Commerce Bancshares, Inc. (the “Company”), a bank holding company as defined in the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended, was incorporated under the laws of Missouri on August 4, 1966. The Company owns all of the outstanding capital stock of one national banking association, Commerce Bank, N.A. (the “Bank”), which is headquartered in Missouri. The Bank engages in general banking business, providing a broad range of retail, corporate, investment, trust, and asset management products and services to individuals and businesses. The Company also owns, directly or through the Bank, various non-banking subsidiaries. Their activities include underwriting credit life and credit accident and health insurance, selling property and casualty insurance (relating to consumer loans made by the Bank), private equity investment, securities brokerage, mortgage banking, and leasing activities. The Company owns a second tier holding company that is the direct owner of the Bank. A list of the Company’s subsidiaries is included as Exhibit 21.
The Company is one of the nation’s top 50 bank holding companies, based on asset size. At December 31, 2009, the Company had consolidated assets of $18.1 billion, loans of $10.5 billion, deposits of $14.2 billion, and equity of $1.9 billion. All of the Company’s operations conducted by subsidiaries are consolidated for purposes of preparing the Company’s consolidated financial statements. The Company does not utilize unconsolidated subsidiaries or special purpose entities to provide off-balance sheet borrowings or securitizations.
The Company’s goal is to be the preferred provider of targeted financial services in its communities, based on strong customer relationships. It believes in building long-term relationships based on top quality service, high ethical standards and safe, sound assets. The Company operates under a super-community banking format with a local orientation, augmented by experienced, centralized support in select critical areas. The Company’s local market orientation is reflected in its financial centers and regional advisory boards, which are comprised of local business persons, professionals and other community representatives, that assist the Company in responding to local banking needs. In addition to this local market, community-based focus, the Company offers sophisticated financial products available at much larger financial institutions.
The Bank’s facilities are located throughout Missouri, Kansas, and central Illinois, and in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Denver, Colorado. Its two largest markets include St. Louis and Kansas City, which serve as the central hubs for the entire company.
The markets the Bank serves, being located in the lower Midwest, provide natural sites for production and distribution facilities and also serve as transportation hubs. The economy has been well-diversified in these markets with many major industries represented, including telecommunications, automobile, aircraft and general manufacturing, health care, numerous service industries, food production, and agricultural production and related industries. In addition, several of the Illinois markets are located in areas with some of the most productive farmland in the world. The real estate lending operations of the Bank are centered in its lower Midwestern markets. Historically, these markets have generally tended to be less volatile than in other parts of the country. While the decline in the national real estate market resulted in significantly higher real estate loan losses during 2008 and 2009 for the banking industry, management believes the diversity and nature of the Bank’s markets has resulted in lower real estate loan losses in these markets and is a key factor in the Bank’s relatively lower loan loss levels.
The Company regularly evaluates the potential acquisition of, and holds discussions with, various financial institutions eligible for bank holding company ownership or control. In addition, the Company regularly considers the potential disposition of certain of its assets and branches. The Company seeks merger or acquisition partners that are culturally similar and have experienced management and possess either significant market presence or have potential for improved profitability through financial management, economies of scale and expanded services. The Company’s most recent acquisitions were in 2007, when it acquired the outstanding stock of South Tulsa Financial Corporation, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Commerce Bank, located in Denver, Colorado. For additional information on acquisition and branch disposition activity, refer to page 74.
The Company is managed in three operating segments. The Consumer segment includes the retail branch network, consumer installment lending, personal mortgage banking, consumer debit and credit bank card activities, and student lending. It provides services through a network of 214 full-service branches, a widespread ATM network of 412 machines, and the use of alternative delivery channels such as extensive online banking and telephone banking services. In 2009, this retail segment contributed 41% of total segment pre-tax income. The Commercial segment provides a full array of corporate lending, merchant and commercial bank card products, leasing, and international services, as well as business and government deposit and cash management services. In 2009, it contributed 42% of total segment pre-tax income. The Wealth segment provides traditional trust and estate tax planning services, brokerage services, and advisory and discretionary investment portfolio management services to both personal and institutional corporate customers. This segment also manages the Company’s family of proprietary mutual funds, which are available for sale to both trust and general retail customers. Fixed income investments are sold to individuals and institutional investors through the Capital Markets Group, which is also included in this segment. At December 31, 2009, the Wealth segment managed investments with a market value of $12.8 billion and administered an additional $9.3 billion in non-managed assets. Additional information relating to operating segments can be found on pages 52 and 96.
