Thursday, June 30, 2022

BMO Harris takes bite out of overdraft, NSF fees

BMO Harris Bank in Chicago is reducing its overdraft and nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees for consumer and small business banking accounts. 

The $167 billion-asset unit of Bank of Montreal said in a press release Thursday that it will eliminate overdraft transfer fees on July 12 and do away with NSF fees on Aug. 23. Overdraft fees will be lowered from $36 to $15 per occurrence beginning in the fall. 

"Our latest fee changes mark another significant milestone for BMO in our journey to empower customers to achieve their financial goals and to make real financial progress," Paul Dilda, the bank’s head of consumer strategy, said in the release. 

"Given the current economic climate, we know it is more important than ever to help our consumer and small business customers work toward their financial goals,” Dilda added. 

BMO last November reduced the number of overdraft or NSF charges a customer may incur to three per day. It also eliminated consecutive day overdraft fees for accounts that remain overdrawn for an extended period.

A growing number of banks have been eliminating or reducing overdraft and NSF fees in recent months.

Former Cape Cod CEO joins university's board of trustees

Dorothy Savarese, who recently retired as president and CEO of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank in Hyannis, Mass., has joined the board of trustees at Suffolk University in Boston.

Savarese, who remains the $4.6 billion-asset bank's chairman, was its CEO for more than 17 years. She was succeeded as CEO by Matt Burke and as president by Bert Talerman.

Savarese earned her MBA from Suffolk’s Sawyer Business School. 

The other new trustees Darren Donovan, Hind Habbach, Marie-Louise Skafte and Mark Sullivan.

ICBA reiterates stance against CBDC

The Independent Community Bankers of America has reiterated its opposition to a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

The trade association said in a comment letter to the Commerce Department that it wants the government to step up oversight of digital assets, including cryptocurrency. 

The ICBA made several arguments in the letter:

  • Digital assets present numerous significant threats, including financial crimes and risks for financial stability.
  • Stablecoins exist in an unregulated space with several nonbanks performing critical intermediary functions. Community bankers believe it is essential to bring stablecoins under federal banking regulation to address these risks and explore the potential use of stablecoins for responsible innovation within the payments sector. 
  • Regulators should collaborate on a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital assets. Responsible innovation requires policymakers to establish clear regulatory guidelines.
  • Community banks support the development of FedNow, as well as efforts to bring unbanked citizens within the banking system.
  • Community bankers are opposed to a CBDC. “The risks far outweigh the uncertain and unproven benefits cited by CBDC advocates,” the association said. “A CBDC threatens to disintermediate community banks, thus raising the risk of serious economic consequences."

The Commerce Department is seeking comments as part of the Biden Administration’s executive order tied to digital assets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

New Peoples in Va. discloses 'cybersecurity incident'

New Peoples Bankshares in Honaker, Va., disclosed that its recent systems issues resulted from a cyberattack.

The $813 million-asset bank disclosed on its website that it first experienced aninterruption to the operability of its computer systems on June 15. An investigation by a third-party cybersecurity firm found that an unauthorized person gained access to those systems on June 9. 

The investigation also determined that “some personal information” of customers, shareholders and employees “may have been subjected to unauthorized access.” 

New Peoples noted that all of its systems have been restored and banking operations have resumed.

“Although we had protocols and security technology in place to try to help prevent this access, the unauthorized person was able to evade many of these defenses,” the bank said. 

New Peoples said it has established a dedicated call center to handle inquiries. Customers were also given a complimentary one-year membership to Experian’s IdentityWorks to help them detect potential misuse of personal information.

Western Alliance enters Utah with business banker hires

Western Alliance Bancorp. in Phoenix has entered Utah after hiring a team of business bankers. 

The $60 billion-asset company said in a press release Wednesday that the bankers will be based in Salt Lake City. The bankers have expertise in real estate, construction and equipment loans, SBA financing, lines of credit and working capital. 

Seth Brinkerhoff will serve as senior director of commercial banking. He previously served as a senior vice president of corporate banking at Zions Bancorp., according to his LinkedIn profile. 

“We provide our clients with the best of both worlds: a history and knowledge of the needs of Utah business owners, combined with the significant resources of Western Alliance,” Brinkerhoff said in the release. “We want to work with our clients to offer the insight and experience, banking products, and business connections that help owners achieve their goals.” 

Marshall Saunders will serve as vice president of commercial banking. He previously served as a vice president and senior business relationship manager at Bank of America, according to his LinkedIn profile.

NorthEast Community in N.Y. brings back former director

NorthEast Community Bancorp in White Plains, N.Y., has brought back a familiar face to its board. 

The $1.3 billion-asset company disclosed in a regulatory filing Wednesday that Linda Swan had become a director on June 23. She also joined the board of unit NorthEast Community Bank. 

Swan was a director of NorthEast Community Bancorp, a predecessor to the company, from 1991 to 2014.

Swan once was the director of the corporate activities Division of the Office of Thrift Supervision

New York Community, Circle form custodian partnership

New York Community Bancorp in Westbury has formed a partnership with Circle Internet Financial in Boston where the bank will become a custodian for USD Coin reserves. 

