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Edited Transcript of EWBC earnings conference call or presentation 20-Apr-17 3:30pm GMT

Thomson Reuters StreetEvents

Q1 2017 East West Bancorp Inc Earnings Call

PASADENA Apr 22, 2017 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of East West Bancorp Inc earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 3:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Dominic Ng

East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank

* Gregory L. Guyett

East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank

* Irene H. Oh

East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank

* Julianna Balicka

East West Bancorp, Inc. - Director of Strategy and Corporate Development

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Conference Call Participants

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* Aaron James Deer

Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst

* Christopher McGratty

Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD

* David Patrick Rochester

Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Director

* Ebrahim Huseini Poonawala

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director

* Gary Peter Tenner

D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division - SVP and Senior Research Analyst

* Jared David Wesley Shaw

Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst

* Kenneth Allen Zerbe

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Executive Director

* Lana Chan

BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD and Senior Equity Analyst

* Matthew Timothy Clark

Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal and Senior Research Analyst

* Michael Masters Young

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Associate

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good day, everyone, and welcome to the East West Bancorp's First Quarter 2017 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Please note that this event is being recorded. And I would now like to turn the conference over to Julianna Balicka. Please go ahead.

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Julianna Balicka, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Director of Strategy and Corporate Development [2]

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Thank you, William. Good morning, and thank you, everyone, for joining us to review the financial results of East West Bancorp for the first quarter of 2017. With me on this conference call today are Dominic Ng, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Greg Guyett, our President and Chief Operating Officer; and Irene Oh, our Chief Financial Officer.

We would like to caution you that during the course of the call, management may make projections or other forward-looking statements regarding events or future financial performance of the company within the meaning of the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

These forward-looking statements may differ materially from the actual results due to a number of risks and uncertainties. For a more detailed description of risk factors that could affect the company's operating results, please refer to our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016.

In addition, some of the numbers referenced in this call pertain to adjusted numbers. Please refer to our first quarter earnings release for the reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP measures.

During the course of this call, we will be referencing a slide deck that is available as part of the webcast and on the Investor Relations site. As a reminder, today's call is being recorded and will also be available in replay format on our Investor Relations website. After the prepared remarks, we will start the Q&A, and we ask that you limit your question to 2 questions per analyst. Thank you. I will now turn the call over to Dominic.

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Dominic Ng, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank [3]

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Thank you, Julianna. Good morning. Thank you, everyone, for joining us for our first quarter 2017 earnings call. I will begin our discussion with the summaries of our first quarter results. Please go to Page 3 on the slide deck that Julianna referred to earlier.

East West delivered strong financial performance in the first quarter, which illustrated the key strength of our bank, consistent loan and deposit growth, favorable asset sensitivity and disciplined expense management. Our first quarter 2017 net income of $170 million and diluted earnings of $1.16 per share are both 53% higher than the prior quarter. Excluding the impact of a commercial property sale, our adjusted first quarter 2017 net income of $128 million and earnings per share of $0.88 are both 16% higher than the prior quarter.

Our solid core operating results this quarter were driven by strong loan and deposit growth. Loans grew 15% annualized linked quarter to a record $26.5 billion, and deposits grew 9% annualized linked quarter to a record $30.5 billion. These growth rate reflect a strong start to the year.

Noninterest-bearing demand deposits grew to a record $10.7 billion as of March 31, 2017, or 35% of our total deposit mix. The balance sheet growth, combined with a positive impact from rising interest rates, supported solid core net interest income growth and core net margin expansions.

Through our disciplined expense oversight, we continue to deliver an industry-leading efficiency ratio, which was 43.3% in the first quarter. Finally, credit quality continues to be stable, and our annualized net charge-off ratio was 8 basis points this quarter.

Moving on to Page 4 in the slide deck, you will see that East West operating results consistently generate attractive profitability. The first quarter of 2017 return of asset and return of equity, exclude impact of the gain from the property sale, is 1.49% and 14.9%, respectively. Again, we are pleased with the overall financial results. I will now turn the call over to Greg and Irene to provide more in-depth discussion of the first quarter results and on our full year 2017 outlook.

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [4]

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Thank you, Dominic. Continuing on to Slide 5 and 6 to review our loan and deposit growth in more detail. Loan growth this quarter was broad-based across our portfolio with commercial real estate up by $296 million or 3% linked quarter, C&I growing by $278 million or 3%, single-family loans increasing by $190 million or 5% and multifamily up by 9% or $147 million. The above trend multifamily originations were largely the result of a couple of larger loans with long-standing customers, portions of which have subsequently been participated to other institutions post the end of the quarter. Our C&I portfolio reached $9.9 billion at quarter end, which was the result of balanced growth between the specialized industry teams and our traditional C&I teams, which are largely focused on the Asian-American customer base. Specifically, the specialized industry verticals totaled $3.6 billion at quarter end, up 3.6% linked quarter. These customers now represent 37% of total C&I funded loans, up 1% quarter-over-quarter.

