Some regional banks became top performers by out-pacing their peers on loan growth, others by pursuing diverse sources of fee income. But core deposit growth might be the best indicator of which banks will have true staying power in the years ahead.

Low interest rates and a still tough regulatory environment kept net interest margins largely flat last year, but as rates inch up, banks of all sizes are going to be increasingly hungry for core deposits, said Kevin Halsey, a consultant with Capital Performance Group.

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