Supervision and Regulation
The Company, as a bank holding company, is primarily regulated by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (BHC Act). Under the BHC Act, the Federal Reserve Board’s prior approval is required in any case in which the Company proposes to acquire all or substantially all of the assets of any bank, acquire direct or indirect ownership or control of more than 5% of the voting shares of any bank, or merge or consolidate with any other bank holding company. The BHC Act also prohibits, with certain exceptions, the Company from acquiring direct or indirect ownership or control of more than 5% of any class of voting shares of any non-banking company. Under the BHC Act, the Company may not engage in any business other than managing and controlling banks or furnishing certain specified services to subsidiaries and may not acquire voting control of non-banking companies unless the Federal Reserve Board determines such businesses and services to be closely related to banking. When reviewing bank acquisition applications for approval, the Federal Reserve Board considers, among other things, the Bank’s record in meeting the credit needs of the communities it serves in accordance with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, as amended (CRA). The Bank has a current CRA rating of “outstanding”.
The Company is required to file with the Federal Reserve Board various reports and such additional information as the Federal Reserve Board may require. The Federal Reserve Board also makes regular examinations of the Company and its subsidiaries. The Company’s banking subsidiary is organized as a national banking association and is subject to regulation, supervision and examination by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The Bank is also subject to regulation by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In addition, there are numerous other federal and state laws and regulations which control the activities of the Company and the Bank, including requirements and limitations relating to capital and reserve requirements, permissible investments and lines of business, transactions with affiliates, loan limits, mergers and acquisitions, issuance of securities, dividend payments, and extensions of credit. If the Company fails to comply with these or other applicable laws and regulations, it may be subject to civil monetary penalties, imposition of cease and desist orders or other written directives, removal of management and, in certain circumstances, criminal penalties. This regulatory framework is intended primarily for the protection of depositors and the preservation of the federal deposit insurance funds, and not for the protection of security holders. Statutory and regulatory controls increase a bank holding company’s cost of doing business and limit the options of its management to employ assets and maximize income.
In addition to its regulatory powers, the Federal Reserve Bank affects the conditions under which the Company operates by its influence over the national supply of bank credit. The Federal Reserve Board employs open market operations in U.S. government securities, changes in the discount rate on bank borrowings, changes in the federal funds rate on overnight inter-bank borrowings, and changes in reserve requirements on bank deposits in implementing its monetary policy objectives. These instruments are used in varying combinations to influence the overall level of the interest rates charged on loans and paid for deposits, the price of the dollar in foreign exchange markets and the level of inflation. The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve have a significant effect on the operating results of financial institutions, most notably on the interest rate environment. In view of changing conditions in the national economy and in the money markets, as well as the effect of credit policies of monetary and fiscal authorities, no prediction can be made as to possible future changes in interest rates, deposit levels or loan demand, or their effect on the financial statements of the Company.
Under Federal Reserve policy, the Company is expected to act as a source of financial strength to its bank subsidiary and to commit resources to support it in circumstances when it might not otherwise do so. In addition, any capital loans by a bank holding company to any of its subsidiary banks are subordinate in right of payment to deposits and to certain other indebtedness of such subsidiary banks. In the event of a bank holding company’s bankruptcy, any commitment by the bank holding company to a federal bank regulatory agency to maintain the capital of a subsidiary bank will be assumed by the bankruptcy trustee and entitled to a priority of payment.
Substantially all of the deposits of the Bank are insured up to the applicable limits by the Bank Insurance Fund of the FDIC. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (discussed further under “Legislation”) temporarily increased the general depositor limit from $100,000 to $250,000, through December 31, 2013. During 2009, the Bank also participated in the FDIC’s Transaction Account Guarantee Program. Under that program, all non-interest bearing transaction accounts were fully guaranteed by the FDIC for the entire amount of the account. Coverage under this program was in addition to and separate from the coverage available under the FDIC’s general deposit insurance rules. Effective January 1, 2010, the Bank no longer participates in the program, and depositor accounts are insured up to $250,000 under the FDIC’s general deposit insurance rules. The Bank pays deposit insurance premiums to the FDIC based on an assessment rate established by the FDIC for Bank Insurance Fund member institutions. The FDIC has established a risk-based assessment system under which institutions are classified and pay premiums according to their perceived risk to the federal deposit insurance funds. The Bank’s premiums had been relatively low prior to the 2008 economic crisis. These rose significantly in 2009 due to higher fees charged by the FDIC in order to replenish its insurance fund, which has been depleted by the recent high levels of bank failures across the country. The Bank’s FDIC expense, including its portion of an industry-wide special assessment, totaled $27.4 million in 2009, compared to $2.1 million in 2008. In late 2009, the FDIC Board ruled that insured institutions must prepay their quarterly risk-based assessments for the fourth quarter of 2009 and subsequent years 2010 through 2012, in order to cover the costs of future expected bank failures. The Bank’s pre-payment on December 30, 2009 totaled $68.7 million.