In the quarter, we saw strong growth from the entertainment, energy and private equity fund teams. The traditional C&I portfolio increased 2.6% linked quarter. This result reflects our renewed emphasis on lending to our core commercial customer base. Growth is likely to vary quarter-by-quarter but we expect the overall trend to continue to be favorable in this area.

Now while we had success in booking new commitments in the first quarter, we also benefited from an increase in utilization of about 300 basis points in what has traditionally been a seasonally weaker quarter. The increase in utilization contributed about half of our C&I funded loan growth in the quarter.

Turning to the commercial real estate portfolio, including land and construction, it totaled $9 billion at quarter end. CRE as a percent of our total loan balances remain steady at 34%. Our CRE concentration to total capital at 265%, a 5-point increase from year-end, continues to be well below the 300% threshold.

CRE growth this quarter reflected higher origination activity with good long-standing customers and a slower pace of runoff than we have seen in recent quarters. It was a strong start to the year, but we continue to be cautious in adding to our CRE book and remain committed to our historically prudent underwriting standards. For example, our construction and land loan exposures remain at low levels, increasing by only $10 million net in the quarter to $684 million.

Given the focus on the future of traditional retail, I'm going to make some comments about our portfolio. During the recent quarter, we completed a deep dive into our retail CRE loans, which comprised approximately 1/3 of our total CRE exposure. Similar to our overall portfolio, the average loan size is small, with low loan-to-values and strong coverage ratios. We also generally have personal guarantees on these loans. Specifically, our average retail CRE loan is approximately $2 million, with an average loan-to-value of 46% and an average debt service coverage ratio of about 1.9x.

We have fewer than 50 loans over $10 million in this category, and these have an average LTV and [ DSC ] that are similar to our smaller loans.

Now moving to deposits. As noted on Slide 6, our deposits reached a record $30.5 billion at quarter end, up $652 million or 9% linked quarter annualized. Noninterest-bearing demand deposits, which are predominantly commercial operating accounts, grew $475 million or 5% linked quarter to $10.7 billion or 35% of our total deposit mix. Over the past 5 quarters, our deposit mix has been stable with a small increase in DDAs. Our deposit balance has continued to comfortably exceed funded loan balances with a loan-to-deposit ratio as of March 31 of 87%. With this position and our loan and deposit mix, we believe we will continue to benefit from a rising interest rate environment, and we have ample room to support ongoing organic loan growth, while maintaining good discipline in deposit pricing. Irene will now cover more specifics in the quarter and our updated outlook.

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [5]

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Thank you, Greg. I will begin with the summary income statement on Slide 7. As Dominic referenced, during the quarter, we completed the sale and leaseback of a commercial property in San Francisco for a sale price of $120.6 million, and entered into a lease agreement for part of the property, including retail branch and office facility. The total pretax profit from the sale was $85.4 million, of which $71.7 million was recognized as a pretax gain in the first quarter and $13.7 million will be deferred over the term of the lease agreements.

The after-tax gain from the sale was $41.5 million or $0.28 per diluted share. Adjusted, our net income for the first quarter was $128 million or $0.88 per diluted share, up 16% linked quarter. Our effective tax rate for the first quarter of 2017 was 25.6. The adoption of the new accounting for stock-based compensation, ASU 2016-09, which was effective January 1, 2017, lowered our tax expense in the first quarter by $4.4 million or $0.03 per share.

Additionally, related to our effective tax rate, the amortization of tax credit was $14.4 million for the first quarter of 2017.

Next, I'll move on to Slides 8, 9 and 10 for a closer look at our earnings drivers. Our core earnings were strong in the first quarter. Our net interest income, excluding accretion, increased by 12% linked quarter annualized to $269 million. As anticipated, accretion income declined in the first quarter to $3 million, and we see this as a good run rate for the remainder of the year. The remaining ASC 310-30 discount accretion on our purchase credit impaired loan portfolio is $47 million, of which we expect approximately $32 million will accrete as income over the life of the loan. As a reminder, in the fourth quarter of 2017, the accretion income was $11.6 million due to higher levels of cash activities and recoveries.