The $61 billion-asset New York Community and Circle will collaborate on strategies for using Circle blockchain and stablecoin solutions to promote access to low-cost financial solutions for underserved and unbanked communities. 

Circle said in a press release that the move is part of its commitment to allocate a share of USDC dollar-denominated reserves to minority depository institutions (MDIs) and community banks. 

"If we want to make the future of money and payments more inclusive than the past, we have to build new partnerships and connections at the community level," Dante Disparte, Circle’s chief strategy officer and head of global policy, said in the release. "We are opening up new pathways for community banks and MDIs across the country to be key participants in the fast growing digital assets market."

"We are thrilled that together with being a custodian for USDC reserves, we are also able to partner with Circle on meaningful initiatives to impact inclusion and education to our communities and customers,” Andrew Kaplan, New York Community’s chief digital bank and Banking-as-a-Service officer, said in the release. 

The partnership “adds another credible partner into [New York Community’s] stable of blockchain-enabled clients with access to lower-cost funds in relation to traditional CDs,” Chris Marinac, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, wrote in a note to clients. 

“We expect the … relationship to further enhance New York Community's $5 billion in non-CD funds designed under the Banking-as-a-Service umbrella,” Marinac added. 

New York Community is pursuing several fintech- and blockchain-related initiatives.

The company is working with Figure Technologies on a series of blockchain projects. It also joined the USDF Consortium, a group formed to mint and use USDF stablecoins.

Three banks submitted bids for PCSB Financial

PCSB Financial in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., fielded acquisition offers from three banks before deciding to deal exclusively with Brookline Bancorp in Boston. 

The $8.6 billion-asset Brookline agreed to buy the $2 billion-asset PCSB in May for $313 million in cash and stock. 

PCSB decided to seriously consider selling in November when its board assessed challenges generating organic growth, the need to “invest significantly” in IT and other infrastructure, and the bank’s scarcity value in its core markets, according to a regulatory filing tied to Brookline’s pending acquisition. 

The board started culling a list of potential acquirers at its December meeting. 

Joseph Roberto, PCSB’s chairman, president and CEO, held a virtual meeting with the CEO of a Northeastern bank on Dec. 28. The bank, which had expressed an interest in buying PCSB in the past, reiterated its interest during the discussion. 

The unnamed bank eventually determined that it wasn’t in a position to pursue merger discussions at a valuation it believed PCSB would consider attractive. 

Robert met with the leader of another Northeastern bank on Jan. 18. Three days later, he met with Carl Carlson, Brookline’s co-president and chief financial officer. 

During a Jan. 26 meeting, PCSB’s board reviewed 16 institutions that were identified as potential acquirers. The bank’s investment bank contacted 12 of the banks; six signed confidentiality agreements and three ended up sending nonbinding letters of interest. 

Brookline initially pitched a 60% stock deal with a fixed exchange ratio of 1.3233 shares of Brookline stock for each PCSB share and $21.50 a share in cash based on a price of $21.50 a share. Brookline was also willing to let PCSB operate as a standalone bank unit. 

The other companies’ offers had “lower nominal pricing terms” and plans to merge PCSB into their existing banks. 

The PCSB board, on two occasions, pressed the suitors to improve their offers. 

One of the companies revised its offer, but the terms were still lower than what Brookline proposed.

Brookline revised its offer twice. On April 8, Brookline increased the stock exchange ratio slightly, to 1.3284, and the cash consideration to $21.60 a share. It also increased the amount of stock to 65% from 60%. 

Four days later, Brookline increased the cash consideration to $22 a share and reverted to 60% stock. The exchange ratio remained 1.3284. 

Following a "lengthy discussion," the board authorized entering into an exclusivity agreement with Brookline. PCSB and Brookline agreed to negotiate exclusively until May 31. 

The initial merger agreement was sent to PCSB on May 2. The parties exchanged drafts of the agreement between May 9 and May 22. 

PCSB’s board unanimously approved the merger on May 23, and the deal was announced the next day.

The deal, which is expected to close in the second half of this year, priced PCSB at 117.6% of its tangible book value. 

"This transaction represents a unique opportunity for Brookline to expand its banking operations into one of the country’s largest deposit markets through the acquisition of a complimentary commercial banking organization,” Paul Perrault, Brookline’s chairman and CEO, said in the release. 

Brookline expects the deal to be 13% accretive to its earnings per share. It should take the company less than four years to earn back an expected 7.5% dilution to its tangible book value. 

Brookline said it plans to cut about 30% of PCSB’s annual noninterest expenses, or about $10.8 million. The company expects to incur $21.4 million of merger-related charges.  

Michael Goldrick, PCSB’s chief lending officer, will become president and CEO of PCSB Bank. One PCSB director will join Brookline’s board. 

Goldrick will receive an initial base salary of $350,000 and will be eligible for an annual incentive payment of up to 60% of his base salary, according to the recent filing. 

Roberto agreed to serve as a consultant to Brookline. He will receive $30,000 a month for each of the first six months after the deal closes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Landmark to buy Freedom Bancshares in Kansas

Landmark Bancorp in Manhattan, Kan., has agreed to buy Freedom Bancshares in Overland Park, Kan.

