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Sandy Spring Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:SASR) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

Sandy Spring Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:SASR) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript January 26, 2023

Operator: Good afternoon. Thank you for attending the Sandy Spring Bancorp Earnings Conference Call and Webcast for the Fourth Quarter of 2022. My name is Matt, and I will be your moderator for today's call. I would now like to pass the conference over to our host, Daniel Schrider, President and CEO. Daniel, please go ahead.

Daniel Schrider: Thank you, Matt. And good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us for our conference call to discuss Sandy Spring Bancorp's performance for the fourth quarter of 2022. As Matt mentioned, this is Dan Schrider speaking and I'm joined here by my colleagues, Phil Mantua, Chief Financial Officer; and Aaron Kaslow, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer. Today's call is open to all investors, analysts, and the media. There is a live webcast of today's call and a replay will be made available later on our website. But before we get started, covering highlights from the quarter and then taking your questions, Aaron will give the customary Safe Harbor statement. Aaron?

Aaron Kaslow: Thank you, Dan. Good afternoon, everyone. Sandy Spring Bancorp will make forward-looking statements in this webcast that are subject to risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements include statements of goals, intentions, earnings, and other expectations, estimates of risks and future costs and benefits, assessments of expected credit losses, assessments of market risk, and statements of the ability to achieve financial and other goals. These forward-looking statements are subject to significant uncertainties because they are based upon or affected by management's estimates and projections of future interest rates, market behavior, other economic conditions, future laws and regulations, and a variety of other matters, which by their very nature are subject to significant uncertainties.

Because of these uncertainties, Sandy Spring Bancorp's actual future results may differ materially from those indicated. In addition, the Company's past results of operations do not necessarily indicate its future results.

Daniel Schrider: Thank you, Aaron. And thank you all again for being on the line today to discuss our fourth quarter and annual performance. As you read in our press release and I shared last quarter, we're managing through what continues to be pretty challenging operating environment including high inflation, these rapid increases in interest rates we've experienced and a continual threat of recessionary pressures. And while the economic forecasts as well as the probability of recession are driving the provision for credit losses, we are not seeing any trends that indicate that our credit quality is on the edge of deterioration. Now these are complex issues, but we have managed through challenging seasons before. Continuing to balance the long-term view we have of our company and the immediate business needs, our focus is centered on growing client relationships and driving core funding.

So with that, let's shift to review the details of our financial performance. Today we reported net income of $34 million or $0.76 per diluted common share for the quarter ended December of 31, 2022, compared to net income of $45.4 million or $0.99 per diluted common share for the fourth quarter of 2021 and $33.6 million or $0.75 per diluted common share for the third quarter of 2022. Core earnings were $35.3 million or $0.79 per diluted common share compared to $46.6 million or $1.2 per diluted common share for the quarter ended December 31, 2021 and then $35.7 million or $0.80 per diluted common share for the quarter ended September 30, 2022. The decline in core earnings is primarily the result of the provision for credit losses and the expected decline in fee income.

Looking at our earnings through another lens, pre-tax, pre-provision income was $56.6 million compared to $64.1 million in the linked quarter and $61.7 million in the prior year quarter. The provision for credit losses was a charge of $10.8 million compared to a charge of $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, and a charge of $18.9 million for the third quarter of 2022. The quarterly provision expense contained a provision charge of $2.9 million which was associated with unfunded loan commitments. Excluding the provision for unfunded commitments, the provision reflects the declining economic forecast and the increasing probability of recession. And to clarify, we break out the provisions expense for funded and unfunded loan commitments for accounting purposes, but the primary drivers are the same.

Shifting to the balance sheet, total assets grew 10% to $13.8 billion compared to $12.6 billion in the prior year quarter. When you exclude PPP loans, total assets increased 11% year-over-year. Total loans, excluding PPP, increased 16% to $11.4 billion at December 31, 2022, compared to $9.8 billion at December 31 of last year. Total commercial loans net of PPP grew by $1.2 billion or 15% during the previous 12 months. Gross commercial loan production over the past 12 months was $3.9 billion of which $2.5 billion was funded, offsetting the $1.2 billion in non-PPP commercial loan run-off. Funded commercial loan production during the fourth quarter of 2022 was $341.7 million. Commercial run-off in the fourth quarter was 38% lower than the linked quarter and 45% lower than the prior year quarter.