Our first quarter results continued to show the benefits of our asset-sensitive balance sheets. Excluding the impact of accretion, our adjusted net interest margin of 3.29%, was up 12 basis points linked quarter, benefiting from the rising rate environment. The increase in loan yields contributed 3 basis points of increase, higher yields in our securities portfolio and other short-term investments contributed 4 basis points. Loans contributed a higher percentage of the earnings mix, and contributed 7 basis points, and this was partially offset by 2 basis points from a higher share of borrowings in the funding mix. Our cost of deposits was 32 basis points in the first quarter, up by 1 basis point, sequentially.

To illustrate the impact of higher rates on our loan yields, as of March 31, 2017, the contractual weighted average interest rate on our loan portfolio was 4.14%, up from 3.94% as of September 30, 2016, before interest rates started to rise. But following the Fed fund's rate increase in March, loans still subject to floors are less than $1 billion of our total portfolio or about 4%. Additionally, fixed-rate and hybrid arm loans comprise $5 billion of our total portfolio or about a 19%.

In Slide 9, we share the details of our fee income results this quarter. Most of the customer-related fee income categories increased quarter-over-quarter though our total fee income decreased, reflecting the impact of unrealized mark-to-mark valuation changes, on currency hedges and then also the derivative that we have on our books. I would like to highlight that we have increases in branch fees, wealth management, letter of credit fees, customer driven FX income and fees from existing customers to hedge interest rates. We see the positive growth momentum in the first quarter continuing throughout the rest of the year as our team members win market share and expand our product offering to our diverse customer base.

Turning to Slide 10. Our total operating expense for the first quarter of 2017 was $153 million. Excluding amortization of tax credit and other investments and the amortization of the core deposit intangibles, our adjusted operating expense of $137 million decreased by 1% linked quarter, reflecting disciplined expense control. This is a good start to the year, especially in a typically seasonally higher quarter for compensation-related expenses. The decrease was supported in part by declining consulting costs and a decrease in other operating expenses.

While we are pleased with the first quarter operating results, for the full year, we continue to expect expense growth in the low-single digits, supporting ongoing business expansion and investments.

Our adjusted efficiency ratio was 43.3% in the first quarter, up by only 9 basis points from the fourth quarter. For the last 5 quarters, our efficiency ratio has ranged between 45% and 43%, industry leading levels relative to many of our peers.

Our adjusted pretax, pre-provision profitability ratio was 2.09% in the first quarter, essentially stable compared to the fourth quarter. Over the past 5 quarters, our pretax, pre-provision profitability has ranged from 2% to 2.10%.

Turning to Slide 11. Our asset quality continues to be stable. Our allowance for loan losses totaled $263 million as of March 31, 2017, or 0.99% of loans held-for-investment, compared to $261 million or 1.02% of loans held-for-investment as of December 31, 2016. The reduction in the allowance coverage ratio compared to year-end reflects a lower level of specific reserves for impaired loans, our ongoing low level of charge-offs and a reduction in adversely classified loans.

Our annualized net charge-off ratio was 8 basis points for the first quarter. Nonperforming assets increased by $15 million to $145 million or 41 basis points of total assets as of March 31, 2017, compared to 37 basis points as of year-end, driven by 2 unrelated loans: A commercial real estate loan and a commercial loan. Both of these loans are fully collateralized by real estate and other assets, and the discounted valuations exceed the outstanding loan amount.

Moving on to capital ratios on Slide 12. East West capital ratios are strong. Tangible equity per share of 21.20% as of March 31, 2017, grew 5% linked quarter. The tangible equity to tangible assets ratio grew by 27 basis points to 8.79%. Common equity Tier 1 capital ratio of 11.1% was up by 20 basis points linked quarter, and the total risk-based capital ratio of 20.6% was also up by 20 basis points linked quarter.

Our strong earnings, supplemented by the gains on the property sale strengthened all capital ratios.

East West's Board of Directors has declared second quarter 2017 dividend for the company's common stock. The common stock cash dividend of $0.20 per share is payable on May 15, 2017, to stockholders of record on May 1, 2017.

I will now update -- review our updated outlook for 2017 on Slide 13, outlining our earnings drivers related to full year 2016 results. We expect end of period loans to grow at a percentage rate in the low double-digits, an increase from high single digits in our last quarter's outlook. We expect growth to be driven by C&I, with more modest performance from CRE. We expect our adjusted net interest margin, excluding the impact of discount accretion, to range between 3.35% and 3.45%, an increase from 3.20% to 3.40% in our last quarter's outlook.

Our outlook incorporates the current [ forward ] rate curve. As such, we currently assume 2 more Fed funds rate increases in 2017, both in June and November. We expect our adjusted noninterest expense, excluding tax credit amortization and core deposit intangible amortization to increase at a percentage rate in the low-single digits. This expectation remains unchanged from the previous outlook.

