Wintrust Financial on a Windy City Buying Spree

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ByI. Mitic
July 29, 2019

With a population of just 4,202, Rosemont, Illinois, seems an unlikely place to situate a financial hub.

But the Chicago suburb is home to Wintrust Financial Corp., and Wintrust is snapping up local banks in a bid to become a regional power.

The second-largest banking company in greater Chicago, Wintrust netted $257.6 million on revenues of $1.27 billion in 2017. That year the bank managed about $28 billion in assets.

In June 2019, Wintrust inked a deal to purchase St. Charles-based STC Capital Bank for $47.7 million. That came after February’s $46 million acquisition of Oak Bank, which gave Wintrust a prime branch location in one of Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

And now Wintrust has announced its plans to buy Countryside Bank in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $91 million.

The 2019 deals represent more than $900 million in new assets for Wintrust and boost the bank’s bottom line to $33.6 billion. They extend Wintrust’s network of branches and ATMs into Chicago suburbs and downtown neighborhoods where the bank did not previously do business.

Wintrust CEO Edward Wehmer gives little indication that the bank’s buying spree is slowing down. Small banks for sale “are lined up like planes over O’Hare ,” he says. Fearing an economic downturn, he says, local banks are selling at prices he considers reasonable.

Wintrust’s history of expansion through acquisition began with the 2008 financial crisis. In December 2008, the company received $250 million in cash from the US Treasury via the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The TARP funds allowed it to snap up smaller struggling banks in the Chicago area. Wintrust repaid the TARP funds in 2010.

Wintrust is not widely known outside the Chicago area, but it is well-known in Chicago as the banking partner of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball franchise. The bank’s name is emblazoned on the Jumbotron video display board at Wrigley Field, where the W in Wintrust flashes after every Cubs win.

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