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The depressed valuations for banks and other financial firms mean "this is the time" for acquisitions and mergers in the industry, a former CEO of Wells Fargo said Monday.
"Anytime you have high regulations in any industry, you get concentration, and banks are cheap," Richard Kovacevich said on CNBC's "Closing Bell. " "So if you're going to acquire, this is the time to acquire financial institutions."
Financial stocks have lagged the rest of the market so far this year and trade at lower price multiples than companies in other industries.
This year has already seen some consolidation in the financial sector. BB&T announced in February it would acquire SunTrust Banks in "a merger of equals," the biggest banking deal since the financial crisis last decade. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Charles Schwab is in talks with USAA to acquire the firm's brokerage and wealth management units.
Kovacevich said he thinks mergers and acquisitions will be focused among smaller financial firms because of regulatory restrictions on the larger banks.
"I think you're talking more in the under-[$]10 billion consolidating with the over-[$]10 billion asset banks, or within those categories," Kovacevich said.
Several major financial institutions are issuing their quarterly reports this week.
The first major bank to report earnings was Citigroup, which beat analyst expectations for revenues and earnings per share with the help of the initial public offering of Tradeweb, an electric bond trading platform. Citigroup shares closed basically unchanged on Monday, finishing down less than 0.1%.