Magazine article American Banker

Acquirer's IT Challenge: Blend in Sellers, Keep Innovation Going

Magazine article American Banker

Acquirer's IT Challenge: Blend in Sellers, Keep Innovation Going

Article excerpt

Byline: Bryan Yurcan

Stick to the playbook.

That's the best way to ensure the smooth integration of a newly acquired bank, said Sean O'Connell, the chief information officer of Bank of the Ozarks in Little Rock, Ark.

"It's not much different than what football teams do every Sunday: execute from a playlist," O'Connell said in an interview.

With M&A activity surging this year, the insights of -- and lessons learned by -- Bank of the Ozarks' information-technology team could be useful to many financial institutions. The $9.3 billion-asset bank has been an aggressive acquirer of late, buying six banks since the beginning of 2013. It announced two additional deals just weeks apart from each other this fall, agreeing to pay more than $400 million each for C1 Financial in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Community & Southern Holdings in Atlanta.

Developing the game plan for a conversion weekend takes months of planning among lots of people who hold repeated conference calls, O'Connell explained.

"So by the time we get to the execution process, everyone knows what they are doing," he said. "We map out every detail. And hopefully we don't have to call any audibles.

Constant communication involving as many stakeholders as possible -- not only the buyer and seller, but all their vendors, too -- is a necessity, O'Connell said. Those conversations must include even existing vendors that won't be retained by the combined bank.

"We ... make sure everyone is on the same page," he said.

The goal is more than simply integrating the machinery, but making sure the blended operations work even better than either predecessor did before.

"It's about how do we convert their success into our success so it's compounded," O'Connell said. "And ultimately we want to make this whole process going on internally as seamless for the customer. …

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