The $1.3 billion-asset Landmark said in a press release Tuesday that it will pay $33.4 million in cash for the $223 million-asset Freedom. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. 

Freedom “has been a strong commercial bank in Overland Park since its formation and the transaction allows an excellent opportunity to expand our presence in more urban areas, including Kansas City,” Michael Scheopner, Landmark’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“The transaction will allow Freedom Bank’s customers to continue to partner with a community-focused financial institution,” Scheopner added. 

Cummings & Co. and Barack Ferrazzano Kirshbaum & Nagelberg advised Landmark. Olsen Palmer and Fenimore Kay Harrison advised Freedom.

Former First Republic exec lands new CEO post

The former co-CEO of First Republic Bank in San Francisco has been named CEO of a growth-minded real estate finance company. 

Greystone said in a press release that Hafize Gaye Erkan will succeed Steve Rosenberg, who will remain chairman. Her executive responsibilities will begin in September. 

Erkan stepped down as co-CEO of First Republic earlier this year. 

“I am thrilled to welcome Gaye to our firm to drive the next generation of investment and innovation as we pursue strategic growth opportunities, both organically and through acquisitions,” Rosenberg said in the release. “She is an inspiring and visionary leader with a successful track record in financial services spanning two decades.” 

Greystone said Erkan and Rosenberg will accelerate growth in its core commercial and multifamily real estate lending and capital markets business by investing in technology, operations and people. 

The executives plan to expand into adjacent financial services such as lending products, private wealth management and real estate and fintech fund management. They will also explore private banking and residential mortgage lending.

How Cambridge landed deal for Northmark Bank

Northmark Bank in North Andover, Mass., had in-depth discussions to sell to another bank months before agreeing to be sold to Cambridge Bancorp in Massachusetts. 

The $5 billion-asset Cambridge agreed in May to buy the $442 million-asset Northmark for $63 million in stock. 

Northmark, however, had exclusive negotiations with another bank between December 2021 and late January, according to a regulatory filing tied to its pending sale to Cambridge. 

Though the unnamed bank initially offered $98.31 a share for Northmark, it ultimately decided to walk away and the exclusivity agreement was terminated on Jan. 25. 

Northmark’s investment bank contacted Cambridge on March 7, which lead to an in-person meeting between Jane Walsh, Northmark’s president and CEO, and Denis Sheahan, her counterpart at Cambridge. Cambridge gained access to an electronic data room on March 29. 

Cambridge on April 14 proposed an all-stock transaction that valued Northmark at $78.69 a share – 20% less than what was discussed with the unnamed bank. Northmark and Cambridge entered into an exclusivity agreement on April 21. 

Cambridge sent over an initial draft of the merger agreement on May 4. Cambridge revised its proposal on May 9, raising its offer to $82.92 a share. Revised drafts were circulated over the next 10 days.

Northmark’s board approved the merger agreement on May 23. The deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, priced Northmark at 118% of its tangible book value. 

The deal is expected to be 5.8% accretive to Cambridge’s 2023 earnings per share, excluding merger-related expenses. It should take about two years for Cambridge to earn back an estimated 1.7% dilution to its tangible book value.  

Cambridge expects to incur $10.7 million of merger-related expenses. The company plans to cut 35% of Northmark’s annual noninterest expenses.  

"Northmark’s dedication to providing individuals and businesses with customized attention and tailored financial solutions will greatly complement our broad range of products and services,” Sheahan said in the press release announcing the deal. 

Walsh, who owns about 13% of Northmark’s outstanding stock, will join Cambridge’s board.

Monday, June 27, 2022

CSBS taps insider as next president and CEO

Jim Cooper was named president and CEO of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. 

Cooper has been serving as acting president and CEO since the unexpected death of John Ryan on May 16.

Cooper has been the director of policy and supervision at the CSBS for nine years. Before that, he was deputy director at the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions from 1994 to 2013. 

“Jim is singularly qualified to serve as CEO,” Tom Fite, the group’s chairman, said in a Monday press release. “Under Jim’s leadership, CSBS and its members will continue to advance state regulation and work towards the vision of a more networked system.” 

UMB to buy Old National's HSA business

UMB Financial in Kansas City, Mo., has agreed to buy the health savings account business of Old National Bancorp in Evansville, Ind. 

The $40.6 billion-asset UMB said in a press release Monday that it will obtain about $500 million of client assets. About $400 million of those assets are held in deposit accounts. The assets are comprised of roughly 157,000 accounts across more than 3,000 employer groups. 

UMB did not disclose the price it will pay. 

“Our strategic focus continues to be on growth in the direct-to-employer space,” Phil Mason, UMB’s director of healthcare services, said in the release. “This acquisition provides significant business gain and a strong, experienced team that will complement our organic growth efforts.”

Old National has offered direct-to-employer HSAs since 2004. All nine Old National employees will join UMB. 

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Avidia Bank CEO to retire in 2023

Avidia Bank in Hudson, Mass., is on the lookout for a new CEO. 

The $2.4 billion-asset bank said in a press release Monday that Mark O’Connell, who is also its president, will retire in May 2023. 

