Strategic acquisitions blur the lines between regional and national banks.
This year’s Best US Regional Banks are growing with a focus on broadening services in their service areas. Innovative products and strategic acquisitions have helped many enter new markets and expand. In addition, these banks emphasize strong local banking experience with highly personalized services to connect with their respective communities more effectively.
With the combination of new cutting-edge banking services through digital channels and continued M&A activity, regional banks in the US are becoming less defined by their geographic footprint and increasingly blur the line between themselves and the larger national franchises.
With the announced $16 billion acquisition of Bank of the West, BMO Harris Bank (BMO) won the award for the Far West region as the transaction will dramatically expand the bank’s western market, particularly in California, which represents a 3% deposit share and 70% of Bank of the West’s $100 billion in total assets. The addition of 500 branches doubles BMO’s footprint in 32 states while adding 1.8 million clients, $56 billion in loans, and $89 billion in deposits.
To advance its technology and digital services, the bank is expanding its relationship with financial technology vendor FIS to transform its core banking systems to support US growth plans with the FIS Modern Banking Platform and improve convenience and efficiency while increasing digital offerings across its franchise. This builds on the bank’s progress with digital adoption, with active mobile users up 9% and digital retail sales up 15%.
Additionally, commercial clients have a range of digital services, including BMO Business Xpress, which creates greater efficiency by leveraging a single-system architecture in the US and Canada, and BMO Global Money for international funds transfer.
The bank’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies include its BMO Empower program, which deployed $2 billion of a $5 billion commitment to address key barriers faced by minority businesses and communities. BMO’s Climate Ambition involves a $300 million commitment to sustainable lending by 2025.
Already one of the largest regional banks, ranking fifth in assets and deposits, US Bancorp is the winner in the Great Lakes and Plains region, serving six of the seven states in the region. The bank’s range of digital capabilities is well-regarded as the bank was recognized as the top-ranked banking app nationally, according to analysis firms Forrester and Keynova Group. Digital adoption has been strong, with 80% of customers digitally active, 66% of loan sales conducted via digital channels and overall digital transactions representing 81% of total transactions.
US Bancorp is accelerating innovation and modernizing its technology infrastructure via various partnerships. The acquisition of PFM Asset Management for an undisclosed amount boosted the bank’s assets under management (AUM) to more than $400 billion from $125 billion. The acquisition of TravelBank, which provides expense and travel-management capabilities for midsize companies. The September 2021 purchase of MUFG Union Bank has bolstered the bank’s footprint in the West and has added 2 million customers with $100 billion in assets.
US Bancorp is now a digital asset custodian for institutional investment managers in the US and Cayman Islands, acting as a sub-custodian for bitcoin-technology company NYDIG and partnering with leading Bitcoin. Meanwhile, the bank has invested more than $39 billion in CSR and ESG initiatives since 2008. USB’s Access Commitment program continues to build on the $116 million it pledged in 2020.
PNC Bank, the Mid-Atlantic winner, has introduced numerous new offerings and improvements to its platforms. A few of the digital enhancements include greater efficiency when applying for mortgages, expanded Zelle capabilities with support for QR codes and real-time mobile account opening. The bank partnered with the financial data access provider Akoya to integrate 9 million PNC Bank customers into its network so they can securely share their financial data with applications without having to log in.
Commercial clients can access credit and payment capabilities via the bank’s Pinacle corporate online and mobile banking platform, which includes a cash forecasting feature that uses AI and machine learning to project clients’ liquidity and cash management needs. PNC Bank completed its acquisition of BBVA USA Bank in June 2021, which added more than 600 branches and 2.6 million customers spread across seven states. The bank is highly active in ESG and CSR initiatives, including a five-year, $20 billion commitment to finance environmental projects and an $88 billion Community Benefits Plan to empower lower-income communities.
Rhode Island-based Citizens Bank is rolling out innovative new products to provide greater flexibility for its clients and has earned the honor of the Best Bank in New England.
The bank offers commercial clients two ways to help make payroll funds available sooner to employees. Under its Earned Wage Access program, Citizens advances employee wages with reimbursement made by the company during the typical payroll cycle. The Green Deposits program lets corporate clients direct their cash reserves to support environmentally friendly companies. Citizens Bank’s digital transformation is ongoing and has seen active mobile users rise 15% in 2021 and by 36% since 2019.
The bank has pledged $500 million in lending to minority communities and extended more than $400 million in financing for US wind farms since 2015.
The bank has also expanded beyond its New England market by purchasing Investors Bancorp. The transaction added $27 billion in assets, $20 billion in deposits and 154 branches, primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In a separate deal, Citizens also acquired 80 East Coast branches from HSBC and its national online deposit business, which included $9 billion in deposits and more than $2 billion in loans.
Following its strategy of creating effective operating models for local banking brands and their management, Zions Bancorp is the winner for Best Bank in the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions for the successful results of its strategy. Zions is a consistent recipient of national and statewide customer survey awards, particularly in small and middle-market banking. It received 27 Greenwich Excellence Awards in 2021, reflecting the bank’s strong product offerings and service quality with small and midsized enterprise (SME) customers.
The Practice Pathways program, launched in 2021, focuses on lending and acquisition offerings for physicians, with a designated relationship manager to help clients acquire a medical practice.
Last year, Zions also updated its core IT infrastructure to improve operational efficiency, with a unified account opening platform that added improved customer experience and helps bring new products to market faster.
With a new user interface, the bank offers an effective consumer banking platform with an app rated seventh nationally, just behind its large universal bank competitors. At the same time, the bank’s Zip Mortgage feature processed 95% of mortgage applications digitally, which resulted in a 33% reduction in loan-approval turnaround time.
Additionally, Zions promotes financial inclusion and diversity with its OnBudget Banking program, a money management product and boosted its initiative to provide greater financing to women-and minority-owned small businesses.
With the merger integration of legacy BB&T and SunTrust platforms essentially complete, Truist Bank has launched new digital innovation initiatives to reshape its banking services, and won the title of Best Bank in the Southeast due to its extensive branch network and expanding product suite.
The bank’s transformation took a big step with the launch of its Innovation and Technology Center, a dedicated environment designed to jump-start the creation of new financial offerings using a cross-functional team approach.
Truist plans to launch its Truist One platform that will target the millennial and Gen-Z demographics. The offering will provide greater banking flexibility with access to credit and overdraft protection.
The bank also is strengthening its POS financing business with the acquisition of Service Finance, a national provider of POS financing offerings for the home-improvement industry. The purchase added 70 merchant sponsors and 15,000 dealers.
Truist’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion includes programs to increase access to capital for small businesses, provide essential community health care services, and create affordable housing. The bank pledged $60 billion for lending to low- and moderate-income borrowers and $40 million to support community development and financial institutions to fund racially and ethnically diverse small business owners. Truist also issued its first social bond, valued at $1.25 billion, to support investments in affordable housing.