meanwhile, has a “highly knowledgeable” agriculture team, Bank First said. 

“Denmark is a long-standing organization focused on relationship banking,” Mike Molepske, Bank First’s president and CEO, said in the release. “Together, we will continue our shared mission of building meaningful relationships and strengthening the communities we serve by providing value-driven financial solutions and giving back through volunteerism and philanthropic initiatives.”

Bank First plans to cut half of Denmark’s annual noninterest expenses. The company expects to incur $10.7 million in merger-related expenses. 

The deal should be 4.9% accretive to Bank First’s 2022 earnings per share. It should take less than three years for the company to earn back an estimated 3.3% dilution to its tangible book value. 

Hovde Group and Alston & Bird advised Bank First. Piper Sandler and Godfrey & Kahn advised Denmark.

Florida group applies to open de novo bank

A group in Florida is looking to form a de novo bank. 

Organizers of Evermore Bank in Fort Lauderdale applied on Tuesday with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for deposit insurance. 

The group plans to raise $26 million to $45 million of initial capital, according to the application. Organizers intend to open a second branch in Wellington, Fla., during the first quarter of the bank's first year of operations.

The goal is for Evermore to become profitable by the first quarter of its third year in business. Organizers also plan to reach $235 million of assets, $215 million of deposits and $172 million of loans by the end of the bank's third year.  

Steven Sanzone would serve as the proposed bank’s CEO.

Sanzone was a market president at Grove Bank & Trust from November 2019 to December 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before that, he was a banker at Stonegate Bank for 13 years.

The FDIC has received three applications for deposit insurance this year and six since late November.

Signature in N.Y. to raise $739M of new capital

Signature Bank in New York is set to raise about $739 million of offensive capital.

The $118 billion-asset bank said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it will sell 2.1 million shares of common stock at $352 each. The underwriters can sell another 315,000 shares if there is demand. 

The bank said it plans to use the proceeds for general corporate purposes. 

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Jefferies were the bookrunners in the offering. 

The bank added more than $6 billion of loans in the fourth quarter.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

FDIC's chief innovation officer to resign

The first chief innovation officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is resigning. 

Sultan Meghji disclosed in a tweet Tuesday that he will step down on Feb. 18. 

“Being the first chief innovation officer of this agency has been a tremendous honor,” he said in the tweet. 

“It was a dream to be able to bring my experience to help ensure the safety and soundness of the American banking system,” he added. “I cannot wait to see how the agency continues to innovate in the future."

Meghji was appointed to the position in February 2021. His resignation comes two weeks after Jelena McWilliams announced plans to resign as FDIC chairman. She is set to resign on Feb. 4.

SoFi gains conditional OCC approval for bank purchase

SoFi has received conditional approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to acquire Golden Pacific Bank in Sacramento, Calif. 

The regulatory agency said in a press release Tuesday that it also approved Social Finance’s application to create SoFi Bank, which will be based in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. SoFi will have $5.3 billion of assets and $718 million of capital at the end of its first year of operation. 

The OCC approval includes a number of conditions for SoFi, including specific capital contributions, adherence to an operating agreement and confirmation that the bank will not engage in any crypto-asset activities or services. 

SoFi Technologies said in a separate release that it had been approved by the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company. The Golden Pacific deal is now expected to close in February.

“Today’s decision brings SoFi, a large fintech, inside the federal bank regulatory perimeter, where it will be subject to comprehensive supervision and the full panoply of bank regulations, including the Community Reinvestment Act,” Acting Comptroller Michael Hsu, said in the release. 

“This levels the playing field and will ensure that SoFi’s deposit and lending activities are conducted safely and soundly,” Hsu said. “Like every other national bank we supervise, the OCC will require SoFi Bank … to be adequately capitalized, have strong risk management programs, policies and procedures in place, and provide fair treatment to its customers.” 

SoFi agreed in March 2021 to buy the $170 million-asset Golden Pacific for $22.3 million in cash. The deal was originally expected to close at the end of last year.

“This incredible milestone elevates our ability to help even more people get their money right and realize their ambitions,” Anthony Noto, SoFi's CEO, said in the company's release.