We now expect provision for credit losses to range between $40 million and $50 million in 2017, unchanged from our previous outlook. Based on the current pipeline, we anticipate recognizing $95 million of tax credit investment and having the associated tax credit amortization expense of $75 million in the full year 2017, which implies an effective tax rate ranging from 26% to 29%. This compares to our previous guidance of $90 million in tax credits and $80 million of associated amortization expense.

With that, I will now turn the call over to Dominic.

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Dominic Ng, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank [6]

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Thank you, Irene. In summary, we had a strong first quarter, and are optimistic in our outlook for the rest of 2017. Our robust organic loan and deposit growth continues to drive to strength in our balance sheet and earnings growth. Our efforts to contain expenses have kept our efficiency ratio lower than 45% for 10 consecutive quarters, even with significant investment expenses.

Over 75% of loan portfolio is variable rate, which should perform favorably in the rising rate environment. We continue to monitor credit closely and do not yet see emerging trends or systemic issues. Our East West value proposition continues to be unparalleled for our customers, and we're prepared to help our growing client base navigate cross-border growth. We see strong opportunities ahead, and are confident that we will continue our long track record of delivering attractive shareholder values. I would now open the call to questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) And our first questioner today is Lana Chan with BMO Capital Markets.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD and Senior Equity Analyst [2]

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Just a couple of questions, one, around the provision guidance. I was just curious, I was surprised that you didn't raise the provision guidance in light of the stronger loan growth outlook. Can you just talk about that and the reserve to loan ratio being where it is right now?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [3]

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Yes. I think when we kind of project out for the remainder of the year, Lana, certainly the reason that we have the provision that we do is really to fund the loan growth. And a lot of the times, people forget that even for past-rated loans, you have to set aside reserves. The offset to that, of course, is really kind of what you saw in the first quarter because on an ongoing basis for the existing loans, loans are migrating to lower-level kind of grades. The amount of reserve we need for the existing portfolio continues to fall. So we ran kind of various scenarios, and the range that we have for the provision is reflective of what we're seeing currently from point of quality perspective in our portfolio and factors in the growth.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD and Senior Equity Analyst [4]

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Okay. And then my second question in terms of the expense guide, if I look at your growth rate on the adjusted basis in the first quarter is around 5% year-over-year that you're guiding to low single digits. Does that assume that, I guess, the rate of growth slows in maybe the back half of the year as some of the, potentially the BSA and the [ other ] costs start coming down?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [5]

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Yes. I think, if you look at the first quarter, a lot of the BSA-related consulting costs did come down. Year-over-year, when you look at the first quarter this year versus last year, I think the largest variable there, Lana, is probably really compensation expense versus the other ones. And so that will start averaging out because if you look at the full year 2016, if you look at the latter half of that year, we did continue to hire to support our business. Those unusually high year-over-year quarter if you look at the quarter-over-quarter trend versus year-over-year.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD and Senior Equity Analyst [6]

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So the expectation is that that 5% should moderate a little bit as we go through the quarters?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [7]

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Yes, I think around that 5% is probably not a bad way to look at it. But it may moderate down a little bit.

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Operator [8]

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The next questioner today is Ebrahim Poonawala with Bank of America.

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Ebrahim Huseini Poonawala, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [9]

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First question just on if you can go back to loan growth in the first quarter. I think, Greg, you mentioned about line utilization increases has contributed to half the loan growth on C&I in 1Q. But I was wondering if you can talk about, is that a new trend relative to what you observed over the last several quarters? And when you're looking and talking to your clients, do you expect these utilization rates to continue to hold up? Or just what's your expectation around that?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [10]

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Yes, so I'd say 2 things. One, we, in the second half of 2016, we actually had quite a bit of success booking new commitments, particularly in some of the new specialized industry areas. Again, I particularly call out for new ones, energy and the private equity fund business. And I think it's really a little bit more just a timing issue that those commitments got funded to some degree in the first quarter of 2016. So I guess the second point I would make is the new commitments that we booked in 2017 Q1 had utilization rates similar to where our overall portfolio migrated in the first quarter. So I think that the increase to this level probably is sustainable, but I wouldn't expect it to continue to grow at the same rate that it did in the first quarter.

