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Walt Moeling Always Has a Story

March 3, 2017

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The February/March 2017 edition of Banking Exchange contains a lengthy interview between Bank Exchange’s Executive Editor, Steve Cocheo, and our own Walt Moeling.  Framed in the context of seven questions asked of Walt, the interview does a great job illustrating Walt’s use of stories to prove a point.

Talking to banking attorney Walter Moeling about an organization that forbade talk about mergers and acquisitions—because it may make folks unhappy—leads to his gentle scoff: “There’s nobody involved in banking who is not interested in mergers.”

And then, in typical Moeling fashion, a short point brings him to a story. Walt Moeling always has a story—nearly always with a point or moral for the listener to let sink in.

“I was called upon to do a board session, a strategic planning meeting. I told the CEO I was going to talk about mergers. ‘Oh, you don’t need to do that,’ he told me. ‘My board isn’t interested in mergers.’

“I told the CEO, ‘If I’m going to talk about strategy, I’m going to talk about M&A. You can’t plan a strategy without knowing where you are heading.’”

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Parents, not Banks, Should Aim For Empty Nests

I recently happened to find myself among a group of young professionals who had grown up in the same rural area of Georgia, but had dispersed to not only different parts of the state, but also different parts of the country and even at times, the world. At some point in the evening, it became the topic of conversation that one of the members of this group still banked at his hometown community bank despite no longer living there and spending almost a decade traveling the world. His childhood friends were shocked, uttering things like “Wait, you still bank there?” and “Isn’t it time you leave the nest?”

As someone who did not grow up in Georgia and thus was an outsider to the conversation, I really began to think about this. Why should you have to leave the bank you’ve grown up with and trusted for years just because you have left the proverbial nest?

Admittedly, when I left for college, it was before the advent of mobile banking and federal preemption of interstate branching restrictions. When I moved out of state I was forced to switch banks so that I could actually deposit checks and bank efficiently. However, legislative changes, combined with drastic changes in technology, have eliminated the necessity for young adults to switch banks when they move away from home.

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IPO Market for Closed-End Funds Poised for Serious Rebound

It’s clear to anyone paying attention that the market for initial public offerings of closed‑end funds has fallen off dramatically over the last few years.  Undoubtedly, the primary cause of this fall off has been the gaping average trading discount of existing closed‑end funds (i.e., on average these funds have been trading at steep discounts to net asset values).  That made it difficult, if not a practical impossibility, for asset managers to sell shares of a new closed-end fund when investors could simply purchase shares of a similar, existing closed-end fund at a significant discount.

Also contributing somewhat to this fall off has been the relative increase in the cost of leverage as a result of the phasing in of new capital rules for banks.  Many closed-end funds employ leverage to deliver additional returns to investors; these increased costs (which correspondingly reduce returns to investors) have made it incrementally more difficult for asset managers looking to launch new closed-end funds to make their case to investors.

On top of all of this, according to many industry observers the so-called “fiduciary rule” (finalized on April 6, 2016) would make it nearly impossible for financial advisors to recommend to investors that they purchase shares of a closed‑end fund at the IPO stage.  The key problem for closed-end fund IPOs under the fiduciary rule is not necessarily inherent; it arises out of the fact that, at times, while many closed-end funds trade at a premium at and shortly after the initial offering, thereafter they begin to trade at a discount.  This can have the effect of creating at best a short-term paper loss, and at worst a short-term actual loss, for investors.

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Selling Your Mission to Shareholders

Selling Your Mission to Shareholders

February 27, 2017

Authored by: Robert Klingler

the-bank-accountOn Friday, February 24, 2017, Jonathan sat down with our colleague, Kevin Strachan, to discuss ideas for banks to highlight community involvement in their shareholder meetings.  As mentioned during the podcast, I had the pleasure of judging the next generation of transactional lawyers at a LawMeets competition hosted by Emory Law School, but I enjoyed consuming this podcast as a listener.

Before diving into shareholder engagement, Jonathan and Kevin also comment briefly on the leaked Hensarling memo on version 2.0 of the Choice Act, and some of the “interesting” banking ideas expressed by Bruce Cahan, adjunct professor at Stanford University, on a recent American Banker podcast episode.

On this episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and Kevin touch on some excellent examples of shareholder engagement, including:

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BankBryanCave Version 2.0

BankBryanCave Version 2.0

February 23, 2017

Authored by: Robert Klingler

Brickman Cleans Up!Over the last several weeks, we’ve updated the BankBryanCave.com site to a new design, new hosting service and new e-mail subscription service.  The updates have been long overdue, and should help us continue to provide interesting and useful content.  As expected, the site redesign also engendered lots of internal conversation and renewed interest in the platform.  Accordingly, I hope that the next weeks and months will continue to provide new voices and new perspectives on issues affecting community bankers.

As with the industry as a whole, we are eagerly awaiting upcoming regulatory relief and changes.  Although the changes will hopefully reduce the regulatory burden for many, change is never easy, and we intend to address what community banks will need to do to adjust to those changes.  We also expect that the market for de novo banks will continue to add steam.  With several clients looking at filing de novo applications, we hope to share successes (and tidbits to learn from mistakes) with others.