The national bank charter will "enhance our financial products and services to ensure they efficiently meet the needs of our members, business partners and communities across the country, while continuing to uphold a high bar of regulatory standards and compliance," Noto added.

Texas First to offer multicurrency debit account

Texas First Bank in Texas City is planning to launch a multicurrency debit account as part of a partnership with fintech Rêv Worldwide. 

The $2 billion-asset bank is set to introduce X World Wallet, a product that will eventually be offered to other community banks and credit unions, according to a press release. X World Wallet will be marketed to Americans who travel to or shop in countries such as Mexico and Canada. 

“The X World Wallet delivers on a world-class digital experience and functionality,” Christopher Doyle, Texas First’s president, said in the release. 

“It offers a collaboration model where Rêv assists banking partners like us to create new revenue streams and quickly meet our customers’ demand for robust fintech products that are competitive in the market,” Doyle added. 

The X World Wallet is linked to physical and digital Visa cards that can be added to Apple, Google and Samsung Pay digital wallets.

Atlantic Union adds more duties for bank president

Atlantic Union Bankshares in Richmond, Va., has given a top bank executive more responsibility. 

The $19.9 billion-asset company said in a press release Monday that it had appointed Maria Tedesco to serve as chief operating officer of Atlantic Union Bank. She will remain the bank’s president, a position she has held since 2018. 

In the expanded role, Tedesco will oversee consumer and business banking, wholesale banking, wealth management and mortgages. She will also be responsible for technology and operations, marketing and digital strategy, among other things. 

“Since the day Maria walked through our doors … she has been an incredible asset,” John Asbury, the company’s CEO, said in the release.

“Her customer first approach to our business will continue to serve us well as she takes on the expanded role,” Asbury added. “Uniting these business units will help us better meet our customers’ needs, enhance their experiences, improve internal coordination and respond to our constantly changing environment in an agile manner.” 

Tedesco was the chief operating officer for retail at BMO Harris Bank before she joined Atlantic Union.

Former Talmer bankers tied to Michigan de novo effort

A pair for former Talmer Bancorp bankers are part of an effort to open a de novo in a Detroit suburb.

Organizers of Community Unity Bancorp in Birmingham, Mich., applied on Jan. 12 with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for deposit insurance. 

“We will serve the banking needs of our market area through commercial lending in the small business to lower middle-market commercial segments, full-service retail, mortgage and others, including in underserved areas,” the group said in the application. 

The proposed bank would offer commercial and residential mortgages, commercial and consumer loans and credit lines and construction and development loans. It would also provide online banking, commercial cash management services, wire transfers and mobile banking. 

Organizers plans to raise $25 million in initial capital. 

Andrew Meisner would serve as the proposed bank’s CEO. He was the treasurer for Oakland County, Mich., from 2009 to 2021, where he was also chief investment officer for a $1.5 billion investment portfolio. He was a member of the Michigan State House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008.

Maria Dubiel is set to become chief credit officer. She was a special assets director at TCF Bank, joining the company through its 2019 acquisition of Chemical Bank. Before that, she was at Talmer when it was sold in 2016 to Chemical. 

The proposed bank’s chief financial officer would be Timothy Blazejewski. He previously served as the chief investment officer of Chemical Bank following its purchase of Talmer.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Bank-led group to mint, use USDF stablecoins

Five banks are part of a group formed to mint and use USDF stablecoins.

The initial members of the USDF Consortium include New York Community Bank, NBH Bank, FirstBank, Sterling National Bank and Synovus Bank. Figure Technologies and JAM FINTOP, which are also among the founders, will facilitate and promote the adoption of USDF. 

Figure has spent recent years developing the USDF, which operates on the Provenance blockchain. The consortium said in a press release that it will look to “significantly grow” its membership of FDIC-insured banks. 

"USDF opens up endless possibilities for the expanding world of DeFi transactions," Mike Cagney, Figure’s CEO, said in the release. 

"The ease and immediacy of using USDF for on-chain transactions was demonstrated this fall when [New York Community] minted USDF used to settle securities trades executed on Figure's alternative trading systems,” Cagney said. “We are tremendously excited that NYCB expects to be minting USDF on demand and on a regular basis in the coming weeks." 

