Columbia Banking System, Inc. (COLB) CEO Hadley Robbins on Q2 2019 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Jul. 30, 2019 3:48 PM ETColumbia Banking System, Inc. (COLB)
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Columbia Banking System, Inc. (NASDAQ:COLB) Q2 2019 Earnings Conference Call July 25, 2019 1:00 PM ET

Company Participants

Hadley Robbins - President and Chief Executive Officer

Greg Sigrist - Chief Financial Officer

Clint Stein - Chief Operating Officer

Andy McDonald - Chief Credit Officer

Conference Call Participants

Jeff Rulis - D.A. Davidson & Co.

Aaron Deer - Sandler O'Neill &Partners LP

Jon Arfstrom - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

Gordon McGuire - Stephens Inc.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to Columbia Banking System's Second Quarter 2019 Earnings Release Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the call over to your host for today, Hadley Robbins, President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Banking System.

Hadley Robbins

Thank you, Carol. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us on today's call as we review our second quarter 2019 and year-to-date results, which we released before the market opened this morning. The earnings release and supplemental slide presentation are available at columbiabank.com. As a result, the strong efforts by our lending and credit teams, second quarter earnings were a new record, and quarterly earnings exceeded $50 million for the first time in our history.

On a year-to-date basis, net income was $98 million, which was 19% higher than the first half of 2018. Capital levels also remained strong and well above regulatory targets. It was a very busy quarter, and our lending teams generated the second-best production quarter ever, narrowly missing the record set last year by only 8 million. Our special credits team completed the work out of a few troubled bonds, which added nearing a 5 million of interest income and reduced nonperforming assets 31 basis point, although, not seen for some time.

Our back-office teams are also heads down implementing key technology projects that include new digital banking platforms. Our second quarter deposit mix remain stable. The core deposit ratio was strong at 96%. The total cost deposits also continue to be well-managed at 20 basis points through the quarter and 19-basis points for the year. We did see a reduction in overall deposits during the second quarter. This is typically a seasonal low point of activity for us.

One of the other contributing factors impacting overall deposit levels was our efforts to help those clients seeking higher yields by moving cash from traditional accounts to a brokerage and other alternative offerings. On the call with me today are Greg Sigrist, our Chief Financial Officer, who'll provide details about our earnings performance and an overview of our share repurchase plan; Clint Stein, our Chief Operating Officer, who'll review our production activity and highlight the status of some of our digital investments; and Andy McDonald, our Chief Credit Officer, who'll review our credit performance.

Following our prepared comments, we'll be happy to answer your questions. It's important that I remind you that we'll be making forward-looking statements today, which are subject to economic and other factors. For a full discussion of the risks and uncertainties associated with the forward-looking statements, please refer to our securities filings, and in particular, our 2018 SEC Form 10-K.

At this point, I'd like to turn the call over to Greg to talk about our financial performance.

Greg Sigrist

Thank you, Hadley, and good morning, everyone. Second quarter earnings of $51.7 million and EPS of $0.71 per diluted share was an increase of $0.08 from the first quarter and an increase of $0.14, compared to the second quarter of 2018. As Hadley mentioned, second quarter net income was the best quarterly earnings performance in our history.

The operating net interest margin of 4.38%, which was up 5 basis points on a linked-quarter basis, benefited from $4.9 million of loan interest recoveries on nonaccrual loans. Partially offsetting this was a $650,000 true-up of an interest accrual as we took advantage of short-term FHLB borrowing rates earlier in the year. The net impact of these two items was nearly 15 basis points.

Offsetting drivers included a 7-basis-point impact from the seasonal funding mix shift we experienced, given typical second quarter deposit flows and a 2-basis-point impact from deposit rate increases in the first quarter. As you've heard us say for the past six quarters, we are actively managing our exposure to a declining rate environment through the ALCO strategies put into place beginning in late 2017.

As a reminder, those strategies include taking additional duration in the loan portfolio; growing the balance sheet, approximately $500 million, by purchasing securities that would respond well in a down-rate environment; then the $500 million derivative zero-cost collar strategy put into place early in the first quarter.

