Slideshow Editors' Picks: The Best of American Banker 2015

Published
  • January 08 2016, 4:00pm EST
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A compilation of the year's favorite stories, as selected by the people who assigned and edited them.

<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/law-regulation/are-fantasy-sports-sites-a-money-laundering-haven-1077178-1.html" target="_blank">Fantasy Sports, Anti-Money-Laundering Rules and Derisking</a>

"After a glut of ads for daily fantasy sports, some in the industry began to wonder if the companies might prove to be a money laundering risk. 'Everyone is watching this industry,' said one attorney who represents the gaming industry. Ian McKendry's article warned that banks and financial companies could soon be caught up in the fray. Just over a month after the story was published, that's exactly what happened. A class action was filed in New York in November against some of the biggest names in retail banking -- and many predict banks will soon think twice about keeping daily fantasy sports firms as clients."

– Rob Blackwell, Washington bureau chief

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<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/dealmaking-strategy/the-fine-line-between-justifying-m-1077853-1.html" target="_blank">The Fine Line Between Justifying M&A Deals and Ruining Them</a>

"The pace of bank consolidation accelerated in October, but investors were skeptical of ambitious cost-cutting expectations set by buyers such as KeyCorp and New York Community Bancorp. The concern, as pointed out in this article by M&A writer Jackie Stewart, is that when merger activity turns frothy, buyers often overpromise to justify their deals. The CEOs of KeyCorp and New York Community will face close scrutiny next year as they attempt to deliver on their expense-management goals."

– Paul Davis, community banking editor


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/national-regional/want-more-female-ceos-then-put-more-women-on-boards-1076794-1.html" target="_blank">Want More Female CEOs? Then Put More Women on Boards</a>

"C-suites at public companies still remain overwhelmingly male and a growing number of women are coming around to the idea that real change starts in the boardroom, bankers and diversity advocates like Helena Morrissey [pictured] told writer Alan Kline. Studies show that companies with higher percentages of females on their boards tend to have a higher-than-average number of female corporate officers. A more diverse board will also make better decisions that affect not just the bottom line, but also the company's reputation, standing with employees and its stature in the communities it serves."

– Dean Anason, managing editor


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/bank-technology/the-limits-of-disruption-in-banking-1076871-1.html" target="_blank">The Limits of Disruption in Banking</a>

"You go to banking conferences now and it's all 'innovation this, disruption that.' It's absolutely the right spirit but the challenges posed by legacy systems are going to make any kind of modernization or transformation complicated, to say the least. Robert Barba provides a broad, richly detailed overview of those challenges in this article, which was a key component of American Banker's blockbuster FinTech Forward report."

– Marc Hochstein, editor in chief

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Auto Lending and the CFPB

"Rachel Witkowski reviewed hundreds of pages of internal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau documents to deliver four hard-hitting stories that examined how the agency was supervising the auto lending industry. She delivered a scoop on the CFPB's negotiations with the financing arms of Honda, Toyota and Nissan over allegations of discriminatory practices. And she followed it up with three articles in a series delving deeper into the CFPB's methodology for determining discrimination, why it considered using enforcement actions rather than rulemaking to reshape the industry, and its decision to employ an outside consultant who also provided advice to big banks."

– Rob Blackwell, Washington bureau chief


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/bank-technology/fintech-glasnost-why-us-banks-are-opening-up-apis-to-outsiders-1075284-1.html" target="_blank">Fintech Glasnost: Why U.S. Banks Are Opening Up APIs to Outsiders</a>

"Banks opening their application programming interfaces to outsiders will likely be a key driver in the way banks and fintech disruptors will work together in the future, according to this informative column by Editor at Large Penny Crosman. By sharing the APIs with outsiders, banks are signaling a willingness to work with others, rather than limiting innovation to what they can do inside. Customers should also benefit from the open APIs, because it means faster and more secure communication between the fintech companies and banks."

– Robert Barba, technology editor


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/national-regional/how-one-major-bank-got-a-pass-on-the-feds-stress-tests-1077836-1.html" target="_blank">How One Major Bank Got a Pass on the Fed's Stress Tests</a>

"The Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to end the regulatory advantages that came from holding a thrift charter, but this close look at USAA shows otherwise. It is the lone savings and loan holding company with more than $50 billion in banking assets that qualifies for a little-noticed loophole established by the Federal Reserve in 2013, Kevin Wack pointed out. The company's leg up is 'the residue of a jury-rigged regulatory system, built layer upon layer over several decades, to the point where no one can offer a rational explanation for it.'"

– Dean Anason, managing editor

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<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/law-regulation/inside-the-black-box-of-the-feds-stress-test-1073014-1.html" target="_blank">Shedding Light on One of the Fed's Great Mysteries</a>

"Speaking of stress tests ... Ahead of the 2015 round of Federal Reserve stress tests, American Banker set out to provide more specifics about how the tests are developed and graded. In a two-part series, reporter John Heltman went inside the 'black box"' of the stress test to provide new details about their management, and a day later he shed new light on how the process has reshaped banking regulation."