The group’s formation "will solve a critical need to move funds on blockchain, and it does so in a way that can scale, adheres to regulatory standards and is acceptable to all users from large institutional investors to retail customers," Andrew Kaplan, New York Community's chief digital and banking as a service officer, said in the release. 

"As a form of digital currency created and administered by regulated U.S. banks within the USDF consortium, USDF will enable wide use of an on-chain, real-time payments system that satisfies important principles of safety and soundness, compliance with anti-money laundering standards and financial stability,” Kaplan added. 

New York Community announced in August that it would work with Figure on a series of blockchain projects. The banking company also made a direct equity investment in Figure as part of the deal. 

National Bank Holdings, the parent of NBH Bank, has also invested in Figure as part of a broader partnership.

New York Community and Figure are also investors in the JAM FINTOP Blockchain fund, which was created to invest in and develop blockchain infrastructure and businesses.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Eastern Bank to sell cannibis-related business

Eastern Bankshares in Boston has agreed to sell its cannabis-related business to NB Financial in Needham, Mass. 

The $17 billion-asset Eastern said in a press release Friday that it will also sell the money service business deposit relationships obtained from its acquisition of Century Bancorp. The sale is expected to close in the first half of this year. 

Eastern did not disclose how much the $2.9 billion-asset parent of Needham Bank will pay for the businesses.

We have spent considerable time reviewing the cannabis banking operation and remain very impressed with how these businesses have been served,” Bob Rivers, Eastern’s chairman and CEO, said in the release. 

“We have determined the business is not well-aligned with our approach to serving our business customers due to the special handling required with meeting the banking needs of cannabis-related businesses at this time,” Rivers added. Needham “has solid capabilities to provide extensive service to this important business sector.” 

“The cannabis industry is rapidly growing, and this transaction presents an exciting opportunity and excellent entry into this evolving and dynamic segment,” said Joseph Campanelli, Needham’s president and CEO. 

Paul Evangelista, who launched and led the cannabis banking strategy at Century, plans to join Needham.

Eastern agreed last year to sell Century's headquarters building for $20.5 million.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Merger in southern Illinois to create $1B asset bank

Midwest Community Bancshares in Marion, Ill., has agreed to buy Carbondale Investment in Carbondale, Ill. 

Midwest, the parent of the $781 million-asset First Southern Bank, said in a press release that it plans to buy the holding company for the $282 million-asset Bank of Carbondale in the second quarter.

The price was not disclosed. 

Bank of Carbondale has $134 million of loans and $241 million of deposits.

“Bank of Carbondale and the Bleyer family have always been dedicated to the growth and well-being of the southern Illinois region,” John Dosier, First Southern’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“Bank of Carbondale’s philosophy of being a locally owned community bank, with high-level customer service blends very well with our own business model,” he added. “Both organizations take great pride in taking care of our customers and giving back to our communities.”

Hovde Group advised Carbondale Investment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Louisiana Bankers Association taps insider as next CEO

The Louisiana Bankers Association has a new CEO. 

The association said in a press release that its board had elected Ginger Laurent as its leader, effective Jan. 1. She succeeded Bob Taylor, who retired on Dec. 31 after serving as the association’s CEO since 2007.

Laurent has been with the association for 22 years, including 14 years as its chief operating officer. Before that, she was a banker in the Acadiana market for roughly 16 years. 

The association “is fortunate to have someone of Ginger’s caliber and skill lead our organization,” Jerry Ledet, the LBA’s chairman, said in the release. 

“She has extensive banking leadership experience that will be vital in navigating Louisiana’s bankers through unique challenges," Ledet added.

Laurent, the association’s first female CEO, is the second woman in recent days tapped to lead a banking advocacy group. 

Jenifer Waller became CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association on Jan. 1.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Newly formed company plans to buy Florida bank

A newly formed company is looking to buy a bank in Dade City, Fla. 

Aiden Florida Bancshares in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., has agreed to buy a 65% to 80% stake in Florida Bancshares, the parent company of First National Bank of Pasco, according to a notice from Hovde Group. 

Hovde, which represented the $276 million-asset First National Bank of Pasco, did not disclose the price of the all-cash transaction.

