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The Future is Now...Revisited Once More

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What’s in a Name?
With over a hundred Cyber-Grahams under my belt, it could be surmised that I am running out of creative titles; not so fast. I just believe that this title hits the mark on fours fronts: a robust economy and stock market; nose-bleed deal premiums; record-low loan losses, NPAs, and high capital levels; and a kinder, gentler regulatory environment. What more can we ask for?

Today’s Conference
At today’s CEO Brainstorming Conference, we bring together prominent bankers representing five states with banks ranging from $100 million in assets to over $10 billion in assets. We have three well-known federal and state banking regulators and four active investment bankers. This is quite a group assembled to discuss everything from Tax Reform to Banking in the Year 2020.

Why So Upbeat?
Well, I simply think it is the land of opportunity for proactive, forward-thinking banks. With continued consolidation in the industry, there are abundant opportunities to grow organically and/or by acquisition. With lower federal corporate tax rates, profits should be enhanced as well. Given the consolidation, this should create the opportunity to form new banks for the first time in about a decade. Capital should be available for existing banks that have solid growth plans and for new banks with sound business plans and entrepreneurial management teams.

All Is Not Without Challenges
Besides the obvious, such as dealing with ever-changing technology, the “digital wave,” cybersecurity risks, and new forms of competition, such as Fintech companies, perhaps the biggest challenge will be competing for talented people as the technology firms gobble up young talent. I call it the “brain drain.” This has to be a high priority for banks if they want to attract and retain qualified talent to help make their companies grow and prosper.

Appreciate the Moment
Let’s not forget that just a decade ago we endured a period of high economic risk and many of our banking brethren did not survive. While I am not forecasting a repeat episode, it would be foolish for all of us to be oblivious to the inevitable economic cycles that we have historically experienced. Nothing and no one stays at the top forever. However, and because of that realization, we should all savor the present conditions while still planning thoughtfully for the future.