Are Some Banks Too Small to Survive?

by Jim Marous

With increasing regulatory capital requirements, declining interest margins, a greater need for investment in innovation and new competition, there are many in the industry who believe that smaller banks may have limited opportunity for growth in the future.

These pressures may lead to an acceleration of consolidation in the banking industry that impacts both small and mid-tier banks and results in a significantly reduced number of institutions in the future.

While attending both the BAI Payments Connect and CBA Live conferences in Phoenix last month, discussions often revolved around the heavy financial and organizational impact of new capital requirements and of regulatory compliance being faced by institutions of all sizes. It was also clear that the investment in advanced technology and the pace of innovation was creating a distinction between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. While there were some exceptions, this line of demarcation appeared to be defined by the size of organization.
The question I asked several industry thought leaders over the past couple weeks is whether smaller banks are in a position to survive given the massive industry changes on the horizon. While their responses varied regarding the chances of survival for today’s community bank (and smaller credit union), there was unanimity in their belief that smaller institutions must quickly adjust to the ‘new reality’ of increased capital requirements and regulatory pressures, a greater focus on revenue, and a need to innovate for an enhanced customer experience.
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