Aiden Florida filed its incorporation papers in Florida in mid-November, listing Fadi Cheikha as its incorporator. Cheikha is CEO of US Alliance Group, according to his LinkedIn profile. 

US Alliance Group provides payment processing and merchant services, among other things. 

Cheikha is also president of Aiden Whisper, a nonprofit that provides education, training and support programs. 

Efforts to reach Cheikha were not immediately successful.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Florida de novo Locality Bank to debut this week

Locality Bank, a de novo planned in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is set to debut on Wednesday.

The proposed bank’s digital application will launch on that day, based on a press release announcing that organizers had surpassed the fund-raising goal set by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as part of the agency’s conditional approval. 

Locality raised $35 million; it was required in November to bring in a minimum of $23 million.

Members of the proposed bank’s leadership team mention in a LinkedIn post that they had received final approval to open. 

The founders plan to hold an official grand opening in March.

Civista to buy Comunibanc in northwest Ohio

Civista Bancshares in Sandusky, Ohio, has agreed to buy Comunibanc in Napoleon, Ohio. 

The $3 billion-asset Civista said in a press release Monday that it will pay $50.2 million in cash and stock for the $329 million-asset parent of Henry County Bank. The deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, priced Communibanc at 152% of its tangible book value.

Comunibanc has seven branches, $276 million of low-cost core deposits and $165 million of loans in northwest Ohio. 

“We have known the Comunibanc team for a very long time and have always admired the franchise and their strong and stable presence in their local communities,” Dennis Shaffer, Civista’s president and CEO, said in the release. “The current Civista team has significant experience operating in the northwest Ohio market.” 

One Comunibanc director will join the Civista Bank board. 

The deal is expected to be 10% accretive to Civista’s 2023 earnings per share. It should take less than three years for Civista to earn back any dilution to its tangible book value. 

Civista plans to cut about 40% of Comunibanc's annual noninterest expenses, or roughly $3.2 million. The company expects to incur $5 million of merger-related expenses.

Stephens and Dinsmore & Shohl advised Civista. ProBank Austin and Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick advised Comunibanc.

Republic seeking $5M termination fee from Green Dot

Republic Bancorp in Louisville, Ky., wants Green Dot to pay a $5 million termination fee tied to the termination of asset sale. 

The $6.2 billion-asset Republic agreed in May to sell its tax refund solutions business to Green Dot. Green Dot first delayed the closing in August, then terminated it in October after failing to secure an approval or non-objection from the Federal Reserve. 

The Delaware Court of Chancery on Dec. 2 denied Republic’s expedited motion for summary judgment seeking to force Green Dot to complete the transaction.

Republic “will continue to seek the additional monetary damages and equitable relief arising from Green Dot’s actions in the litigation before the Delaware Court of Chancery,” the filing said.

First Guaranty in La. makes push into Ky., W.Va.

First Guaranty Bancshares in Hammond, La., has hired 13 bankers for its push into Kentucky and West Virginia. 

The $2.8 billion-asset company said in a press release Monday that it hired Mike Mineer, a former president and CEO of Citizens Deposit Bank and Trust, to serve as its Mideast Market President. 

The hirings included five bankers in Kentucky and seven in West Virginia. 

“We are a true community bank; we lend to people, not numbers,” Alton Lewis, First Guaranty’s president and CEO, said in the release. “With this knowledgeable team in place, we can continue to lend in the way we know how and give our customers the top-notch service they deserve.”

Bank-backed group launches blockchain fund

The group behind a large fintech fund has completed a separate effort to invest in blockchain projects.

JAM Special Opportunity Ventures, an affiliate of Jacobs Asset Management, and FINTOP Capital said in a press release Monday that their JAM FINTOP Blockchain fund had raised about $110 million. The fund has more commitments that scale up to $30 million as its nears a $200 million cap. 

The fund will initially focus on infrastructure to help regulated financial institutions compliantly operate blockchain-powered applications in areas such as lending, payments and exchanges. 

“Over the next decade, we believe blockchain will become the dominant operating infrastructure of the financial system and look forward to helping our network of regulated banks, brokers and fintechs develop the competency and dexterity to be early adopters of this transformational technology,” Ryan Zacharia, general partner of JAM Special Opportunity Ventures, said in the release. 