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Ebrahim Huseini Poonawala, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [11]

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Understood. And if I may -- I'm not sure if you disclosed your China, Hong Kong portfolio at the end of the quarter, and just what's the trend you observed there in 1Q and outlook going out for the rest of the year?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [12]

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Well I would say in our loan book in China and Hong Kong, it's been relatively flat. And I wouldn't expect any dramatic change in that posture. Where we're spending a lot of time focusing is on trying to work with Chinese companies that have a presence in the U.S. And so I think you see, and we've had some success there in the first quarter in doing that business. But of course, the loan exposures tend to show up on our U.S. balance sheet as opposed to our China or Hong Kong balance sheet. So I wouldn't expect any real change in our exposure in Greater China.

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Ebrahim Huseini Poonawala, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [13]

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And is that a change in terms of how you're approaching lending in the Mainland or Hong Kong? Or has borrowers' sort of demand there tempered off recently?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [14]

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No, I wouldn't say it is really a change at all. I think that we continue to be open for business where we see the opportunity to serve customers, particularly U.S. customers doing inbound business into China. For example, we've had success financing some of the growing entertainment product creation in China. But that market is awfully competitive. And so we stay quite disciplined in terms of the kinds of business that we pursue and pick our places where we can serve clients well, but also make a reasonable return. So I don't think it's any change from historic practice, and I wouldn't see significant growth in those 2 jurisdictions.

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Ebrahim Huseini Poonawala, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [15]

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Understood. And just quickly on a separate topic. Irene, I guess, if you can -- I just want to touch upon the loan yields. We saw the adjusted loan yields go up 3 basis points. If you could sort of give some color on your expectations around what we should expect for 2Q as the March rate hike flows through the numbers and given sort of any mix change within the loan portfolio.

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [16]

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Yes, Ebrahim, I would say, for starters, I don't know if we're expecting very substantial mix changes. I think what you're seeing with the growth, the drivers for that will continue, so that mix shouldn't change that much. When I look at Q2, we project out for multi-years when we do our analysis, certainly I think with changes in the portfolio and the rising rate environment, we do expect the margin to increase, largely driven by the loan yields increasing and also the securities book to a certain extent, and that's reflected in the guidance that we have provided.

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Operator [17]

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And our next question today is going to come from Dave Rochester with Deutsche Bank.

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David Patrick Rochester, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Director [18]

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Just a quick question on the participated loans. What was that total amount you participated out? And then was curious how the loan pipeline looked heading into 2Q versus what you had heading into the first quarter?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [19]

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You're talking about the multifamily loans that I referenced?

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David Patrick Rochester, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Director [20]

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Yes.

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [21]

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I think that post-quarter end, it was approximately $30 million of that $190 million that had been subsequently participated or has already been subsequently participated. Sorry, the second question was?

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David Patrick Rochester, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Director [22]

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Second question was just the shape of the loan pipeline heading into 2Q versus 1Q?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [23]

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I think that if you look at the pipeline, it's reasonable. Again, as we noted in the comments, half of the funded loan growth came from the increase in utilization in the first quarter. And as I said earlier, I wouldn't expect a similar jump in utilization over where we are today nor would I expect a fall in utilization. So I think it's reasonable to expect that funded loan growth won't be quite as high in the second quarter based on what we're seeing right now. However, there are lot of active conversations and we have a good pipeline of business across the portfolio.

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Operator [24]

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Our next questioner today is Jared Shaw with Wells Fargo.

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Jared David Wesley Shaw, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [25]

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Maybe just following up on the loan. What was the production yield for the loans put on this quarter, if you have that?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [26]

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I think if you looked at -- I think you have to distinguish between C&I and CRE. In the C&I portfolio, we were up a few basis points from our weighted average interest rate, I think somewhere in the 420 plus or minus range for the C&I portfolio. The CRE portfolio was relatively flat. We didn't see much increase yet in yields on the CRE portfolio.

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Jared David Wesley Shaw, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [27]

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Okay. And then when you look at the utilization rate increases, was most of that -- was there a big difference between the newly onboarded customers coming in and using their initial lines at a higher rate than the existing customers drawing their lines?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [28]

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No. As I said, we got an increase in utilization on existing lines. I would say the usage of the newly booked commitments was roughly the same as the increased utilization of our existing commitments. So we didn't see any substantive tick-up in utilization from the newly booked commitments.

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Operator [29]

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Our next questioner is Aaron Deer with Sandler O'Neill + Partners.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [30]

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Greg, going back to the comments you made in your opening remarks. If I heard you right, you said that you have a renewed emphasis on core customers. Does that emphasis mean less emphasis on maybe some of the more recent specialty and lending areas that you pursued? Or how should we interpret that comment?