O’Connell, who joined a predecessor bank in 1988, has been president and CEO since 2004. 

“I’m really proud of what we’ve all been able to accomplish at Avidia over the years,” O’Connell said in the release. “It’s not just in our growth, but how we’ve been able to continue to be good citizens to help all members of our communities.” 

Avidia said its board has begun an executive search for his successor.

Tenn. bank commish still looking to stop CU-bank deal

Greg Gonzales, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, has appealed a judge's decision that would allow Orion Credit Union to buy Financial Federal Bank. 

Gonzales argued in his appeal, filed on June 14, that depositors of the bank would be “irreparably harmed and disrupted” if the acquisition closes. He also argued that it would create confusion if the deal closes and is subsequently nullified by an appeals court. 

The $1 billion-asset Orion agreed to buy the $774 million-asset Financial Federal in August. Both financial institutions are based in Memphis. 

Gonzelez succeeded in getting an injunction to block the transaction in December, but Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Patricia Moskal ruled in May that the deal is permissible because Orion is buying the bank’s assets – not the charter or stock. 

The Tennessee Bankers Association has been opposed to the acquisition. 

Colin Barrett, the association’s president and CEO, asserted in an August blog post that the acquisition would lead to the loss of about $15 million in local, state and federal tax revenue over the next decade.

Tennessee is one of several states where credit union purchases of banks have hit roadblocks. The others include Colorado, Mississippi and Nebraska.

Organizers plan new bank in Arizona

A group with ties to a wealth management firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., has applied to form a bank in the city.

Organizers of Zenith Bank & Trust applied with on June 23 with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for deposit insurance. The group plans to register with the Federal Reserve to make Zenith Financial Holding the proposed bank’s holding company for the bank. 

Zenith Financial Holding already owns Zenith Wealth Advisors, a registered investment adviser. 

The proposed bank’s target market is small- and midsize businesses and their owners, business professionals, real estate owners and investors and high-net-worth individuals. The plan is to offer “a wide range of traditional banking products and services including deposit and credit products as well as trust services.” 

Zenith Bank would also provide clients access to investment management services provided by Zenith Wealth Advisors. 

Organizers plan to raise $22 million of initial capital. 

Daniel Thompson would serve as the proposed bank’s president and CEO. He was regional president for Arizona and California, and a member of the executive leadership team, at First Western Trust Bank.

Brad Fain, CEO of Fain Signature Group, would serve as Zenith Bank’s chairman. He was a director at Mohave State Bank, which was sold to Glacier Bancorp in 2020. 

The other organizers are Garrette Backie, Brian Bonfiglio, Flynt Griffin, Travis Heriaud and Katie Williams. Heriaud and Jonathan Chan are expected to each own more than 10% of the bank’s outstanding shares. 

Arizona has been a popular state for new banks. 

Gainey Business Bank opened in Scottsdale in early June, while Integro Bank debuted in Phoenix last month.

United in Ga. made fast Progress with Ala. bank deal

The leaders of United Community Banks in Blairsville, Ga., and Progress Financial in Huntsville, Ala., quickly bonded as they discussed what would become United’s agreement to buy Progress. 

The $24 billion-asset United agreed in May to buy the $1.9 billion-asset Progress for $271.5 million in stock. 

Progress, however, has United on a list of potential “upstream partners” well before David Nast, it’s president and CEO, first met with Lynn Harton, United’s chairman and CEO, last September, according to a regulatory filing tied to the merger. 

While the executives’ first meeting was informal, they “quickly developed a strong relationship and determined the two banks would be able to serve clients better and provide shareholders an opportunity for a good return” if the merged, the filing said. 

The banks have similar business lines and each saw a strategic geographic fit because United had yet to enter Alabama or the Florida Panhandle. 

The companies signed a nondisclosure agreement on Feb. 4, and Progress began to send United due diligence information four days later. 

United sent its initial nonbinding letter of intent on March 9. The initial draft of the merger agreement was sent to Progress on April 1. The filing gave no details on the financials of either document.

The boards for each company approved the merger on May 3. The deal, which was announced the following day and is expected to close in the fourth quarter, priced Progress at 165% of its tangible book value. 

“Progress bankers and their customers will benefit from the expanded products and resources that we are able to bring to the table,” Harton said in a press release announcing the deal. 

"Our M&A focus has continued to be on high-growth markets in the Southeast with attractive demographics and strong in-migration,” Harton added. “Progress’ footprint will complement our existing markets and be accretive to our franchise value.”  

The deal should be 2% accretive to United’s 2023 earnings per share, excluding merger-related costs. The company expects to incur $25.4 million of merger-related expenses. 

United plans to cut a quarter of Progress' annual noninterest expenses, or roughly $13.5 million.

Nast, who will become United's state president for Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, will receive a $443,000 annual salary and is eligible for a bonus that could be as high as $177,200. 

Nash is also set to receive a lump sum of nearly $2.9 million as part of the change of control, along with a $150,000 cash retention award.

Two large credit union associations explore merger

Cornerstone League in Plano, Texas, and Heartland Credit Union Association in Overland Park, Kan., are exploring a merger of their organizations.