The annualized run-off rate in the fourth quarter was 10% compared to a historical average of anywhere between 12% and 15%. We expect run-off to settle in the 7% to 9% range for the next few quarters. Commercial real estate, as you know, has been an important business line for the bank representing deep relationships with the region's best builders, developers, and investors. And while we'll continue to serve this important client segment, we're also working hard to diversify our lending concentration by attracting more C&I relationships and focusing all client-facing teams on core funding initiatives. If you look at Page 17 in the supplemental deck, you can see that this approach is already starting to take effect as our C&I growth has outpaced our CRE growth for the first time in many quarters.

As we look forward into 2023, we expect the commercial real estate portfolio to be flat or even slightly down for the quarter. C&I owner-occupied are shaping up to be slower in the first quarter, but expect around 2% to 3% growth per quarter starting in the second quarter of the year. The mortgage construction portfolio will continue to fall as production is significantly slowed. A construction conversion should drive growth in the permanent portfolio, which again will likely to grow 2% to 3% per quarter. Recognizing that macroeconomic changes could impact our results, at this stage, we expect our overall loan growth for the year to be in the mid single-digits and more weighted in the second through fourth quarter. At the end of the quarter, our commercial pipeline was at $944 million compared to $1.3 billion for the linked quarter, representing 32% reduction.

This indicative of both a change in demand and our shifting focus to do more C&I lending. And shifting over to the deposit portfolio, deposits grew 3% during the proceeding 12 months as interest-bearing deposits grew 6%, offset by a 3% decline in non-interest-bearing deposits. Additionally, borrowings increased by $928 million during the period. Excluding broker deposits, total deposits decreased 4% in the fourth quarter. The combination of higher interest rates and seasonal runoff drove non-interest-bearing deposits to be lower during the fourth quarter, but we expect to see some recovery in the latter half of this first quarter. DDA balances are also experiencing pressure due to lower title company deposits, which totaled $437 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, but fell to $227 million at the end of 2022.

Core money market in time deposits perform well during the quarter with core money market accounts growing $91 million or 3% and core time deposits growing $199 million or just slightly under 18%. We are clearly relying on more wholesale funding sources while we navigate this challenging rate environment. As I shared last quarter, we have several near and long-term efforts underway to respond to these challenges. We continue to offer some of the most competitive rates in the market. Every salesperson is being incentivized to drive deposit relationships with both retail and commercial clients. And earlier this week, we launched a more sophisticated online account opening platform that will expand client channels, make the account opening process faster, easier, and more convenient for our clients.

Pixabay/Public Domain

Moving to the margin, the net interest margin was 3.26% compared to 3.51% for the fourth quarter of 2021 and 3.53% for the third quarter of 2022. The decrease in the net interest margin for the current quarter compared to the fourth quarter of the prior year and previous quarter was the result of the increase in the rates paid on interest-bearing liabilities outpacing the increase in the yield on earning assets. The overall rate and yield increases were driven by multiple Fed rate increases that occurred over the proceeding 12 months. Excluding the impact of the amortization of the fair value marks derived from acquisitions and interest in fees from PPP loans, the net interest margin would have been 3.26%, compared to the net interest margin of 3.31% for the fourth quarter of 2021 and 3.5% for the linked quarter.

On a go forward basis, we anticipate that the margin will further decline in the first quarter into the 3.10 to 3.15 range and then start to rebound under the assumption that the Fed will complete its tightening cycle by the end of the first quarter. Non-interest income decreased by 37% or $8.2 million compared to the prior year quarter. The reduction as a result of several factors, primarily the impact the economic environment is having on mortgage banking activities and wealth management income. Obviously, the decline in insurance commission has given the fact that we dispose of our insurance business in the second quarter of 2022 and then lower bank card income due to regulatory restrictions on fees since we became subject to the Durbin amendment.

