If all you knew about banking ended at customer relationships and cost management, you would be puzzled over the existence of large regional banks. How could an institution with a regional footprint outmaneuver community banks (which, you would surmise, have a better grip on their local markets) while also competing with the national brands that have deeper pockets for advertising and technology.

You might even conclude that the small number of U.S. banks with assets of $20 billion to $350 billion-there are only about 36 of them in an industry of more than 7,000-never intended to be in that bucket. Some, you would suppose, were essentially community banks that had grown too big for their britches, while others were aspiring national players with growth plans (or exit strategies) that had somehow stalled out.

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