The associations said in a press release that they have signed a letter of intent to create a group that would represent 718 credit unions in five states. 

“We believe that the infrastructure supporting our credit unions must evolve to keep pace with the way credit unions and consumers have changed,” Caroline Willard, Cornerstone’s president and CEO, said in the release. “Partnering with Heartland can help both organizations do that.” 

Merging “provides a unique opportunity for our leagues to maximize efforts in compliance and advocacy,” Lisa Simmons, Heartland’s interim CEO, said. “This partnership will provide all credit unions access to more options to better serve their members and communities.” 

Willard said that in combining their shared strengths, Cornerstone and HCUA can help to preserve the unique role of financial cooperatives in the marketplace. 

The organization would operate under the Cornerstone brand. 

The merger would likely become official in January if approved.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Fed bans former Golden Pacific investor

An investor who tried to buy Golden Pacific Bancorp in Sacramento, Calif., has been banned from the banking industry. 

The Federal Reserve said it banned Karl Klessig for providing a fraudulent loan document and forged signature when he applied to buy the bank two years ago. 

“Klessig’s deceptive conduct in connection with his effort to acquire control of the bank exposed the institution to probable financial loss or could have prejudiced the interests of the bank’s depositors,” the Fed said in a Friday press release.

Klessig, chairman of a mortgage title company, “falsely represented that he had obtained a loan to finance his purchase of a controlling interest in Golden Pacific,” the Fed said. He withdrew his application after the fraud was discovered, the Fed said. 

Klessig agreed to the order without denying or admitting wrongdoing. 

Golden Pacific was eventually sold to SoFi.

Former acting comptroller to retire

Blake Paulson, who briefly served as acting comptroller in 2021, is one of three members of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s executive committee who are stepping down on July 1.

The agency said Paulson, senior deputy comptroller for supervision risk and analysis, will fully retire on Aug. 31. Jay Gallagher, deputy comptroller for systemic risk identification support and specialty supervision, will succeed Paulson as acting senior deputy comptroller. 

Kathy Murphy, the agency’s chief financial officer and senior deputy comptroller for management and chief financial officer, will take a sabbatical that could last up to a year. The OCC said that Peggy Sherry, principal deputy comptroller for management and deputy CFO, will replace Murphy in an acting senior deputy comptroller.

Finally, Sydney Menefee, senior deputy comptroller for midsize and community bank supervision, plans to leave the agency. Beverly Cole, deputy comptroller for the Northeast district, was named acting senior deputy comptroller for MCBS.

“I have valued the friendship and contributions that all three senior deputy comptrollers have provided to me and the executive committee and want to recognize their passion, drive and professionalism,” Acting Comptroller Michael Hsu said in a Friday press release. 

“I am confident that the OCC will be well-served by our new acting senior deputy comptrollers who will provide valuable and seamless leadership while we execute our important mission,” Hsu added.

Horizon in Ind. taps former banker as lead director

Horizon Bancorp in Michigan City, Ind., has tapped a former bank executive as its lead director. 

The $7.4 billion-asset company said in a press release Friday that Michele Magnuson will succeed Daniel Hopp on June 30. Hopp’s three-year term as lead director is set to end; he will also reach Horizon’s mandatory retirement age be the end of this year.

Magnuson was president and chief financial officer of LaPorte Bancorp. She joined Horizon’s board in July 2016 after the company acquired LaPorte. 

Her term as lead director will end in mid-2025.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Burke & Herbert in Va. to form holding company

Burke & Herbert in Alexandria, Va., plans to form a holding company.

The $3.6 billion-asset bank said in a press release Wednesday that it will seek regulatory approval to create Burke & Herbert Financial Services.

"We believe the new corporate structure will provide further financial and operational flexibility for the Bank and is an important part of the continued success of the Bank," E. Hunt Burke, the bank’s chairman, said in the release.

"A successful corporate reorganization can lead to additional access to capital markets, better liquidity for our shareholders and increased visibility and demand for our stock," David Boyle, the bank's president and CEO, said in the release. 

Burke & Herbert is the oldest bank in Virginia.

BankFirst to buy Sycamore Bank in Mississippi

BankFirst Capital in Columbus, Miss., has agreed to buy Tate Financial in Senatobia, Miss. 

The $2 billion-asset BankFirst said in a press release Thursday that it expects to complete the purchase of the parent of the $330 million-asset Sycamore Bank in the third quarter. The price was not disclosed.

The acquisition “will be another milestone in the implementation of our strategic plan to serve our customers and communities and increase shareholder value,” Moak Griffin, BankFirst’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“We believe this merger furthers our vision of partnering with other community banks that have strong core deposit funding and a tradition of relationship banking, customer service and community involvement,” Griffin added. “We expect this merger to enhance our ability to continue investing in our products and services, ensuring that we remain competitive on all fronts.”

Jay Tindall Jr., Tate’s chairman and CEO, will become BankFirst's north Mississippi regional executive officer. 

BankFirst was advised by Olsen Palmer and Hunton Andrews Kurth. Tate was advised by Gerrish Smith Tuck and Southard Financial.

