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Banking John C. Asbury, Union’s Asbury


president and chief executive officer, says that, in addition to not only giving his bank an immediate and important retail presence in the Tide- water region, the Xenith deal also would create a larger,


more powerful Richmond-based commer- cial sales team and potentially lucrative new expertise in government contract financing in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.


Other Virginia community banks


recently involved in the mergers and acquisi- tions, either as buyers or sellers, include Portsmouth-based TowneBank, Richmond- based Franklin Federal, Chesapeake-based Monarch Bank, Tysons-based Cardinal Financial Corp., Richmond-based First Capital Bank, Reston-based Access Bank and Middleburg Bank.


Fewer but stronger? In looking at the slew of Virginia merg-


ers, Yeakel says the “impact on the banking community is: some good, some not so good … What is it saying about communities


if there are fewer banks, less competition, fewer banks in rural areas? We certainly see that as a negative. But in terms of the health of the banks, the large number of mergers has come about for a variety of reasons. Equals are merging to gain some economies of scale, to keep their branches open and things like that, so it’s not necessarily a negative for the community or for the banks, either.” The 2008-2009 financial crisis and


Whitehurst


recession resulted in weakened banks being rescued from collapse through mergers with stronger financial institutions. By contrast, today’s M&A surge is partly the result of a strengthening national and regional economy, says Bruce White- hurst, president and CEO of the Virginia Bankers Association.


“In the last year or two, the environment


has become a lot more favorable for banks to consider merging because bank performance has been better, bank stocks are trading at higher levels, the currency of the buyer has gotten stronger, the attractiveness of the


potential seller has gotten greater,” he says. In explaining their need to rapidly


increase in size, some banks have cited the heavy costs of federal regulation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and consumers’ ongoing demands for increasingly sophis- ticated banking technology platforms. But something more basic may be even more important in spurring M&A activity, Whitehurst says. “It comes down to the decision by


these two institutions that the sum of the parts is greater than their individual parts, and both will have a greater opportunity to perform,” he says. “At the end of the day they are in the business of performing for the sake of their shareholders.”


Redefining the model The $350 million Bank of Botetourt,


which serves customers along the Inter- state 81 corridor between Lexington and Roanoke, has seen a tenfold increase in assets without a single merger or acquisi- tion. G. Lyn Hayth III, the bank’s presi- dent and CEO, says mergers aren’t right for every bank.


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