Simmons Bank CEO discusses growth environment, says Dodd-Frank could be altered not repealed

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 476 views 

With three bank acquisitions announced in the last two months, Simmons First is up to its eyeballs in opportunity. George Makris, chairman and CEO of the Pine Bluff-based bank, said while the latest moves put his financial firm around $13.5 billion in assets, he expects to reach $20 billion in the next 3-5 years.

Where will the growth come from?

“We do expect substantial organic growth, as you probably have seen in the last two quarters. I phrase it like this, we’re learning to be a bigger bank,” said Makris, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics. “We have a bigger balance sheet, that means that our loan sizes can increase some customers that we were not able to service because we were too small. Now we can. We’re starting to get that traction in the market today.”

Makris said the two latest bank deals – one in Oklahoma and one in Texas – are in high growth markets with a vast opportunity to provide new services to existing customers.

“If you’ll take a look at their demographics and opportunities that we have in the diverse economies that they represent, we would expect those entities by themselves to grow double digits over the next five to 10 years. So organically, we will eat up a lot of that difference between the $13.5 billion and $20 billion. But we also continue very healthy discussions with other merger partners. We don’t expect any of those to materialize until 2018, at the earliest, but a combination of organic growth and some other good merger partners could easily put us at $20 billion in three to five years,” he said.

With a new president committed to loosening regulations on a variety of business interests, many bankers who have opposed the Dodd-Frank law are hoping for a repeal or major changes. The law, which was instituted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, has been a big target of bankers. Makris said the law isn’t likely to be repealed in its entirety, but should see changes.

“It just needs to be altered. I think to repeal Dodd-Frank in its entirety is probably an unrealistic expectation, but there are some things that went too far in Dodd-Frank,” Makris said. “We are human, and as long as a human element is in banking, we’re not going to be perfect. And some of the regulations that are written, require us to be, if not perfect, very close to perfect. And I’m talking about really some consumer protection regulations that have very little flexibility.”

Watch Makris’ full interview in the video below.