However, we are not completely immune through a declining rate environment. A 25-basis-point rate cut would be expected to reduce quarterly, net interest income by $4 million in the first year. On a linked-quarter basis, net interest income increased by $4 million to $25.6 million, mostly due to BOLI benefits of $3 million.

Loan revenue was up $1.2 million on a strength of C&I production. Our expense run rate remains well controlled with noninterest expense of $86.7 million increasing quarter-on-quarter, largely due to increased digital investments. This is in-line with what we shared at the last earnings call that quarterly operating expenses, excluding the impact of our digital investments would continue in the mid-80s.

Excluding acquisition cost of $7.1 million in the first half of 2018, noninterest expense is up $8 million or 5% on a year-over-year basis. Half of the increase is from digital initiatives, which remained from compensation and incentive expenses. In the second quarter, we incurred $2.9 million of expenses that was directly related to our digital initiatives. We expect the digital investment impacts to noninterest expense to be in the $6 million to $8 million range for the balance of the year.

Our effective tax rate was 19% for the quarter and the year, and it should continue to be in the 19% to 20% range for the remainder of the year. With regard to our share buyback program, we intend to continue to repurchase shares as part of our capital strategy, provided we feel it is advantageous for our shareholders to do so. We have a strong capital position and well-balanced buybacks with special dividends and strategic opportunities in the future.

At this point, I'd like to turn the call over to Clint.

Clint Stein

Thank you, Greg. And good morning, everyone. We continued the momentum created during the first quarter and had an outstanding second quarter on all fronts. Our first half 2019 loan production of $767 million is well above levels achieved in the past. In a very competitive market, our bankers continue to earn new business and existing relationships of sticking to our credit disciplines.

What's impressive is they could produce more, but at this point in the business cycle, we're unwilling to increase our risk appetite. Some of the successful outcomes of the second quarter are not as readily visible in this quarter's financial performance as the loan growth and interest income recoveries.

However, they are vital to sustaining and growing revenue. We have a very talented group of bankers who are working diligently on the execution of our digital roadmap while never losing focus on the importance of the customer experience. The projects they're working on now will enhance our performance for many years to come.

Deposits declined $157 million during the second quarter, which is normal due to seasonal business activity. We have seen some deposits to migrate off balance sheet to our financial services group as clients invest in equities, treasuries and other financial instruments. During the second quarter, we had roughly $61 million in deposits that moved to our financial services group, which is fairly consistent with the $65 million of activity in the first quarter.

While this activity results in lower deposit balances, we maintained the client relationship and generate noninterest income. The mix of our deposit base remained consistent, split evenly between interest and noninterest-bearing. The composition also remained steady, with 59% Commercial and 41% Retail. If seasonal patterns hold, deposit balances should pick up in the third quarter.

Loan production was the second-best quarter ever at $401 million, narrowly missing the record by 8 million set in the third quarter of 2018. Even with record first half production, the loan pipeline remains to our satisfaction. Term loans represented $236 million of total loan production, while production from new lines accounted for $165 million. The portfolio mix remained stable, with 46% fixed rate and 54% variable.

New loan production throughout the quarter came on at an average tax-adjusted coupon rate of 5.15%, which compares favorably to the overall portfolio rate of 4.97%, which was down 2 basis points during the quarter. The modest decline is the result of higher-yielding repayments in the construction and CRE space, coupled with repricing and variable-rate loans.

Prepayments of $176 million in the current quarter were lower when compared to an elevated $189 million in the second quarter of 2018. However, $23 million in the current period was a result of special credit workouts. And when excluded, our trends continue to improve even further.

For context, prepayments in the first half of 2018 were up 60% over 2017. 2019 prepayments have moderated to roughly 18% above our 2016 and 2017 levels. The primary prepayment drivers remain the sale of businesses or commercial real estate, as well as unattractive rates and terms offered by bank and credit union competitors.

