More banks are pursuing nonbank acquisitions as they hunt for new sources of income at a time when rock-bottom interest rates are suppressing revenue from lending. Though traditional merger-and-acquisition activity has picked up of late, some banks are steering clear of buying other banks, instead eyeing deals for asset managers, insurance firms and other businesses that generate the bulk of their income from fees. United Community Banks in Blairsville, Georgia, for example, this month agreed to buy FinTrust Capital Partners, an investment advisor in Greenville, South Carolina, in a deal that will more than double its assets under management. These types of acquisitions are not new, but banks are clearly interested in doing more of them in an effort to boost profits.
When you put your money in a savings account, it doesn't just sit there waiting for you when you need it. Banks are actively investing that money to finance other ventures to keep growing their funds. What they put your money in might not always be super clear—and different banks have different reasons for investing. But, in general, many of them are still bankrolling fossil fuels, despite the industry's impacts on the health of people and the planet. Well-established green banking option are Atmos, National Cooperative Bank, and Southern Bancorp. Mighty Deposits also has a detailed resource with tons of options, and Green Deposits has a tip sheet on the how-tos of moving your money.
When Black Lives Matter protests spread across the nation last year, many banks responded with splashy pledges to do better, in part by hiring and promoting more people of color. Now some of those banks are tying executive pay to certain diversity and inclusion metrics. A recent analysis of 60 companies' executive pay packages suggests that more banks are incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion factors into executive pay decisions this year than in the past. While the details can vary from bank to bank, the basic intent is still the same: if diversity is going to play a more prominent role in the business strategy, then banks need to hold executives accountable for those efforts, and pay is one way to do that.
To address the racial wealth gap resulting from institutional racism and under-investment in Black communities, social entrepreneur Tim Lampkin started Higher Purpose Co. in 2016. Now his team supports a vibrant and growing membership of Black entrepreneurs, farmers, and artists across the Mississippi who, together, are shifting economic outcomes of Black communities in a sustained way. Forbes spoke to Tim about how he and HPC are reimagining loan collateral and business funding and creating community wealth, plus new developments on the horizon.
Banks are becoming more aware of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, issues, but some still struggle with how to accurately report data or tell their story on these issues. During a panel discussion at an S&P Global Market Intelligence community banking virtual conference, bankers said they were paying more attention to ESG issues because of demand from communities, investors and boards of directors. But even though banks are feeling more pressure to report ESG progress, a lack of streamlined data points can create challenges. A poll during the panel showed respondents pointed to lack of resources and education, along with difficulty measuring environmental and social progress, as the biggest challenges to putting together ESG programs.
As bank CEOs serving side by side in local markets, we strive to create wealth, share risk and meet the financial needs of the entire community. We understand that our organizations exist to serve customers and we grow when access to the financial pie expands to include everyone. When groups and neighborhoods do not have access to the financial system it affects all of us. Last fall, our teams began a dialogue through a series of conference calls. The goal: to spur economic activity in communities where access to the financial system has historically been limited. Both of our banks — Regions Bank in Birmingham, Alabama, and Commonwealth National Bank in Mobile, Alabama — have resources that, leveraged appropriately, could create better outcomes. The ultimate result of those conversations is a greater understanding of how our institutions operate, the shared challenges we face, and a partnership intended to strengthen our communities and our own institutions in the process.
Robert James II, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Carver State Bank, testified to the House Committee on Small Business on May 18. The hearing was convened to introduce Members of Congress to CDFIs and MDIs and to discuss the impact these institutions make in their communities, especially with respect to supporting local entrepreneurs. Mr. James' testimony begins around the 30:40 mark.
A white loan applicant and Black loan applicant each walked into a D.C.-area bank. But there's little humor to their outcomes — what one walked out with was far different from the other, per a study last year done at the height of the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program. It was in early in the second round of PPP funding, which started April 27, 2020. Both applicants were seeking information on the crucial forgivable loans that were keeping so many small businesses alive through the pandemic. Yet, the Black applicant was told by a local bank representative that no PPP information could be provided and was instead referred to another branch. The white applicant? Got a recommendation for a business line of credit and instructions on how to apply for a business credit card with the bank — a "great option," the bank representative said. City First Bank is mentioned.
The past 12 months were interesting for publicly traded companies, including those based in Mississippi. Nine of the top public companies on the Mississippi Business Journal's 15 top public companies list are banking institutions. M. Ray (Hoppy) Cole, president/CEO of The First, A National Banking Association headquartered in Hattiesburg, is also positive. “Our company performed extremely well during 2020, which is a testament to the commitment by our team members to focusing on client service and being nimble; that is being able to change quickly to maintain our high level of service,” he said. “We had a good year with solid asset growth, significantly improved earnings and strong credit quality metrics.”
Central Bank of Kansas City (CBKC) has supported small businesses and individuals for over 70 years. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the locally owned bank has supported its community by administering Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, feeding senior citizens, supporting local classrooms and sharing financial education resources. Since 1998, CBKC has been proud to be a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). The CDFI Fund is a U.S. Treasury initiative to increase economic opportunity and promote community development investments for underserved populations and in distressed communities.