Financial institutions investing in the fund became members of the JAM FINTOP Network, which includes 79 banks with $1 trillion of combined assets.

Strategic lead investors include Figure Technologies, Amerant Bancorp, Atlantic Union Bankshares, Banner Corp., ConnectOne Bancorp, FB Financial, First Horizon, New York Community Bancorp, OceanFirst Financial, Piper Sandler, Simmons First National, Synovus Financial, Sterling Bancorp and Umpqua Holdings. 

Mike Cagney, Figure’s CEO, is a strategic adviser to the fund and will lead the JAM FINTOP blockchain committee. Piper Sandler’s digital assets group will also serve as a strategic adviser. 

JAM FINTOP Banktech raised $150 million last April to help accelerate technology adoption at community banks. The fund invested in Boston fintech Monit last fall.

Former BancorpSouth bankers planning Texas de novo

A group is looking to form a de novo bank in Texas. 

Organizers of Texas Traditions Bank applied with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Jan. 3 for deposit insurance. The bank would be based in Fulshear or Katy, just outside of Houston. 

The bank, which would have a minimum of $35 million of initial capital, would have a second branch in the Webster area, according to the application.

A public notice tied to the application listed 10 organizers: Ryan Whitzel, Keith Badough, William Kacal, Michael Dierschke, Vicki Keiser, Rand Lassus, Matthew Mabry, Darren Miller, Samuel Morris and John Pritchett. 

Whitzel, a former market president for BancorpSouth, would be the CEO. Badough, a former community bank president at BancorpSouth, would be the president. 

Whitzel and Badough previously worked at Icon Bank of Texas.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Proposed Puerto Rico de novo would be a digital bank

The group behind the proposed Nave Bank in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is planning a digital bank.

Organizers said in an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for deposit insurance that Nava Bank will look “to provide a unique, affordable offering, and value to customers that are presently unsatisfied, underserved or unbanked.”

Nave would use “highly scalable and state of the art technology that is purely digital and with no reliance on physical branches,” the application said. “As a digital bank, the bank will take advantage of cost efficiencies, increased speed to market of its products and services, wider distribution of its products and services, and greater ease in establishing ongoing relationships with customers.”

The application listed three organizers: Francisco Antonio Navarro, Tracie Kosakowski and Damon Greenberg.

The organizers plan to structure Nave as a community development financial institution and a minority depository institution.

The group redacted sections detailing the targeted capital amount or the person selected to serve as president and CEO.

The filing listed five directors: Navarro, Carlos Garcia, Emilio Martino, Mari Evelyn Rodriguez and Fabio Garcia Passalacqua.

Garcia is a director of Professional Holding and Professional Bank in Coral Gables, Fla.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Former bank analyst Lana Chan joins Cathay Bank

Lana Chan is the latest bank analyst to cross over and join a bank. 

Chan, who was an equity analyst for BMO Capital Markets for 15 years, revealed on her LinkedIn profile that she had become a strategic communications and investor relations consultant at Cathay Bank in Los Angeles. 

Prior to joining BMO, Chan was an analyst at Advest. 

Other analysts who have accepted banking jobs in the past include Bob Ramsey, who left FBR Capital Markets to become director of investor relations and strategic planning at Customers Bancorp, and James Abbott, another former FBR analyst who joined Zions Bancorp. as director of investor relations. 

Jefferson Harralson, a former analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, left the firm to become the chief financial officer of United Community Banks.

Group looks to form bank in Connecticut

Organizers in New Canaan, Conn., have applied to form a bank. 

The application for New Canaan Bank was submitted to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Dec. 28. A week earlier, organizers filed an application with the Connecticut Department of Banking. 

A notice posted by the state regulator listed six organizers: Frederick Afragola, Louis Garcia, Paul Kuehner, Joseph Rucci Jr., Thomas Ayoub and Anthony Domino Jr. 

Afragola, who would serve as the proposed bank's executive chairman, is the chairman emeritus of Bank of New Canaan, according to his LinkedIn page. Garcia, the group’s proposed CEO, is a former managing director at CBAM, an alternative investment firm, based on his profile.