During the current quarter, C&I production was 56% or $222 million of the total production, which is consistent with prior quarters. Commercial and multi-family real estate loan totals were flat during the quarter, while commercial and multi-family construction loans were up slightly during the quarter, but are down $132 million since the second quarter of 2018. Year-over-year declines are primarily in the multi-family, warehouse and healthcare sectors.

Implementation activities for our digital programs are on schedule. Our commercial online banking system rollout is going smoothly and will be complete by the end of September. We anticipate being live on a new human resources and talent management platform by the end of the year. Among a variety of other projects, we're also on target to introduce Zelle and the ability to open deposit accounts online by year-end.

Our bankers are doing a great job with expanding our customer base, generating high-quality loans and long-term deposit relationships. Recent announcements on the trade war and anticipated Fed rate cuts are resulting in more conversations with clients as they assess the impacts to their businesses.

Now, I'll turn the call over to Andy.

Andy McDonald

Okay. Thanks, Clint. Our second quarter provisions for loan and lease losses of 218,000 compared favorably to the 1.4 million in the first quarter. This included provision of 500,000 for the originated portfolio and 150,000 for the Pacific Continental portfolio. Offsetting these provisions was a release from the West Coast portfolio of 400,000 and net releases of 33,000 for the PCI portfolio.

Provisioning was primarily driven by charge-offs. However, the impact of charge-off activity and loan growth to a lesser extent was offset by favorable migration and declining loss rate. Net charge-offs were 3 million during the quarter, up from 1.5 million and equate to about 14 basis points on an annualized basis, up from 7 basis points last quarter.

So, while higher than the prior quarter, 14 basis points is still very good, and as such, I'm extremely pleased with the performance of our bankers this past quarter. As Hadley mentioned NPA, the total assets were down to 31 basis points, which is the lowest since 2016 and, prior to that, 2006. During the quarter, we were able to resolve our largest nonperforming loans, and our largest OREO and OPPO, thus driving down nonperforming loans in OREO to the comparable level.

In so doing, we were also able to recapture $4.9 million in interest income. Recorded gain on the disposal of loans of $667,000 and recorded gain on the sale of OREO of a little over $700,000. So, it goes without saying, our special credits team had a great quarter. As of June 30, 2019, our allowance to total loans decreased by 5 basis points to 93 basis points to total loans.

As always, we like to remind folks that this ratio is impacted by our acquisition and the associated loans that we recorded at fair value. Embedded in those valuations is approximately $21 million of net discount, for which approximately $16 million is associated with the Pacific Continental portfolio; $3 million with the West Coast portfolio; and $2 million with the Intermountain.

After relatively low first quarter net charge-offs, we're back to normal levels in the second quarter. However, we actively monitor the sector and collateral concentrations, and we believe we are out of the reserve going forward. In summary, credit improved modestly during the quarter. The portfolio continues to perform well, and we remained focused on positioning the bank for the next downturn.

So, that's all I have. Hadley?

Hadley Robbins

Thanks, Andy. Regarding the economy, fundamentals continues to look healthy through the end of 2019. However, conditions continue to evolve that have the potential of creating earnings pressure, most notably, the flat-to-inverted yield curve, potential Fed rate reductions and trade-related uncertainties. For us, we see this is a time to remain diligent and stay the course with our risk disciplines, hold our focus on creating efficiencies, and take actions that position us to offensively be prepared should a downturn materialize.

In closing, we're pleased to announce our regular quarterly dividend of $0.28, which represents a dividend yield of 3.04% based on the closing price of our stock on July 24. This quarter's dividend will be paid on August 21 to shareholders of record as of close of business in August 7, 2019. This concludes our prepared comments, this afternoon. As a reminder, Greg, Clint, and Andy are here with me to answer your questions.

And now Carol, we’ll open the call for questions. Thank you.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question over the phone today comes from Jeff Rulis. Please go ahead.

Jeff Rulis

Thanks, good morning.

Hadley Robbins

Good morning, Jeff.

