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4 New York community bank deals announced in 4 weeks

Four New York community bank deals were announced between Dec. 18, 2019, and Jan. 9, a surge not seen in the state in years. All told, eight New York bank deals were announced in 2019, including five in the fourth quarter, up from five in all of 2018, two in 2017 and three in 2016.

Most recently, on Jan. 9, Honesdale, Pa.-based Norwood Financial Corp. announced that it would acquire Geneva, N.Y.-based UpState New York Bancorp Inc. for $80.0 million.

In the week before Christmas 2019, three deals were announced: Woodbridge, N.J.-based Northfield Bancorp Inc. acquisition of Staten Island, N.Y.-based VSB Bancorp Inc., Hamburg, N.Y.-based Evans Bancorp Inc.'s acquisition of Fairport, N.Y.-based FSB Bancorp Inc. and Clearfield, Pa.-based CNB Financial Corp.'s acquisition of Akron, N.Y.-based Bank of Akron.

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Deposit and loan growth at New York community banks outpaced their Mid-Atlantic peers, but the state's banks have been less profitable than the rest of the U.S.

Among New York's community banks and thrifts under $10 billion in assets, the median return on average equity was 7.75% in the third quarter of 2019, higher than the Mid-Atlantic's 7.56% median, but lower than the 9.86% median across the U.S. Similarly, New York's 3.48% median net interest margin was 7 basis points higher than the Mid-Atlantic median but 37 basis points lower than the U.S. as a whole.

Meanwhile, the state's 5.0% median deposit growth and 5.1% median loan growth year over year easily surpassed the U.S.'s 4.4% median growth in both metrics.

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Norwich-based NBT Bank NA, New York's largest community bank by assets, topped the state median in both ROAE and NIM, but its loan and deposit growth were both below the New York median. At $9.59 billion in assets at the end of September 2019, the bank and its holding company are closing in on the $10 billion asset threshold, after which it will be subject to restrictions on its debit card interchange income due to the Dodd-Frank Act's Durbin amendment. Many banks try to "leap" over the threshold via M&A to make up for the lost revenue.

On Oct. 25, 2019, Uniondale-based Flushing Financial Corp., parent company of Flushing Bank, New York's third-largest community bank by assets, announced that it would acquire Islandia-based Empire Bancorp Inc., in a deal that should bump Flushing above $8 billion in assets and make it the state's No. 2 community bank.

The $111.6 million deal was also the largest acquisition of a New York-based bank announced in 2019.

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New York, like much of the rest of the U.S., is seeing more bank branch closures than openings as banking gets ever more digital. During the third quarter of 2019, 51 branches were closed in the state, while only 14 were opened. Over the last 12 months to Sept. 30, 2019, 205 branches were closed in the state and 59 opened.

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Click here for a spreadsheet containing third-quarter 2019 financial data for New York community banks and thrifts.