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [31]

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I certainly wouldn't interpret it as less emphasis on the specialty verticals. I think we talked in the last quarter call about some of the opportunities that we saw in the more traditional C&I business. And we just started to see the flow-through with some of our focus there.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [32]

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Okay. And then the reduction in consulting costs seems indicative of the significant progress you've made in resolving the BSA/AML order. Are you hopeful that that might be lifted this year? And if so, how does that impact your view on potential acquisitions or other strategic decision making?

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Dominic Ng, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank [33]

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Well we always want to be hopeful, but this is one area that I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, simply because it's way beyond our control. What we do is that we know exactly what we need to do to remediate the weaknesses that we had, and we've been sort of like fixing all the challenges on BSA area in the past and in present. And we continue to make very good progress, and we are right on schedule in all the activities that we plan to accomplish so far. But ultimately, whatever we finish, we have to wait for the examiners to come into to do the review. And also our conversation and dialogue with the regulators has been that they are so far pleased with our progress. On the other hand, they always would like to see some of the activities that we are conducting to be a little bit more seasoned before they can actually do certain type of testing and also before they can draw a final conclusion. So when would that be the right timing? We don't know. Simply because this is the first time we ever had a consent order. And so we really don't -- this is not an area that we have a lot of experience. Ask us about M&A, we can tell you exactly how fast we close, but when it comes to written agreement this is something brand-new for us. So we are just basically doing our job, making sure that we get everything done on a timely manner and then wait for the regulators to, hopefully, do their final blessing at some point.

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Operator [34]

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And the next questioner will be Michael Young with SunTrust.

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Michael Masters Young, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Associate [35]

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Dominic, I wanted to start with a big picture question. You had talked on the last quarter call about the potential for trying being named a money manipulator, and we've had that sort of taken off the table, and then also, maybe a good meeting with President Trump and Xi. Any impact or change in conversations with customers that you've had since that point?

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Dominic Ng, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank [36]

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Well, I think that, obviously, you just follow the news so far. I guess, our expectation was right all along. And in fact, we have progressed much better than the (inaudible) and (inaudible) back in the fourth quarter last year. So as we looked at the mix, well, I guess the meeting took place about almost 2 weeks ago. And so there will be 100 days of planning between both U.S. and China. And I do know that I think from the Chinese government, they already have put together a pretty solid plan about what they can offer to U.S., to help improve this bilateral trade and investment opportunities for both countries. And I think China is going to come up with a lot of these win-win ideas. And I do feel that, overall, it will help the economy on both sides. And at this stage, I think that from the East West Bank perspective, I think that even, not counting on the next 100 days, we continue to see cross-border activities and East West continuing to provide like banking services and support to these cross-border customers coming from China and also U.S. business who are looking at China as a viable investment opportunity. A reason that East West Bank has, has been, I think, the following reasons. One is that the deals that we've worked on are substantially smaller size. So when you look at the capital control from China, a huge focus is on this over billion dollars transaction. The high profile big transaction. Those deals are way beyond our scope anyway. So while many of these high-profile customers, we also offer banking service to them, but it's mainly on cash management, or maybe sometimes FX opportunities. But when it comes to lending, when someone make a $6 billion acquisition in Southern California, that is not something that East West can participate because the size is way too much for us. So -- but we still have contact and connection with many of these customers, but there are many, many smaller clients who are doing these $10 million, $20 million deals that fit right into our profile of customers that we can do business with. We continue to have good activities with these customers. Secondly, one advantage for East West is that we know the business, we follow the regulation of what's happening in China. As I indicated on the last quarter call, and I said that I don't see how U.S. can call Chinese the currency manipulator. Why did we say that? Because we know the rule. And so in that regard, I think that when it comes to the capital control in China, we know the rule. We know exactly why China made those calls and restricted certain type of activities. And I think that, overall, the new rules actually create less chaos and make sure that the investment coming from China is coming in a much more organized fashion. And on top of that, they make sure there's not going to be any kind of investment that paying way overprice or maybe industry that have no business to invest in certain type of industry that these Chinese companies are not familiar with to get themselves into trouble. So all of that actually are healthy things. What we've seen is that the Chinese government continues to allow overseas direct investment from Chinese company who are investing in proper industry that they are familiar with are paying a price that is reasonable. So that is something that we continue to watch and then we see that good sound investment from China to United States, continue to get the blessing from the Chinese government. But unwise, unsound overpriced type of investment? I'm not going to get the approval. So if you look back a year or 2 ago, there are some investments that are a little bit out of control. And so I think the government just kind of rein in the situation a little bit better. And I think, overall, for the long run, it's positive, and will help to make other Chinese investments to the United States more sustainable. So hopefully, within the next 100 days, if the U.S. and Chinese senior leaders put their head together and get some good ideas, and we will see substantial more activities going both sides. So we're looking forward to see what will be happening, and East West will always be able to, hopefully, find the right type of business that fit into our balance sheet and fit into our current core capability, and we'll take advantage of it and we'll make sure that we, again, capture these opportunities.