New Mailing Service

One of the items I’m most happy about (yes, I live a strange life) is a new service to handle our e-mail updates from BankBryanCave.  For those already subscribed, you should receive duplicate copies with this blog post, one from webmaster@bankbryancave.com that looks like the old alerts, and a new alert from communications@bankbryancave.com.  We’re then going to be turning off the old e-mail service, so you shouldn’t have to take any action.  I apologize in advance for the duplicate e-mails, but felt that was the best way to ensure that the new system is working before we turn off the old one!  If you run into any problems, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Robert.Klingler@bryancave.com.  For those interest in getting e-mail alerts whenever a new post is made, subscribe to the blog. You can select to receive alerts immediately, only once a day, or only once a week (or all three, if you just can’t get enough!).

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Impact of Proposed “Regulatory Off-Ramp” for Community Banks

A key component of the proposed roadmap for Republican efforts to provide regulatory relief is based on reduced regulatory burdens in exchange for holding higher capital levels.  Specifically, Title I of the proposed Financial Choice Act, as modified by Representative Hensarling’s “Choice Act 2.0 Changes” memo of February 7, 2017, proposes to provide significant regulatory relief for institutions that maintain an average leverage ratio of at least 10 percent.

The principal concepts of this “regulatory off-ramp” have, so far, remained relatively constant since first published by the House Financial Services Committee in June of 2016; any institution that elects to maintain elevated capital ratios (set at a 10% leverage ratio) would enjoy exemptions from the need to comply with certain other bank regulatory requirements.

Choice 2.0

In February 2017, Jeb Hensarling, Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, indicated that the “regulatory off-ramp” included in the proposed 2017 legislation would differ in two critical aspects from the 2016 proposed legislation.

First, the regulatory off-ramp would be based solely on the banking organization’s leverage ratio and would not consider the organization’s composite CAMELS rating.  Originally, the legislation limited eligible institutions to those that possessed a composite two CAMELS rating.  This change eliminates a subjective element to the regulatory off-ramp, but may also highlight that banking regulators would retain a wide array of tools to address institutions with substandard CAMELS ratings, regardless of their capital levels.

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Roundtable on the Future of Retail Banking

the-bank-accountOn Friday, February 10, 2017, Jonathan and I sat down with our partners, Jim McAlpin, head of Bryan Cave’s Financial Services practice, and Dan Wheeler, head of Bryan Cave’s Fintech practice, to discuss the impact of financial technology on retail banking.  Like branching strategies, there isn’t necessarily one universally correct strategy with how community banks should address financial technology, but ignoring fintech completely is unlikely to be a viable long-term strategy.

On this episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan, Jim, Dan and I explore some possible approaches for addressing fintech, and relay some of the reactions that we’ve heard from successful community banks.

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Core Principles for Financial Regulation

On February 3, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order setting forth his administration’s core principles for the regulation of the U.S. financial system.  While generally touted as the administration’s first affirmative steps to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act, the executive order actually does little to implement any immediate change but says a lot about the overall framework by which the Trump Administration intends to approach financial regulation.

In addition to standard executive order boilerplate, the executive order sets forth two specific actions.  First, it establishes the “principles of regulation” that the administration will look at in evaluating regulations.

Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of my Administration to regulate the United States financial system in a manner consistent with the following principles of regulation, which shall be known as the Core Principles:

(a) empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;

(b) prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;

(c) foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk and market failures, such as moral hazard and information asymmetry;

(d) enable American companies to be competitive with foreign firms in domestic and foreign markets;

(e) advance American interests in international financial regulatory negotiations and meetings;

(g) restore public accountability within Federal financial regulatory agencies and rationalize the Federal financial regulatory framework.

Notwithstanding partisanship biases, I think most of these principles express ideas that most Americans could support, even if some would say there are additional principles (such as protecting consumers) that might also be relevant.  Even with some “norms” going out the window, I think everyone should be able to get behind the concept that our financial regulations should seek to “prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts.”  If nothing else, the Core Principles reflect generally mainstream Republican views of the goals (and implied limitations) of federal regulations.

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Acquire or Be Acquired 2017 Takeaways

the-bank-accountJoining everyone else, we offer our takeaways from BankDirector’s 2017 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, but we think we might be the first/only podcast recap of AOBA! Bryan Cave’s head of Financial Services, Jim McAlpin, joins Jonathan and me in a free ranging discussion of the conference in Episode 10 of The Bank Account.

Specific topics include some thoughts on KBW’s opening remarks, comments on the investor panel and keynote speech from US Bank’s Richard Davis, a discussion of the future of community banks and fintech, and a recap of the M&A simulation run in connection with FIG Partners at AOBA. We also get in a few Super Bowl LI predictions, in expectations that our hometown Atlanta Falcons will Rise Up!

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

You can also follow-us on Twitter for updates between podcast episodes @RobertKlingler and @hightowerbanks.

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CFPB Customer Complaint Data: Seeing What the Plaintiffs’ Bar Sees

CFPB watchers know that since 2013 customer complaints have been solicited and complaint data has been made available on the CFPB website. January is ubiquitous with New Year’s resolutions (perhaps you’ve already broken all of yours, but hopefully not). It is a great time to review the 2016 customer complaint data and see what the Plaintiffs’ Bar sees about your customers and your institution.

Undoubtedly, in due course, the CFPB has contacted your compliance and legal teams directly about these consumer complaints on an individualized basis. And undoubtedly, you have investigated the issue and provided responsive information to the CFPB and the consumer. Hopefully, each individual customer complaint matter is resolved and closed.

As a class action litigator, however, it is important to highlight that there is more here than just each individual complaint. We are living in an age of big data. The CFPB knows it. Your institution knows it. And, guess what, the Plaintiffs’ Bar knows it. The individual complaints posted to the CFPB database may be only the tip of the iceberg, or the issues may not have been fully resolved.

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