The financial industry is an ever-evolving industry dealing with constant regulatory adjustments, scrutiny, competition, etc. The financial industry is also one of the first industries to look toward for a current health report on an economy as well. Numerous factors impact the financial sector, such as changing customer behaviors, macroeconomic cycles, data protection legislation, political climate, etc.
M&A activity in the banking and finance industry has been on the rise in the last few years. This trend looks to continue as we head towards the end of 2019, and begin to take a peek around the corner in 2020.
Key Industry Trends
Look for M&A activity in the finance industry to continue to place a major focus on improving technology, product offerings, and overall customer satisfaction.
- At the base of much of the M&A activity, we currently see a technology arms race in the finance industry. Banks and financial institutions have identified a strong need to enhance their technological features, and this has become a focal point for M&A activity in this industry.
- One interesting factor to watch for as we move forward is the continued entrance of non-traditional players into the finance industry, commonly referred to as fintech. The fintech group is an emerging group that heavily utilizes technology to deliver financial services, unlike their more-traditional counterparts. Fintech disruptors are the technologically innovated companies that are competing head to head with the traditional financial methods we have grown accustomed to for years. As this relates to M&A activity in the finance industry, one might assume a combination of financial services and technology would make for an attractive acquisition or merger opportunity.
- Customer service remains a high priority for all banks and financial institutions. However, customer service can theoretically split into two parts: The first part involves people and relationships, which smaller banks tend to tout as an advantage over larger banks. The second part is more strategic, involving product offerings that will better keep customers satisfied. Larger banks tend to win out with more product offerings over their smaller counterparts based on economies of scale, and access to significantly more resources. M&A opportunities allowing a bank to enhance its product offerings is an attractive feature as well as acquiring talent and relationships through acquisition. For smaller banks and financial institutions that find it harder to keep up, being acquired by a larger bank may be an attractive strategy to explore as we look toward the future.
Debt Financing and Interest Rates
Lastly, M&A transactions typically involve some form of debt financing, which a lot of times will make up the majority of the cash at close. Interest, which is the cost to borrow money, can severely impact an M&A transaction from a funding perspective, and certainly an economy for that matter. Though they are trending higher, interest rates remain reasonable for the time being, and not far above historical standards.
It appears a significant portion of private equity firms are financing a large percentage of their M&A transactions with nonbank debt. In comparison, other groups are using cash reserves, which end up lowering the dependency on debt financing. A movement in valuations, rates, and funding could cause a shift either way in M&A activity, though for now, the environment appears stable. Should interest rates continue to rise, eventually causing equity market volatility, one would assume this would force buyers to focus on consolidating their strategic positions more than pursuing opportunistic acquisitions.
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