St. Landry in La. rebrands as Catalyst Bank

St. Landry Homestead Federal Savings Bank in Opelousas, La., has rebranded. 

The $287 million-asset bank said in a press release Thursday that it had officially changed its name to Catalyst Bank. The change follows the bank’s mutual-to-stock conversion in October that created Catalyst Bancorp. 

“Our customers played a key role in helping us raise over $50 million in completing our” Joe Zanco, Catalyst’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“Their investment has positioned us to serve as a key catalyst for economic growth across Acadiana like never before," Zanco added. "Our new name reflects this commitment.” 

The bank plans to change its signage on June 27.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

CFPB stepping up review of overdraft, NSF practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to step up its examination of certain financial institutions’ overdraft policies. 

The bureau said in a blog Friday that it has been piloting a supervision effort to collect key metrics from 20 institutions regarding the consumer impact of their overdraft and nonsufficient fund (NSF) practices. It did not name the institutions.

The information includes the total annual dollar amount consumers receive in overdraft coverage compared to the amount of fees charged and the annual dollar amount of overdraft fees charged per active checking account. 

The CFPB has also collected data on the annual dollar amount of NSF fees charged per active checking account, along with the share of active checking accounts with more than six and more than 12 overdraft and/or NSF fees per year. 

Finally, the supervision effort sought information on the share of active checking accounts that are opted into overdraft programs for ATM and one-time debit transactions. 

The CFPB said it plans to use the data to “identify institutions for further examination and review.” It also intends to provide feedback to each institution and share the data with other regulators. The information will not be made public.

Several banks have been curbing or eliminating their fees in recent months.

The CFPB said it was “encouraged” by those efforts, adding that it will evaluate how the changes are implemented.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

New Peoples makes progress on systems issues

New Peoples Bank in Honaker, Va., has made “significant progress” getting its computer systems back online.

The $813 million-asset bank said in a tweet that all transactions, aside from ATM and debit card transactions from June 15 to June 17, have been processed and should be posted today. The bank said online and mobile banking services should also resume today. 

The bank said in a post on its website last week that it was “working diligently to address and investigate a recent incident” that had interrupted the operation of its computer systems.  

New Peoples said on its Facebook page that the issues began on Wednesday. The bank hired third-party experts to assist and said it would provide updates as more information was collected.  

“As we are expecting a higher-than-normal call volume, we thank you for your patience as our branch teams work diligently to respond to customer questions,” the bank said last week. “We are investigating this incident with the support of third-party technical experts. That investigation is ongoing.”

First Bancorp in NC to buy GrandSouth in SC

First Bancorp in Southern Pines, N.C., has agreed to buy GrandSouth Bancorp. in Greenville, S.C. 

The $10.5 billion-asset First Bancorp said in a press release Tuesday that it will pay $181.1 million in stock for the $1.3 billion-asset GrandSouth. The deal, which is expected to close late this year or in early 2023, priced GrandSouth at 180% of its tangible book value.

GrandSouth has eight branches, $900 million of loans, and $1.1 billion of deposits. It also has a specialty floor plan lending business that operates in the Southeast and Midwest.

"GrandSouth is in great communities with talented bankers," Mike Mayer, First Bancorp’s president, said in the release. "Our cultures are very similar and we are excited to bring our teams together."

James Schwiers, GrandSouth's president, will become president of South Carolina banking at First Bancorp. Two GrandSouth directors will join First Bancorp's board.

First Bancorp expects to incur $15 million of merger-related charges. The company plans to cut about 30% of GrandSouth's annual noninterest expenses.

The deal is expected to deliver high-single-digit accretion to First Bancorp's earnings per share once fully phased in. It should take about three years for First Bancorp to earn back any dilution to its tangible book value.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard advised First Bancorp. Piper Sandler and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough advised GrandSouth.

Stripe co-founder agrees to buy business bank

Washington Business Bank in Olympia, Wash., has agreed to sell itself to Stripe co-founder Darragh Buckley. 

The $106 million-asset bank said in a press release that an unnamed investor planned to buy all of its outstanding stock for $30 a share in cash. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of this year. 

An offer to purchase document disclosed the Buckley is the investor. 

Washington Business Bank said it would keep its name and that Jon Jones would remain president and CEO. All members of the bank’s senior management team would remain in place. 

The board “is very excited to enter into this agreement,” Jones said in the release.  “This transaction provides an outstanding value to our shareholders while allowing the bank to continue serving our loyal client base in Olympia and the surrounding area.” 

Washington Business Bank was advised by D.A. Davidson and Lane Powell. Miller Nash advised the investor.

A refresher on banks ending overdraft, NSF fees

Let's talk about overdraft fees.

Citigroup just announced that it had removed overdraft, overdraft protection transfer and returned item fees from its Citi Retail Banking consumer accounts, among other changes. It is the largest U.S. bank to make such dramatic changes to its policies. 

But many other banks are reducing or eliminating overdraft and nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees. While some of this is likely tied to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's heightened interest in the charges, and an expectation that the agency will draft rules governing "junk fees," more banks seem to be following the lead of early adopters to stay competitive.

There have been several recent disclosures from midsize banks, many of which are based in the Southeast. 