– Rob Blackwell, Washington bureau chief


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/community-banking/energy-slump-makes-strange-bedfellows-of-banks-pe-1075991-1.html" target="_blank">Energy Slump Makes Strange Bedfellows of Banks, PE</a>

"Banks and private equity have alternated between friends and foes in the past, but their interests have aligned when it comes to solving issues tied to the longstanding energy slump, this article by Kristin Broughton explained. Cash-strapped energy firms have been able to sell assets to private-equity firms, providing much-needed cash to pay down troubled loans at a time when the banking industry has been looking for ways to trim its exposure to energy sector. 'One of the things that's different about this cycle … is that private equity has shown up in a big way,' Kevin Hanigan, chief executive at LegacyTexas Bank in Plano, said during a conference earlier this year."

– Paul Davis, community banking editor


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/consumer-finance/hr-in-charge-of-stress-testing-not-as-crazy-as-it-sounds-1075670-1.html" target="_blank">HR in Charge of Stress Testing? Not as Crazy as It Sounds</a>

"This was a corporate head-scratcher and delicate topic rolled into one news event. Bank of America said last summer that Andrea Smith, its head of human resources, would eventually take control of the bank's stress-test submissions. That assignment, part of her elevation to chief administrative officer, sparked questions about whether HR is the right background for a job normally given to a chief risk officer or chief financial officer – see the puzzled commentary on social media embedded in the story. Yet no one wanted to inadvertently imply that such an important post was a man's work. Veteran writer Kate Berry systematically analyzed the topic, pointing out that while some reasonable questions existed given the seemingly unlikely match between HR and modeling economic disasters, today's human-resources professionals are not the benefits chiefs of old, as they know how to marshal data, oversee big budgets and build a culture of compliance."

– Dean Anason, managing editor

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<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/bank-technology/why-these-ex-bankers-bailed-for-tech-startups-1073291-1.html" target="_blank">Why These Ex-Bankers Bailed for Tech Startups</a>

"Mary Wisniewski profiled several bankers who fled the banking industry to become fintech entrepreneurs and join fintech startups. They shared some of the benefits of going from one world to the other, such as the freedom to think more creatively and dream bigger, but there are unquestionable challenges, too: the lack of deposit funding, the need in some cases to apply for licenses in multiple states, and the firm constraints that come – at least for the time being – with young companies' limited revenue and profits."

– Joe Adler, co-editor of BankThink


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/community-banking/how-vietnam-experience-shaped-two-bankers-careers-1077799-1.html" target="_blank">How Vietnam Experience Shaped Two Bankers' Careers</a>

"This feature, timed for Veterans Day, provided an important reality check for readers caught up in their everyday work lives. It profiled bankers Salvatore Marranca (left) and Garrett Richter, who as youths served in the military during the Vietnam War and later found success in the banking world. Their stories couldn't have been in better hands than those of writer John Reosti, who is literally and figuratively a 'veteran' banking reporter. His eye for human-interest stories and sensitivity gained from his own overseas military service guided him to ask the right questions and to understand the answers. The result was a compelling read about how two young men who went to war far away, found an avenue back into society through banking, yet were forever changed. 'It made me stronger,' Marranca said. 'I learned about life, determination, certainly teamwork.'"

– Dean Anason, managing editor


<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/law-regulation/regulatory-concerns-strain-bank-fintech-relationship-1076951-1.html" target="_blank">Regulatory Concerns Strain Bank-Fintech Relationship</a>

"As new players come into the banking sector, the old guard is becoming increasingly worried. That is clear in Joe Adler’s article on the quiet lobbying war between banks and fintech companies. On the one side, banks want the new players regulated in the same manner they are, warning that it is creating an uneven playing field. But fintech companies contend bankers are just trying to protect their turf and claim more regulations will squash innovation. Expect to see this battle become even hotter in 2016."

– Rob Blackwell, Washington bureau chief

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<a href="http://www.americanbanker.com/news/law-regulation/is-dodd-frank-really-killing-community-banks-1076157-1.html" target="_blank">Is Dodd-Frank <em>Really</em> Killing Community Banks?</a>

"Sen. Marco Rubio's comment during the first debate among GOP presidential contenders that the Dodd-Frank Act was 'eviscerating' community banks sparked a debate over whether that was really happening. Reporter Victoria Finkle dove past the political rhetoric to try and definitively answer the question in an article widely cited by other media after its publication."

– Rob Blackwell, Washington bureau chief


Banking and Data Privacy

"Read these three columns by Editor at Large Penny Crosman, then quit staring at my tinfoil hat."

– Marc Hochstein, editor in chief