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Top Texas bank regulator expects 2 de novos in the near term

The top banking regulator in Texas expects two de novo applications within the next few months.

Charles Cooper, commissioner of the Texas Department of Banking, said April 11 at a conference hosted by Commerce Street Capital in Dallas that investor groups have approached him in the last 90 days to discuss launching a bank. He said one group was far along in the process and could file within the next few weeks, and one other group had an application in the works.

"They're focused on general blocking and tackling," Cooper said in an interview when asked about the business plans. "They're going into areas that are underserved."

He said the de novos are targeting areas that have recently lost community banks, and he expressed enthusiasm for the applications.

There were six de novo applications filed in the year through March 21, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. None of these were in Texas.

During a wide-ranging speech on the state of regulation, Cooper said the new agency heads appointed by President Donald Trump have already made positive changes for community banks. Specifically, he called Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Jelena McWilliams a "breath of fresh air" and said Michelle Bowman's appointment to the Federal Reserve Board would give community banks a voice.

At the same time, Cooper said bankers might be pleasantly surprised by the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is often seen as hostile to banking interests and this week conducted a hearing that featured questioning the CEOs of large bans on topics such as gun financing and income inequality. But Cooper said Waters has reached out for suggestions of "low-hanging fruit" that could be addressed in legislation. Further, Cooper said Waters has a history of voting in favor of banking deals and knowing "how to cut a deal" something that he said her predecessor, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, lacked.