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An investment bank cautioned Bank of the Ozarks that its target, Bank of the Carolinas, was in talks with another suitor and "did not wish to jeopardize that transaction," a filing disclosed. The Arkansas acquirer pushed on and ended up walking away with the deal less than two months later.

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A growing number of banks employ chief marketing officers who manage multimillion-dollar budgets and are involved in high-level corporate decision-making. The pressure's on to come up with creative ways to differentiate their brands and connect with customers.

Deals are still getting done in California, even though water issues continue to plague the state's economy. Still, buyers are finding themselves conducting more extensive due diligence to vet the markets and loan concentrations of targets.

The Salt Lake City company is targeting an efficiency ratio more in line with other regional banks by closing branches and finding ways to boost revenue. Zions hopes its efforts will reduce annual pretax expenses by $120 million by 2017.

More lenders of all types are taking an interest in factoring, or buying a company's receivables, as they fight for commercial clients. But the business is forbidding for new entrants: it's dominated by a handful of large companies, with intense competition from smaller nonbanks, and is closely tied to the volatile retail-sales market.

Aside from shoestring budgets, the biggest problem for many community banks is that their marketing programs have gone stale, experts say. For too many, marketing remains bounded by three time-worn pillars: advertising, direct mail and public relations.

The Fed finalized a rule increasing an asset-size threshold that lets smaller banks finance deals with up to 75% in debt. That benefit, along with an exemption from Basel III capital rules, could prompt some bankers to second-guess short-term growth as they weigh their options.

The South Carolina bank has been shedding assets in recent months after suffering millions of dollars in losses in recent years. The bank ousted its management team last year due to poor financial performance and conflicts with investors.

The company announced its second deal in Florida, a state that has been difficult for other out-of-state banks to enter.

A small Austin, Texas, bank, formerly called Libertad, had to abandon its initial plan to target unbanked Hispanics. But it has made the most of its second chance by finding a niche in lending to real estate investors. Now it's looking to diversify.

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