Jeff Rulis

So, on the margin, I guess if we net the interest recoveries and true-up against the core of 4.38%. That you get down to 4.23%. Would – in Q1, were there comparable recoveries or true-ups if you added comparable number to the 4.23%?

Greg Sigrist

No. I don't think we would have had any of those types of true-ups in the first quarter, Jeff. So, I take that 4.23% and compare it back to that number. And as I said in my prepared remarks, when you do that, you're really seeing the 2-basis-point increase from the deposit-rate adjustment in the first quarter, and then the 7-basis points coming from the seasonal mix shift on funding.

Jeff Rulis

So that 4.33% last quarter operating is comparable to the 4.23% if you take out the recoveries and true-up?

Greg Sigrist

Yes.

Jeff Rulis

Okay. And then just interested in – Greg, thanks for the dollar hit on the cut. I guess just the outlook on margin as that translate on a go-forward with – I guess, within your 25-basis point rolled, not yours, but should we get one? What does that look like?

Greg Sigrist

Well, I mean absent any rate cut whatsoever, yes, obviously, a lot of moving parts to adjust. But the way I'm thinking about it is the loan portfolio rate right now is for 4.97%. And Clint gave you the stats on new loan production in the second quarter. In the IR deck, this quarter we also included some details on loans that are at or below the floor rates subject to repricing, but we've got over $900 million of loans that are above floor rates that reprice over the next four quarters. So, again, absent a rate cut, that's a positive impact.

I would also expect us to get back some of the impact of the funding mix here in the third quarter. Again, to Clint's point, assuming deposit rates will turn back to historic levels. So, when I add all that together, absent a rate cut, it feels to me like we're up a little bit on the margin. And as I said in my prepared remarks, we do have the ALCO strategy's in place, which help to mitigate some of the impact of a 25-basis-point rate cut. But if it is 25 basis points, we would expect a $4 million annual impact in that first year after a rate cut.

Jeff Rulis

Okay. That's good color. Then on the expense, I wanted to make sure that – so if you had – I guess call it – would you assign 2 million in the quarter to the digital spend, and then does that compare to an additional 6 million to 8 million for the balance of the year?

Greg Sigrist

Well, no. The spend in the quarter was 2.9 million roughly, which was – roughly 1 million ahead of last quarter, maybe 1.1 million ahead of last quarter. So, so far, the $4 million mark, and I'm expecting another 6 million to 8 million on the balance of the year, which, full-year, puts us 10 million to 12 million. And I think in last quarter remarks that indicated 9 million to 12 million. So, we're still kind of where we thought we would be.

Jeff Rulis

Okay. So, the 2.9 million was total digital spend this quarter. And then if we were to look at 6 million to 8 million for the balance of the year, that's either flat to – up to 4 million. Is that fair?

Greg Sigrist

Yes. Quarter-on-quarter, that's fair.

Jeff Rulis

Okay. Got you. I’ll step back. Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from Aaron Deer. Please go ahead.

Aaron Deer

Hi, good morning. Just to clarify on the expense run rate there. Maybe just give some guidance around the actual dollar noninterest expense we should be looking for here in the back half of the year just because it's a little confusing, talking about the quarter-to-quarter variances?

Greg Sigrist

Yes. I mean I would just reiterate what we said the past couple of quarters, which factor out seasonal impacts we have preferably – no, usually in the first quarter, but we're still expecting our noninterest expense run rate, excluding digital, to be in that mid-80s range. Aaron, I think the other thing, though, as we get into next year, and I'm not going to give guidance on it, but we still remain very focused on our operational efficiencies and try and figure out how to drive that down and help to pay for the digital initiatives as we get into 2020.

Aaron Deer

Okay. And then, Clint, you expressed satisfaction with the loan pipeline. Just curious if – you got some – it seems like you've been doing a good job on the hiring front. You guys just announced new personal banker here, earlier in the week. Just curious to know, how those hires are playing out vis-à-vis what sounds like kind of a more conservative outlook in terms of what you're willing to underwrite and what that should mean for loan growth heading into the back half of the year?