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Michael Masters Young, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Associate [37]

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Thanks for all that color, Dominic. Switching gears to the deposit side. Obviously, 2 strong quarters of good end of period deposit growth. I was just curious is the same trend that sort of benefited the C&I utilization tick-up impacting deposits as well just from new customer adds? Or are there some other idiosyncrasies that maybe we're missing?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [38]

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I think for the deposits what you're seeing is sometimes we do have customers where the nature of their businesses of deposits fluctuate quite a bit. If you look in the fourth quarter example, for various reasons, we had customers who had large deposits that were pretty much in there the entire year. This year, on average, it was down compared to where it was at year-end but we have customers where because of their businesses, taxes, what have you at quarter end, the balances were higher than where it was during the quarter. So I'd say those trends were not necessarily exactly the same for C&I.

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Operator [39]

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And our next questioner is going to be Matthew Clark with Piper Jaffray.

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Matthew Timothy Clark, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal and Senior Research Analyst [40]

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First question on the -- in fee income, can you just quantify the marks on FX and derivatives and how we should think about those activities going forward. I know they're volatile, but...

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [41]

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Yes. So for -- maybe I'll just break it down and talk about each one individually. For FX, our earnings during the quarter and our results were impacted, we do -- from the currency hedge that we do have, we have a hedge against the RMB for our investment in the subsidiary bank that we own in China. And also, I'll add, during the quarter, a little bit of the impact is, one, the market variability and what happens to currency rates, RMB versus U.S. dollar. Also during the first quarter, we prior, we had had hedge accounting on this hedge. And during the first quarter, we had to (inaudible) to meet the hedge. So the difference of that is that instead of having most of it run through AOCI it ran through P&L. So this is something that's going to fluctuate every quarter for us, it's the right thing to do because we have this P&L fluctuation related to our investment. But certainly, you will see that variability every quarter. On the interest rate swaps, with the swaps that we help our customers enter into, we have back-to-back swaps and really there's variability every month when we book the CVA adjustment. This quarter, especially as a delta from last quarter. You saw higher impact with that. And that's something that's going to continue. And I think probably on a go-forward basis, we talked about, maybe just breaking out a little bit more so there's more clarity on the ongoing investments of the business.

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Gregory L. Guyett, East West Bancorp, Inc. - President, COO, President of East West Bank and COO of East West Bank [42]

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And I would say that the customer-related activity, the fee-related activity in these categories, so loan fees, FX, interest rate hedging, et cetera, will grow probably in the high single digits, sort of around where our loan growth is, maybe slightly below because there's a certain element of our loan activity that doesn't get -- that isn't as attractive from a hedging standpoint. But I would see pretty consistent growth in those customer related categories.

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Matthew Timothy Clark, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal and Senior Research Analyst [43]

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Got it. Makes sense. And then on BSA and kind of thinking about next year, have you guys been able to isolate maybe the BSA-related expenses that might go away in 2018? And then as a follow-on, when we think about the revenue growth that you guys might be able to do next year as well, how should we think about kind of the marginal growth and expenses and the marginal efficiency ratio?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [44]

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So on the BSA-related cost that might go away in 2018, Matthew, I would say that a lot of those costs have gone away this year. We've kind of talked about as far as, especially on the consulting side, when you look at 2016 versus projections for 2017. And in fact, our actual results for the first quarter, consulting related to BSA has come down quite a bit. When we look at 2018, certainly, I think that probably, that consulting lined item related to BSA will come down a little bit further. And also relative to 2016 and 2017 as well, on the comp line item, particularly, let's say, for temporary help that we're still -- that we're still using for various reasons related to BSA on some of the work that we're doing, that may come down a little bit as well.

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Dominic Ng, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank [45]

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Please keep in mind though while the BSA overall cost will continue to decline, we continue to grow our payroll expenses because we -- I mean, as the assets grow, as we continue to increase in various industry verticals and also more cross-border activities and so forth, East West Bank continues to bring in more talents. And we continue to also hire more people, simply because there are more volume of business. And so therefore, you should continue to expect that our compensation expense continue to rise going forward.

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Operator [46]

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And the next questioner today is going to be Ken Zerbe with Morgan Stanley.