A number of those banks have quantified the financial impact, or they have provided enough info to help analysts make estimates. They include Cullen/Frost Bankers, Zions Bancorp., Trustmark, Hancock Whitney and Ameris Bancorp

This chart shows the estimated financial impact for each bank.

Sources: Company reports, KBW and Janney Montgomery Scott

New York Community Bancorp in Westbury and Flagstar Bancorp in Troy, Mich., which are in the process of merging, recently said they would eliminate NSF fees and cut back on other overdraft fees. 

First Financial in Cincinnati said it will eliminate NSF fees when an item is returned unpaid and notification fees when an account remains overdrawn. Other fees will be reduced.

South State in Winter Haven, Fla., will get rid of NSF fees and transfer fees that cover overdrafts. The changes will reduce diluted annual earnings by about 8 to 10 cents a share. 

Expect to see the pace of disclosed rollbacks accelerate over the rest of this year. 

What can banks do to offset the lost revenue?

Hancock Whitney and South State have announced meaningful branch closures, which will help. Rising interest rates should also provide an offset as well. 

Other options could include identifying other revenue drivers such as Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), digital assets services or Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS). Each of those initiatives will require significant due diligence, partnerships with third parties and a concerted effort to understand and mitigate exposures.

ECB in Mass. raises purchase limits for mutual conversion

ECB Bancorp in Everett, Mass., is letting investors buy more shares of its stock as part of its mutual-to-stock conversion. 

The $733 million-asset ECB said in a press release Tuesday that the maximum purchase limitation for individual investors was increased from 35,000 shares to 55,000 shares. 

The limit for a collective of purchasers was raised from 50,000 shares to 70,000 shares. 

Completion of the conversion of Everett Co-operative Bank, and the stock offering, remains subject to selling roughly 7.9 million shares of the company’s stock. 

ECB has said in a prospectus that it plans to sell up to 12.2 million shares of common stock. Net proceeds would likely range from $76.4 million to $119.7 million. 

Half of the net proceeds will be invested in ECB's bank, while 8.4% will be loaned to its employee stock ownership plan. About 41% of the net proceeds will remain at the holding company. 

ECB will contribute $600,00 in cash and 260,000 shares of common stock to a charitable foundation it plans to form in connection with the conversion.

Digital FCU in Mass. lines up new CEO

Digital Federal Credit Union in Marlborough, Mass., will soon have a new CEO. 

The $9.8 billion-asset credit union said in a press release that Shruti Miyashiro will also succeed the retiring Jim Regan as president on Aug. 1. 

Miyashiro has been the CEO of the $2.3 billion-asset Orange County’s Credit Union in California since 2007. 

Regan has been in his current positions at DCU for the past 13 years. 

Regan’s “leadership, commitment and integrity have steered DCU to become one of the most successful and respected credit unions in the country,” Matthew Menning, the credit union’s chairman, said in the release. 

Regan “leaves a lasting legacy of service and innovation for DCU to build on moving into the future," Menning added.

Truist officially debuts new technology center

Truist Financial has officially launched its technology center in downtown Charlotte, N.C. 

The $544 billion-asset company said in a press release Tuesday that the 100,000-square-foot center features “client journey rooms,” a research lab and collaboration hubs where teams will work with clients to improve products and services. 

The new center "is ultimately all about our clients — a unique space that brings together direct client input with some of the best and brightest talent in the industry,” Scott Case, Truist’s chief information officer, said in the release. 

"As our cross-functional teams come together with clients, fintechs and large tech companies to reimagine banking experiences through listening and empathy, we're fulfilling our purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities,” Case added. 

Truist began talking up the proposed center soon after BB&T announced plans in 2019 to buy SunTrust Banks. Executives frequently discussed their T3 objective of fusing technology and touch to build trust with clients. 

The center will serve as the home base for the Innovators in Residence program, a partnership that brings in tech visionaries from tech giants and startups to work on projects. Amazon Web Services, Verizon and Unqork are the program’s founding partners.

Two Rivers in Iowa to cross $1B of assets via M&A

Two Rivers Financial Group in Burlington, Iowa, has agreed to buy Lee County Bank in West Point, Iowa.

The $972 million-asset Two River did not disclose the price it will pay Lee Capital for the $239 million-asset Lee County Bank. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. 

Two Rivers and Lee County “are two organizations sharing the same customer-centric banking focus and compatible cultures,” Frank Delaney, Two Rivers’ chairman, said in the release. 

Lee County will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Two Rivers. 

Shane Zimmerman will serve as Lee County’s CEO and Michael Culbertson will be the bank’s president.

CFPB plans to review mortgage, credit card rules

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to review credit card rules as the qualified mortgage rule. 

Rohit Chopra, the CFPB’s director, said in a Friday blog post that the bureau will look at changes made to the QM rule’s underwriting standards, along with the CARD Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

“The CFPB aspires to more clearly communicate the agency’s expectations in simple and straightforward terms, which will produce more durable guidance and rules, in addition to numerous other benefits,” Chopra wrote. “Simple bright-lines advantage law-abiding companies and disadvantage law breakers.” 

