Acquire or Be Acquired: 2024 Takeaways

By Becki Drahota on February 27, 2024


Here are some key insights on the state of the financial industry.

Hi everyone!

Just got back from attending the Acquire or Be Acquired Conference (AOBA) and the following is a distillation of my notes from the conference. Major themes were using Positive Pay to attract new business accounts via a fraud protection theme, looking at deposits as a profit center, not just loan funding, and bringing in AI to dramatically improve efficiency.

2024 Economic Landscape


Unemployment: 4.2%
Fed Rate Change: 2 expected this year


Banking Landscape

  • The banking crisis of 2023 is over (every 15 years there is one) and 4,700 banks got it right.

  • In 2023 the Private Credit Industry grew by $1T.

  • In 2008, 8 of 10 mortgage originations were banks. Today, that percentage is 20%.

  • The industry is consolidating at 4%/year (very few new banks).

  • The gap between the number of banks and CUs has collapsed.

  • In 2023 there were 15 M&A deals.

  • 88% of US consumers use fintech apps.

  • 65% of US consumers use digital banking.

  • 18% of banks have the tools to serve Gen Z.

  • A New Lens: Today the bank is a thing, not a place.



Pie chart showing 80% of all small businesses is 1 person


Customer Acquisition Cost

Customer Acquisiton Cost Bar Chart








7 Deposit Tactics

  1. Make your relationship with your depositors your competitive advantage.
  2. Beef up your TMS staff, focus on Positive Pay to mitigate fraud, and incent lenders to help sell it.
  3. Connect (require) the deposit relationship with the loan.
  4. Don’t just think about deposits to fund loans, think of them as profit centers.
  5. Only 14% of businesses use debit cards, but the ones that do generate a lot of fees.
  6. Banks aren’t winning with free checking; it’s about getting your paycheck 2 days early.
  7. Don’t underestimate the value of a lot of little accounts.

AI Advice

The most important issue to address now is to establish an internal policy about your use of AI.

Next, make sure you’re developing AI to meet a specific strategy. Who do you want to be 5 years from now? What legacy processes are holding you back? (Ex. Getting data fast) How do you direct and re-direct resources to drive value?

Several speakers had the following suggestions: Start small, start simple. Automate the things you can’t do in person. 

Consider this example:

6.7M people in the financial industry earning an average of $70K/year = $½ billion of “people expense” in tellers and CSRs. AI can do programmed work at less than a penny per nanosecond.


One bank recommended using AI to consistently improve your Banking Security Act activities. Another reminds us:

“Embracing change doesn’t mean running headlong into it.”


“You don’t get fit looking at other people going to the gym.”

-Daragh Morrissey, Microsoft


Great question, great answer

Q: Why should we get into AI?

A: From Brian Moynihan, BofA Chair and CEO, “Because 180M users asked Erica, ‘What’s my routing number?’”


A little about BaaS ...

  • 64% of bankers said they are talking about it.
  • Consider what legacy processes you’re using that could hold you back.
  • Look at your customer base for customers who could benefit from BaaS.


And finally, here's the download on M&A:

  • If you don’t have an evergreen “ready” process, you will probably miss an “opportunity” acquisition.
  • Educate and inform your board on M&A benefits and challenges.
  • Be strategically exhaustive and specific about what you want from the transaction.
  • Banks that do deals well can achieve 4.5 times more shareholder return.
  • Know your “must haves” and non-negotiables.
  • Deal goals in today’s world: create a bank with a > 30% ROE and a < 30% efficiency ratio.


Favorite M&A Quote: Selling is a game of musical chairs. Make sure you have one.

(FYI: Customer attrition average is now 6-7%)


Favorite Quote:

“The most dangerous person in the room is the one who can be confidently wrong.”


Let me know if you want me to give you more detail!




Topics: INSIGHTS eNewsletter

About The Author
Becki Drahota

Becki started Mills Marketing in 1975, and she’s as immersed in the business today as when she opened the doors. Her excitement about working in an industry she believes in, with people she cares about, and clients who are smart and dedicated, is truly contagious. When not transforming data points into excellent solutions for Mills’ clients, Becki is speaking to bankers and directors nationwide, teaching leadership skills, and facilitating strategic plans.