Income from mortgage banking activities decreased $2.8 million compared to the prior year quarter and $800,000 compared to the linked quarter. The decline is a result of the rising interest rate environment, which continues to dampen mortgage origination and refinancing activity. In light of current origination levels, we did execute a reduction in staff in our mortgage division in the fourth quarter and we'll continue to evaluate that going forward. However, total mortgage loans grew $377.5 million during the 12 months ended December 31, 2022. We expect near-term mortgage gain revenues to settle into a range between $1 million to $1.5 million per quarter. Due to ongoing market volatility, wealth management income decreased $390,000 compared to the linked quarter and $1.1 million compared to the prior year quarter.

However, assets under management finished strong at $5.26 billion compared to $4.97 billion at the linked quarter. Despite a challenging market, our teams continue to win and drive new relationships. And looking ahead, we see wealth revenue significantly influenced by fluctuations in equities and bonds. But if the market does not take a step back, we anticipate 2% growth per quarter. Non-interest expense for the current quarter decreased $1.8 million or 3% compared to the prior year quarter, driven primarily by the decreases of $2.1 million in compensation and benefits expense, $1 million in occupancy expense and $0.5 million in other non-interest expense. These decreases were partially offset by increases in various other categories of operating expenses.

We look demand as growth in operating expenses in the 5% to 6% range off of fourth quarter levels with an immediate bump in the first quarter of 2023 due to certain compensation related costs that reengage early in the year and increases to the run rate related to some of our technology initiatives. We then looked to manage quarter-over-quarter growth by targeting a non-GAAP efficiency ratio within the range of 51% to 52% and continuing to evaluate our expense levels commensurate with revenue trends. The non-GAAP efficiency ratio was 5 €“ I'm sorry, 51.46% compared to 50.17% for the prior year quarter and 48.18% for the third quarter of 2022. Moving to credit quality. As I noted in my opening remarks, we do not see anything in our metrics that indicates our credit quality will begin to deteriorate.

Again, the provision charge is being driven by the economic forecast and not based on any change in current or projected credit based performance in the portfolio. The level of non-performing loans to total loans improved to 35 basis points compared to 40 basis points at the linked quarter and 49 basis points at December 31 of 2021. These levels indicate stable credit quality during a time of significant loan growth and economic uncertainty. Loans placed on non-accrual amounted to $5.5 million compared to $500,000 for the prior year quarter and $4.2 million for the third quarter of 2022. Within our NPA portfolio, we have no office or multi-family assets. We realized net recoveries of $100,000 for the fourth quarter of 2022 compared to net charge-offs of $400,000 for the fourth quarter of 2021 and $500,000 in recoveries for the linked quarter.

The allowance for credit losses was $136.2 million or 1.2% of outstanding loans and 346% of non-performing loans compared to $128.3 million or 1.14% of outstanding loans and 289% of non-performing loans at the end of the previous quarter. Compared to the end of 2021, the allowance for credit losses was $109.1 million or 1.1% of outstanding loans and coverage of 224% of non-performing loans. The tangible common equity ratio decreased to 8.18% of tangible assets at December 31 compared to 9.21% at December 31 of 2021, a decrease as a result of the $25 million repurchase of common shares during the previous 12 months and the $123 million increase in the accumulated other comprehensive loss in the investment portfolio that resulted from the rising rate environment and the increase in tangible assets during the past year.

At December 31, the company had a total risk-based capital ratio of 14.20%, a common equity Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 10.23%, a Tier 1 risk based capital ratio of 10.23%, and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 9.33%. And before we move to your questions, let's quickly recap leadership announcement we rolled out this quarter. Our President of Commercial Banking and Executive Vice President, Ken Cook is going to retire from Sandy Spring Bank at the end of February and then thereafter join our Board of Directors. Ken has dedicated his 40 year career to help me clients in the greater Baltimore and Washington regions. I'm really grateful that he will continue to help lead our company as a Director. We are actively interviewing for a new executive to lead Commercial Banking, and we look forward to making announcement here in the near future.

So this concludes our general comments for today. And now Matt, we can move to your questions.

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