Chopra said a number of rules “have now been tested in the marketplace for many years and are in need of a fresh look.” 

The CFPB, among other things, wants to look at provisions in the QM rule that let some delinquent loans gain QM status. The agency would also like to see more streamlining for refinancings and modifications.

Chopra said the agency will also consider “potential enhancements and changes to business practices” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which oversees how information is reported to credit bureaus. 

The CFPB plans to review the “enforcement immunity and inflation provisions” for fees and penalties associated with the CARD Act.

Friday, June 17, 2022

New Peoples in Va. working through systems issue

New Peoples Bank in Honaker, Va., is working through systems outages.

The $813 million-asset bank said in a post on its website that it “is working diligently to address and investigate a recent incident” that is interrupting the operation of its computer systems. 

The bank, which is looking to restore its computer systems “as quickly and safely as possible," said on its Facebook page that the issues began on Wednesday. 

New Peoples said, for instance, that customers are unable to transfer funds. 

The bank said it hired third-party experts to assist, adding that it will provide periodic updates as more information is collected. 

“As we are expecting a higher-than-normal call volume, we thank you for your patience as our branch teams work diligently to respond to customer questions,” the bank said. “We are investigating this incident with the support of third-party technical experts. That investigation is ongoing.”

First National in Michigan names new president

First National Bank & Trust in Iron Mountain, Mich., has a new president. 

The $421 million-asset bank said Russell Kassin had succeeded David Kashian, who will remain chairman and CEO until 2023.

“Our goal during this period is to make this transition to the next generation of leadership as seamless and transparent as possible for all of our stakeholders," Kashian told the Iron Mountain Daily News. 

Kassin “is an outstanding choice as my successor and the board … and I are confident in his ability to lead this outstanding and highly successful organization for many decades to come,” Kashian added. 

Kassin, First National’s chief lending officer, joined the bank in 2012. He was added to the bank’s board in February.

Amerant to enter Tampa market after key hires

Amerant Bancorp in Coral Gables, Fla., will enter the Tampa, Fla., market after hiring a team of bankers.

The $7.8 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that the group will be led by Jason Russek, who was named market president. He previously served as a regional director of commercial banking at BankUnited, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Russek will oversee a team of six commercial bankers. 

The office will focus on commercial real estate, along with other commercial and industrial, specialty finance and treasury management services. 

“Tampa’s exponential development makes it an ideal location for our ongoing strategic expansion in Florida,” Jerry Plush, Amerant’s chairman, president and CEO, said in the release. 

“The area’s appeal is broad, offering excellent schools, world-class entertainment, ease of travel and a strong talent pool of prospective team members,” Plush added.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Atlantic Union adds digital banking vet to its board

Atlantic Union Bankshares in Richmond, Va., has added a banking veteran to its board. 

The $19.8 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that Rilla Delorier had become a director, effective immediately. 

Delorier recently served as chief strategy and digital transformation officer at Umpqua Bank. She serves on the boards of Nymbus and Coastal Community Bank in Everett, Wash. 

Delorier “has an extensive background in multiple banking disciplines, including marketing, technology and strategic planning,” Ronald Tillett, Atlantic Union’s chairman, said in the release. “She excels in bringing innovation to companies and building a strong customer-centric culture.”

Canada's VersaBank turns to M&A for U.S. bank charter

VersaBank in London, Ontario, has agreed to buy Stearns Bank Holdingford in Holdingford, Minn.

The $2.1 billion-asset Canadian bank said in a press release that it will pay $13.5 million to Stearns Financial Services for the $60 million-asset Stearns. The deal is expected to close by Oct. 31. 

Stearns Financial would retain its Stearns Bank and Stearns Bank Upsala subsidiaries.

VersaBank said that buying Stearns, a national bank regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, would provide access to U.S. deposits and help it expand its receivable purchase program business. 

The deal is expected to be accretive to VersaBank’s earnings per share in the first year after closing.

"This acquisition represents a transformational next step in VersaBank's long-term growth strategy," David Taylor, the bank’s president and CEO, said in the release. 

“It has been a pleasure working with the team at [Stearns Financial] and we look forward to exploring future opportunities for collaborations to our mutual benefit," Taylor added. 

Raymond James & Associates; Davis Polk Wardell; and Chain Bridge Partners advised VersaBank.

Zions in Utah to eliminate, reduce NSF fees

Zions Bancorp. in Salt Lake City is the latest bank to rein in overdraft and nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees.

The $91 billion-asset company said in a press release that the changes, which will take place on July 13, include the elimination of a continuing overdraft fee and the end of NSF fees for items that are returned unpaid because of nonsufficient funds.

Zions plans to reduce the NSF fee by more than 20% for items that are paid. It will increase the overdraft cushion amount from $5 to $30. 

The company said the changes should save customers about $7.4 million in annual fees. 

The changes “will help us build better pathways to inclusion for those members of our community who currently are unbanked or underbanked due to concerns about overdraft fees in traditional financial institutions,” Scott Anderson, Zions’ president and CEO, said in the release. 

“Removing roadblocks for consumers who have historically been priced out of the banking system is an important step in our efforts to promote economic inclusion,” Anderson added.

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...