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Kenneth Allen Zerbe, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Executive Director [47]

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Just a quick question on the loan accretion. I think last quarter, if I heard you right, it was $20 million to $25 million for the entire year. Now, you're on a track for sort of a $3 million per quarter run rate. So obviously closer to half that, I guess. Make sure I got my numbers right, but just what led to that decline? How does that swing around so much?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [48]

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Yes. So the total amount accretion is the same, and I think we talked about it in the prepared remarks that it's $47 million remaining. And of that, we are currently estimating $32 million will accrete over income over the life of the loan. The way this works is, if there is zero credit losses, it will be the entire $47 million. Really kind of when we are projecting out kind of the cash flow activity. And given what happened in the first quarter, our estimate is now just really more so based on kind of the contractual cash flows than what's happening for the remainder of this year, right? And I think a lot of the prior quarter and then also really throughout 2016, we did have more recoveries. There may be more recoveries in 2017, and it's 2 years as well, but certainly that number continues to diminish, and I'm not factoring that in as far as the guidance at this point in our estimate of when it's going to happen. Did that help clarify that?

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Kenneth Allen Zerbe, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Executive Director [49]

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Yes. No, that does help. And then just another quick question in terms of all the tax credit investments, very broadly, like how short duration are these? Because, I guess, my concern is just given the administration, given the political environment, given the potential changes in the tax code, maybe, at some point, like, are you guys locking in sort of the tax credit investments today that may have negative implications or effects on you if the tax code does change down the road?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [50]

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Yes. I think that's a great question. So depending on the tax credit investments like tech historical's, the renewable energy, the code is different and the impact for tax years are different. We are being very cautious as far as making any investments or commitments to invest in any tax credits for years forward because we also are cautious about what may happen. So that's something that we are certainly taking a look at very carefully at this point. And I'll also add the last few years, this has been a great investment for us. The IR's have been tremendous, risk relative to return, we thought it made a lot of sense. I think like all the investments that we make, we look at what are the alternatives and what makes sense in a rising rate environment. I think the revenue that we can generate from our securities book is much higher. So we look at all investments in the same light as far as risk return, what makes sense, and what will help our balance sheet on a go-forward basis and I look at the tax credit same way.

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Operator [51]

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And the next questioner is going to be Chris McGratty with KBW.

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Christopher McGratty, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [52]

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Maybe a question on the balance sheet. You obviously are really successful remixing the earning assets this quarter. I'm interested, I guess, if you could comment on whether you think the cash in the securities dollars are kind of stabilizing? Are going to grow from here? And also, as it relates to your margin guidance, your deposit beta assumption is obviously was really low this quarter, I am wondering how much that could continue.

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [53]

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Yes. So for us I think the cash and investments and those balances are really a function of where we -- where the deposit growth is quite honestly, especially right now where long-term rates aren't necessarily that high as well. So making a big push in growing the securities book doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense. So when I look at that, I don't expect that you'll see outsized growth in either of those categories. Quarter end, different times, certainly there's fluctuations based on what happens. And when you look at quarter-over-quarter, those balances can fluctuate, and they do. But overall, that is our strategy. On the deposit betas, generally speaking, we had been holding the line on raising deposit pricing. This is, I think, very similar to many other banks in the marketplace as well. So realistically, as the Fed funds rates continue to increase, I don't think it's realistic to think that we're going to be able to hold that forever. But thus far, we have and still have banks that we compete with.

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Christopher McGratty, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [54]

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Great. And just as a follow-up to, I think, Ken's question on the tax credits. To the extent you don't have the amortization expense next year, I think it's $75 million this year. Assuming that goes to 0, can you just help us with where that effective tax rate offset would be, again, using -- assuming a 0 amortization expense?

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Irene H. Oh, East West Bancorp, Inc. - CFO, EVP, CFO of East West Bank and EVP of East West Bank [55]

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Yes. So our -- I think one way to look at that is really kind of where our statutory tax rate is. And then you can kind of go backwards, obviously there are other items that impact it aside from our -- the tax credit investments that we have. But certainly, that's a big component of it.

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Operator [56]

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The next questioner today is going to be Gary Tenner with D.A. Davidson.

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Gary Peter Tenner, D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division - SVP and Senior Research Analyst [57]

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Actually, Chris, just took my questions.

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Operator [58]

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(Operator Instructions) There look to be no further questioners, so this will conclude the question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Dominic Ng for any closing remarks.

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Dominic Ng, East West Bancorp, Inc. - Chairman, CEO, Chairman of East West Bank and CEO of East West Bank [59]

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Well, thank you all for joining our call today. And we are looking forward to speaking to you in July. Goodbye.

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Operator [60]

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The conference has now concluded. Thank you all for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.