Organizers plan to raise up to $40 million in initial capital. Garcia and Kuehner are seeking permission from the state regulator to individually own between 10% and 24.9% of the proposed bank's stock, the application said.

"We want to get into the traditional hometown banking business," Garcia said. There's been a void created by bank consolidation in Connecticut. That's why we think now is the right time to do this."

The bank will look to serve "consumers and small- to medium-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations looking for a local community bank that offers financial products and services tailored to fit their specific needs," the application said.

"Our lending services will include commercial and residential real estate mortgage loans, consumer loans and lines of credit, commercial and business loans and lines of credit, and construction and development loans," organizers added.

Customers Bank in Pa. adds depth to crypto team

Customers Bancorp has hired a team of digital banking experts from Silvergate Capital to help the West Reading, Pa., company build out its commercial cryptocurrency business. 

The $19 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that it added seven bankers with experience in business development, technology, onboarding, payments and Bank Secrecy Act compliance. 

“We made the commitment to be one of the top financial institutions serving commercial cryptocurrency and digital asset institutions and we understand all requirements, pitfalls and the possibilities for crypto customers,” Sam Sidhu, the company’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“These clients require a financial partner that has the technology and agility to scale with their requirements throughout the entire ecosystem, not just in one or two aspects of their business,” Sidhu added. 

The company hired Robb Layfield to serve as managing director of digital assets and Dan Devine as senior vice president of digital asset product development. 

Customers completed a soft launch of Customers Bank Instant Token (CBIT) in the fourth quarter that focused on 25 clients with $1.5 billion of noninterest-bearing deposits.

Provident in N.J. promotes insider to bank CEO

Provident Financial Services in Iselin, N.J., has a new bank CEO. 

The $13.4 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that Tony Labozzetta had taken on the expanded role on Jan. 1. He succeeded Chris Martin, who became executive chairman of Provident Bank.

Labozzetta will remain the president for the company and the bank. He had also been the chief operating officer of Provident Financial and Provident Bank. 

Labozzetta joined Provident in late 2020 through the merger with SB One Bank, where he was president and CEO. 

“Tony has proven himself to be an advocate for elevating both the customer and employee experience,” Martin said in the release. “His philosophy is rooted in Provident’s vision, mission, and guiding principles.”

Thursday, January 6, 2022

State regulator stops Iowa credit union's bank deal

GreenState Credit Union in North Liberty, Iowa, has been blocked from buying a bank. 

The Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance officially denied an application by the $8 billion-asset credit union to acquire the $395 million-asset Premier Bank in Omaha, Neb. The regulator said the bank failed to provide supporting evidence backing the deal’s legality. 

“Premier has not carried its burden of proof in this proceeding to show that there is express power under federal law for a national bank to sell substantially all of its assets under the factual circumstances presented in this proceeding,” the agency said in its Dec. 30 decision. 

The Nebraska Bankers Association had opposed the deal. 

GreenState also faced regulatory hurdles in 2019 when it was looking to finalize the purchase of branches from First American Bank in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The bank settled with the state’s regulator to complete the sale. 

The Nebraska regulator determined that Iowa-based GreenState failed to qualify as a “financial institution” that can pursue cross-industry transactions in Premier’s home state. GreenState said in a statement that it hopes to eventually close the deal. 

“The efforts made by the Nebraska Bankers Association are simply blocking consumer choice for Nebraskans," the credit union said in a prepared statement. "GreenState will create jobs, give back to the local community and put money back into the pockets of its Nebraska members.”

Premier plans to appeal the decision to state court.

Credit unions in other states have faced challenges buying banks. 

A judge in Tennessee granted a temporary injunction in November that blocked Orion Federal Credit Union’s proposed purchase of Financial Federal Bank in Memphis, Tenn. The Colorado Banking Board in 2020 blocked a bid by Elevations Credit Union to buy the assets of Cache Bank & Trust in Greeley, Colo.

Business First to raise $47M through stock offering

Business First Bancshares in Baton Rouge, La., plans to raise about $46.8 million from selling common stock.  The $5.5 billion-asset company...