On September 23, 2021, Bank Leumi USA announced its intent to merge with Valley National Bank. Jeff Watts (pictured), Southeast Region Market President for Bank Leumi USA, recently discussed what the merger means for clients, prospective clients and talent in the state of Florida.
Tell us about the Leumi and Valley merger and what it means for corporate banking in Florida?
Leumi’s planned merger with Valley marks a significant milestone for our collective growth journeys and represents a tremendous opportunity for clients, prospective clients, and employees of both organizations.
Through the merger, our combined banks will become a top 30 bank in the country by assets with roughly $55B and will cement us as one of the leading relationship-driven commercial banks in the nation.
This creates a great opportunity for our clients to benefit from the scale and capabilities of a top bank while still receiving the same relationship-focused service and expertise they have come to know and trust. Simply put – with this merger, we will become large enough in terms of capital and capabilities to serve businesses of all sizes in Florida, but it won’t feel large with how we execute and engage with business owners and executive teams.
Another unique element of this merger is the very strong alignment between our corporate cultures. I felt the similarities between our cultures from day one when I first met Valley’s Leadership Team and Bankers, and I know my Leumi colleagues and clients will experience the same.
Leumi and Valley both have a strong presence in the Florida market – how will that change?
Bank Leumi’s capabilities are extremely complementary to Valley’s existing successful business operations across the state of Florida. We expect Leumi’s highly competitive and successful C&I Corporate, Trade Finance, Healthcare, Private Banking (Domestic & International) and Tech business lines to balance nicely with Valley’s very strong Retail, Business Banking, SBA, Commercial Banking and Commercial Real Estate businesses in Florida. Combining our business strengths will provide the opportunity for us to more fully serve the needs of the business communities throughout the entire state of Florida.
What can clients or prospective customers expect from the merger?
First and foremost, both Valley and Leumi are 100% committed to ensuring that our clients enjoy the same trusted relationships and overall service experience – including working with the same banking team.
Our Corporate clients and prospective clients will also be able to enjoy a larger balance sheet to support their senior debt capital requirements. And additionally, we will also eventually be able to offer clients additional products, services, and offerings from the Valley line-up to better fulfill their financial needs – both business and personal.
More often than not, Corporate businesses outgrow smaller financial institutions, and they also prefer a more intimate banking relationship than many of the national banks tend to offer. We fill that particular gap in a very meaningful and value-added manner.
What does the merger mean for banking talent in Florida?
The merger represents a significant growth opportunity not only for the Bank but for our existing Bankers as well as new talent we may bring onboard. While Leumi has definitely attracted impressive talent over the last several years, since the merger announcement we’ve seen a significant increase in interest from some really great Bankers. In fact, we just recently hired Fernando Mesia, a seasoned 25-year C&I Corporate Banker to help further expand our portfolio in Miami-Dade County.
In my view, top tier C&I Corporate Bankers, Treasury, Credit and Portfolio Management professionals see the potential of the platform that the combined institution will bring to the Florida marketplace. The opportunity to deliver thoughtful and relevant solutions to this business segment under a local delivery model is awfully compelling. I think our unique cultures are very attractive and the consistency and longevity of Bankers and leaders at both organizations is certainly something to be rivaled in our industry.