A pair of veteran bankers have started a new mergers and acquisitions advisory firm in New Orleans.

Kyle Waters and Andy Bower announced the creation of Loan Evaluation Services this week. The firm will provide independent loan portfolio reviews for community and regional banks that are planning to make acquisitions or have a need for third-party loan portfolio reviews. The firm's services include pre-merger loan portfolio evaluation, consumer and commercial loan underwriting, credit approval, loan compliance with state and federal laws, and money laundering.

The firm advised its first client in March, when the founders were market testing the idea, Waters said in an interview. By September, he said, they were making calls to various banks "primarily in Louisiana" and surrounding states. "I think there's a window of opportunity going on right now with M&A," Waters said.

The most important part of launching the company was recruiting, Waters said.

Waters recently was president and a director of OmniBank. He spent most of his 41-year banking career as a senior executive at the $22-billion asset Hibernia National Bank, where among other things he led its retail banking and guided teams that integrated and converted five acquired banks, according to a company release. Hibernia sold to Capital One in the mid-2000s.

Bower has been a banker for 42 years. He brings to the practice 10 years of experience in operating a consulting and performance evaluation practice in southern Louisiana for community banks with portfolios ranging from $50 million to $1 billion. He also worked for Guaranty Savings Bank in Metairie, La., and Florida National Bank in Jacksonville.

The rest of the team, Waters said, consists of seasoned bankers with at least 25 years of experience and complementary skills. The staff includes a Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager, a former national bank examiner and a certified anti-money laundering specialist. Collectively, the 10-member team has managed commercial, commercial real estate, business banking, retail, and professional and executive loan portfolios.

Banks that are acquiring other institutions, or are just considering such a move, "want to be sure they know what they're buying when talking to another bank," Waters said. Data suggest the accelerated pace of banking consolidation through mergers and acquisitions seen in 2014 is likely to continue in 2015 and beyond, he added. "And many of the deals yet to come are by community banks."

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