Slideshow 10 Who Had a Good Year in Banking

  • December 18 2013, 7:30am EST
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Increased regulatory pressure, lackluster economic growth and the end of the refinancing boom contributed to another challenging year for the industry, but the following 10 executives found ways to rise above the competition.

Johnny Allison, chairman, Home BancShares (HOMB)

Allison had been trying to buy rival Liberty Bancshares in Jonesboro, Ark., for close to a decade and this year he finally got the deal done. The acquisition nearly doubled the assets of Conway, Ark.-based Home, to $7.2 billion. It was a big a hit with investors to boot. Home's shares are up nearly 120% since the start of the year, after adjusting for a June two-for-one stock split.

Related Article: Community Banker of the Year: Home BancShares' Johnny Allison

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Chris Bauer, CEO, Anchor BanCorp (ANCB)

Bauer has been relentlessly trying to recapitalize Anchor since taking the helm of the struggling bank in 2009. His efforts finally paid off in 2013 when he raised $175 million from private equity and institutional investors. The infusion came only after the holding company declared bankruptcy to restructure its debt, but the upshot is that the Madison, Wis., bank is well capitalized for the first time since 2008 and is finally making money again.

Related Article: Wisconsin Bank Seeks Novel Rescue in Bankruptcy Court

Joseph DePaolo, CEO, Signature Bank (SBNY)

Signature has thrived in a down economy by wooing well-connected bankers from rival institutions. It's a strategy DePaolo has championed since he founded the New York City bank in 2001, and it worked to near-perfection in 2013, when the bank added 10 new teams, increased assets by more than 20% -- to more than $20 billion - and posted record profits every quarter.

Related Article: Community Banker of the Year: Signature Bank's Joseph DePaolo

Mitchell Feiger, CEO, MB Financial (MBFI)

Scale is paramount in the fragmented, fiercely competitive Chicago market, and MB Financial would gain substantial heft when it completes its deal for the $6 billion-asset Taylor Capital (TAYC). The deal would boost MB's assets to above $15 billion and, according to CEO Feiger, make the bank a more formidable player in lending to midsize businesses. "We believe that our resulting middle-market market share will be among the highest in the Chicago area," he said when the acquisition was announced in July.

Related Article: MB-Taylor Deal Could Provide Gust for M&A in Windy City

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Dan Henry, CEO, NetSpend

In five eventful years as NetSpend's CEO, Henry took the prepaid card issuer public, forged partnerships with the likes of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain and PayPal and dramatically increased the size of the company's distribution network. Apart from transforming NetSpend into one of the industry's true heavyweights, the moves paid off handsomely for shareholders - and Henry - when the company was sold to TSYS earlier this year for $1.4 billion. Henry remains NetSpend's CEO.

Related Article: NetSpend Deal Affirms Prepaid's Might

Simone Lagomarsino, CEO, Heritage Oaks Bancorp (HEOP)

Heritage Oaks was still reeling from losses on construction loans when Lagomarsino arrived in 2011. In less than two years she transformed the bank from laggard into high performer. The Paso Robles, Calif., bank, which lost a combined $30 million in 2009 and 2010, recently was relieved of a regulatory enforcement order. In August, Sandler O'Neill named it one of the industry's top-performing community banks, based on return on equity, earnings per share, credit quality and other metrics. Another sign of the bank's turnaround under Lagomarsino: In October, Heritage Oaks announced it was buying another community bank.

Related Article: Community Banker of the Year: Heritage Oaks' Simone Lagomarsino

Renaud Laplanche, CEO, Lending Club

The San Francisco company Laplanche founded in 2006 struck gold in May when it received $125 million in fresh capital from an investment group led by Google. Lending Club has also attracted business from bankers, who say they were impressed by its high-profile board - its directors include ex-Morgan Stanley chief John Mack and ex-White House economic advisor Lawrence Summers - and its evolving business model. Laplanche's plans for 2014 include an expansion into small-business lending and, quite likely, an initial public offering.

Related Article: Lending Club Courts Small Banks as Personal Loan Partners

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David Nelms, CEO, Discover Financial Services (DFS)

Even with its struggling Diners Club unit dragging down its overseas profits, Discover, led by David Nelms, is on a roll. Steady growth in its traditional card business, historically low delinquencies and double-digit growth in its fledgling student loan business added up to a record $1.8 billion profit in the first nine months of 2013. Meanwhile, its stock is up 33% over the past year -- yet some analysts argue that its shares are still undervalued.

Related Articles: Discover Aims to Fill Void in Home Equity Lending

Deferred-Interest Loans Face New Scrutiny

(Image: Bloomberg News)

John Stumpf, chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo (WFC)

Wells has had some black eyes related to its mortgage business, but the damage it suffered from the financial crisis is minimal compared with that of its big-bank counterparts. Among the Big 4 - the others being Citigroup (NYSE:C), Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - only San Francisco-based Wells can boast of record profits in each of the first three quarters of 2013 and a stock price that's hovering near an all-time, split-adjusted high. Stumpf even managed to win himself some friends among community banks during the year by writing a column in American Banker in which he urged policymakers to relax regulations on small banks.

Related Article: Wells Fargo's John Stumpf, the 2013 Banker of the Year

(Image: Bloomberg News)

Matt Wagner, CEO, PacWest Bancorp (PACW)

Wagner struck the year's biggest deal in July when Los Angeles-based PacWest announced that it was buying the commercial lender CapitalSource (CSE) for $2.3 billion. The deal would more than double PacWest's assets but, more significantly, it would vastly accelerate loan PacWest's loan growth, which had been languishing in the single digits. The market loved the deal, too. Since it was announced, PacWest's shares are up 31%.

Related Article: Banks Need to Break M&A Mold: Lessons of the PacWest Deal