Clint Stein

Yes. I think that what we've talked about on prior calls is capacity and how we've had a focus on increasing that capacity by selectively hiring new talent across our entire footprint. And we continue to be fortunate to be an employer of choice, and our talent management team continues to source really great candidates. And what that's done over the past couple of years is it's enabled us to increase our capacity, get new relationships, as well as just our long-time bankers, are very good at – and I think the term that I used in my prepared remarks. So, it's deepening existing relationship.

So, it's a combination of what's been tried-and-true in terms of our production folks that have been with us for many, many years, as well as the supplemental production and growth that's coming from recent hires. That's enabled us to have those production numbers without really changing or deviating from our credit disciplines. It's very competitive. We will compete for really solid deals if we have to on price, but we won't absolutely get one structured. And so, I think that you're seeing that come through in the quarterly production numbers, you're seeing that come through in terms of usually – historically, if we've had a big quarter from the production standpoint, the pipeline gets a little bit depleted and takes some time to rebuild. But it's still very much to our satisfaction.

It's an extremely competitive market, and so we won't give guidance in terms of what that translates into for loan growth. And there is the prepayment activity, and I did provide some color on that, that it continues to moderate, but it's still elevated relative to what we had in 2016 and 2017. But it's about a third of what it was in terms of the increase compared to what we experienced in the first half of the 2018.

Aaron Deer

Okay. Is it safe to say that – based on your commentary there, that the prepayments haven't accelerated recently as a result of the drop-in rates that we've had in kind of the midpoint of the curve?

Clint Stein

No. Yes, I think it's safe to say that what we're seeing in prepayment activity is really still the thing that's been a dynamic for us since we came out of the downturn, and that's the sale of businesses, the sale of real estate properties, given where valuations are. And then some deals we'll let go because competitors are willing to do things structurally that we're unwilling to do.

Aaron Deer

Okay. Thank you for taking my questions. I’ll step back.

Clint Stein

Thanks, Aaron.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from Jon Arfstrom. Please go ahead.

Jon Arfstrom

Thanks, good morning guys.

Hadley Robbins

Good morning.

Jon Arfstrom

Couple of follow-ups here. Maybe, Greg, for you that the 25-basis-point impact driving $4 million a year headwind and net interest income, is it similar for a second-rate decline? Or is it any more or less? Or is it similar?

Greg Sigrist

Yes. It's not linear. It's a good question, Jon. The protection on the derivative side really doesn't kick in until the drop approaches 25 basis points. So, for context, the $4 million in the first 25 is about 1 million of protection between the investment strategy we have and the derivative strategy. If it's a full 50 basis points, the impact would be 7 million, and that's net of about 5 million of impact. So, you start to see some pickup and acceleration of the derivative benefit.

Jon Arfstrom

Okay. Got it. That helps. Have you guys seen any cresting in deposit cost pressures? I know you're deposit costs are fairly low relative to peers, but just curious on the topic as well.

Clint Stein

It's still being pretty active. I'm curious to see what happens after the next Fed meeting. And if at that point we do see a cresting of pricing pressure. But right now, I think it's more – I don't want to say frenzy. That's too strong of a word, but there's a lot, a lot of client conversations, and that's – back to in my prepared remarks, I referenced we've had a $126 million in the first half of the year of deposits that – based on conversations with clients, understanding what their needs are and their desire to get a better return. We've been able to move them into our financial services group.

So, there is – I think that there is a sense of urgency from a client perspective that they've been through this low-rate environment, in terms of earnings on their deposit balances, and the expectations at the start of the year was that there was still room to run from a rate perspective. And I think those expectations are tempered, and that's creating a little more sense of urgency for the folks to figure out what they do.

Jon Arfstrom

Okay. Good, that's helpful. And then just one more maybe bigger-picture conceptual question on your production numbers. You talked about lower payoffs but – and a little more competition. But I'm just curious, your assessment of the overall economic environment, is it any more or less active than it was a year ago? Or is this increased production really the same amount of production, but just less of the payoffs? Thanks.

