What it will take to get the long-awaited bank M&A wave rolling

Banking players and observers have for years been predicting a massive wave of consolidation in the industry. It hasn't happened yet, nor is it expected to materialize soon. Reporting on a conference this week in New York, Dan Freed says for it to happen at all, bankers first need to eat several helpings of humble pie.

Now the regulators are saying: Come into my office, run it by me first. I won't be able to give you a total blessing ahead of time but I can let you know what I'm thinking.

That sounds like a good thing. Unless you're a bank CEO. Bank CEOs--the ones that didn't get fired--have been walking around for the past five years cursing regulators every chance they get. Why, then, would they want to ask a regulator for permission to do a deal?