Wehmer says the structure makes it easier to grow organically. "I can offer teaser rates at one bank, without cannibalizing what I already have in nearby markets," he explains. But while the banks all operate on the same system, and have a Wintrust subscript on the local brand, the company might not be attractive to a big-bank acquirer.
"Who's going to want to go through the process of collapsing all those charters?" Hovde asks. The structure is so distinctive, "a buyer wouldn't know how many customers they would lose by converting to a big-bank structure."
Wehmer clearly doesn't care. While he talks of his fiduciary obligation to consider offers, he's more concerned about leveraging civic pride to take on the big guys.
"We tell people the 'M' in BMO Harris stands for Montreal, the 'P' in PNC stands for Pittsburgh, Fifth and Third are two streets in Cincinnati," he says. "Our motto is, 'Bring it home, Chicago.' We'll see if it works."
John Engen is a freelancer. He is based in Minneapolis.