Clint Stein

It's more production. And I mean that's why we show the production number out there is because the payoff activity based off of economic factors, i.e., the business sales. And as well, the seasonality that we have in our portfolio can impact the quarter-over-quarter bottom line growth number. I don't think that the reduction in prepayment activity is driven by a slowdown in economic factors. I think it's really probably more around some of the things that caused that elevation last year.

If you recall, we did some additional credit pruning throughout 2018, while we still continue to do that on an ongoing basis. It's more of a normalized level, I'd say, compared to what it was last year. So, that's one side of it. And then the other side is that much like bank M&A, as our clients are looking at strategic alternatives for their businesses, there's lumpiness in the timing of when they can actually do some of those things.

Hadley Robbins

With regard to the economic influences out there, we see some of our clients supplying cash to debt. We also see some of our clients making decisions to sell because they believe that either their business or a particular piece of property is fully valued. And that will deepen the cycle, and they would prefer to liquidate at this point in time. But I believe that the economic fundamentals are still there.

We're getting or at that. We have increased some of our capacities, so that feeds into production. So, overall, I don't really see that there are prepayment trends that are approaching what we saw last year. They're more normalized and that the economic activity is giving us opportunity. Within the context of our risk appetite, we're able to produce a level seen in the past and maybe a bit more.

Jon Arfstrom

Okay, good. Thanks for that. Appreciate it, okay.

Operator

Our next question comes from Gordon McGuire. Please go ahead.

Gordon McGuire

Thanks for taking the question.

Hadley Robbins

Hi, Gordon.

Gordon McGuire

Hi, how are you all?

Hadley Robbins

Good.

Gordon McGuire

The $4 million on a 25-basis-point cut, was that based on a static balance sheet or is that assuming growth as well?

Greg Sigrist

Static.

Gordon McGuire

Okay. And then just thinking about the mechanics of the true-up, I may have missed it, where did that fall out of in the NIM? Was that the borrowings?

Greg Sigrist

Yes. It's really on the FHLB borrowing side. That's right, Gordon.

Gordon McGuire

Okay. Any updated expectations on where you'd expect to see the securities balances move over the next few quarters? Looks like that was used to fund some of the loan growth this quarter. I guess will that continue or you think you can start to grow those?

Greg Sigrist

Well, I mean, obviously, moving loans to deposits up to 85% in the quarter, I mean, that's as much a function of the deposits seasonality that we see. and I would say the other side of that is the securities portfolio. So, I would actually say it's difficult without knowing exactly how much production – Clint's going to give us the drop into loan growth to say exactly what's going happen to the securities balances. But if you assume the deposits get to normalized levels and then make your assumptions around loan production, how that translates, it would then translate into the way we look at the securities portfolio, which is really that reservoir of liquidity we need to fund the rest of balance sheet.

Gordon McGuire

Got it. And just the borrowings, I guess, those kind of – do you those stick around here at these levels? Or do you think there's potential to manage those down?

Greg Sigrist

No. We had grown the balance sheet by roughly $500 million to support the strategy to – on the security side, which we talked about. I would expect there to continue to be some form of borrowing at roughly that level to support that strategy, Gordon.

Gordon McGuire

Got it. And then last thing for me, wherein the expense lines did the, I guess, the 2.9 million related to the digital initiatives fall? I think the release mentioned professional fees, but were there any other buckets?

Greg Sigrist

Well, it's in the couple of different lines. Professional fees, certainly, but it's also going to be in the line that's around occupancy and technology. A lot of it comes through those two lines.

Gordon McGuire

Got it. I’ll step back. Thank you.

Greg Sigrist

You got it, Gordon. Thank you.

Operator

And we have no further questions at this time. I'll turn the call back for closing remarks.

Hadley Robbins

I think we're prepared to close the call if there are no further questions. Thank you.

Operator

Thanks to all of our participants for joining us today. We hope you found this webcast presentation informative. This concludes our webcast, and you may now disconnect. Have a great day.

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