West Bancorporation, Inc. (NASDAQ:WTBA) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

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West Bancorporation, Inc. (NASDAQ:WTBA) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript January 26, 2023

West Bancorporation, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.53 EPS, expectations were $0.58.

Operator: Good afternoon. Thank you for attending today's West Bancorporation Fourth Quarter 2022 Earnings Call. My name is Megan , and I'll be your moderator for today's call. All lines will be muted in the presentation portion of the call with an opportunity for questions and answers at the end. I would now like to pass the conference over to your host, Jane Funk, with West Bancorporation. Jane, please go ahead.

Jane Funk: Thank you. I'm Jane Funk, I'm the CFO of West Bank and West Bancorporation. Just want to welcome everybody to our fourth quarter and year-end 2022 earnings call. Today, I've got with me Dave Nelson, our CEO and President; Harlee Olafson, Chief Risk Officer; Brad Winterbottom, President of West Bank; and Brad Peters, our Minnesota Group President. I'll start out with our fair disclosure statement. Comments made during this conference call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any forward-looking statements made by us during this call is based only on information currently available to us and speaks only as of today's date.

The company undertakes no obligation to revise or update such statements to reflect current events or circumstances after this call or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. And we'll go ahead and kick off the comments. We'll start with Dave Nelson.

David Nelson: Thank you, Jane, and good afternoon, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us, and thank you for your interest in our company. I have just some general comments and then I'll turn it over to others for more details. During 2022, West Bank had the second strongest earnings year in our 130-year history. During 2022, we fell a little short of our '21 earnings, but I'd like to point out that our '22 earnings were about 47% higher than what they were during 2020, and 2020 was also a record year. But during this past year, we experienced growth in all of our markets which resulted in net loan growth of about 11.7% on the year, and our credit quality remains very good at year-end 12/31/22. And also end of the fourth quarter, it represented the sixth consecutive quarter where we did not have a single loan past due 30 days.

The Fed rate hikes have put pressure on our margin, and Jane will speak more on that topic. But based upon our fourth quarter performance, our Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.25 per common share. The dividend is payable on February 22, 2023, to stockholders of record as of February 8. And with that, I'll now turn the call over to our Chief Risk Officer, Mr. Harlee Olafson.

Harlee Olafson: Thank you, Dave. I am happy to report credit quality continues to be a major strength at West Bank. For -- as Dave said, for a sixth consecutive quarter, we have zero past dues over 30 days. I believe this not only attests to the strong payment ability of our customers, but also attest to the administrative ability of our bankers. We have no OREO and only one loan on nonaccrual. That one loan continues to perform as agreed and is well secured. Our watch list is less than 2% of total loans. Financial information received from our customers would suggest that a majority of what is currently on the watch list will be upgraded after receipt and review of the year-end financial statements. Rising interest rates will and have slowed residential and commercial development, 4% of our total portfolio consists of land for development, land being developed and completed lot sales, or completed lots for sale.

The customers holding these assets have significant equity and ability to hold property until economic times are more favorable. Our top five concentrations by type are C&I business, 20%; multifamily, 13%; construction, 13%; and office and medical office, 13%; and warehouses at 10%. Even though current information looks really good, we continue to stress test our portfolio and our individual borrowers. Our practice of doing business with customers that have strong financial positions and good management has served us well. We expect the economy will provide challenges this year, but we feel we are in an enviable position to deal with those challenges. Before I turn it over to our bank President, Brad Winterbottom, I will mention that our Eastern Iowa team has continued to thrive.

Hand, Coin, Savings
Hand, Coin, Savings

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Loan assets grew substantially this last year, and the group has continued to bring in new relationships. With that, I'll turn it over to Brad.

Brad Winterbottom: Thanks, Harlee. For the quarter ended December 31, '22, excluding PPP loans, our loans outstanding grew just under 5% or $128 million to $2.7 billion at the end of the year. This growth during the quarter was driven primarily by some significant commercial real estate transactions. Significant and some long-term customers closed on real estate purchase transactions which we assisted along with a few refinance transactions. For the year ended '22, excluding PPP loans, our loans outstanding grew just over $300 million or 12.7%. This is the third consecutive year in a row in four years out of five that loan growth has exceeded double-digits annually. We saw growth in all markets, roughly equal growth from the Iowa and Minnesota markets this year and are pleased with these results.

As for the loan pipeline, as we enter 2023, there is some slowness in the activity. With the rising interest rate environment, refinance opportunities are much less. We also hear from our customer base that they are much more cautious going into this year. Our sales team, though, continues to set appointments and see customers and prospects on a daily basis, looking to enhance our relationship. Regarding the deposit gathering side of the bank, our retail customer base produced a 4% increase in total deposits held at the bank. Our commercial customer base, on the other hand, experienced a decrease in total deposits. This decrease was the result of excess funds held by the customers either looking for a better return or using these funds to fund their growth or making acquisitions.

We have not lost customers rather just a reduction in deposits maintained. We continue to focus on deposit-gathering activities with our sales team and their calling process, as mentioned previously. I'd also add that in early January, we added another seasoned banker in our Eastern Iowa market that is beginning to make positive marks in terms of moving assets to the bank. With that, I will turn it over to Mr. Peters.

Brad Peters: Thanks, Brad, and good afternoon, everyone. I'm going to provide a brief update on our expansion into Minnesota. Our team continues to make solid progress in growing each of our Minnesota regional centers. Our bankers are focused on relationship building, and our activities and targeted calling are creating ongoing new business opportunities. We continue to grow our business by adding new relationships focused on C&I. This focus has driven strong core deposit growth and treasury management business. We are also seeing line usage increase, which has benefited our margins. The Mankato market has begun construction of a new facility with plans to open this summer. The Owatonna market is exploring sites for a new building, and we're close to finalizing plans to purchase the land. Those are the end of my comments. I will now turn it back over to Jane.

Jane Funk: Thanks, Brad. I'll just make a couple of comments on our financial highlights. For 2022, this was, as Dave mentioned, our second-best financial performance year in the company's history, '21 and '22, both very strong compared to the years prior to that. We recorded no provision for loan losses in the fourth quarter and had a negative provision of $2.5 million for the year. As Harlee mentioned, our credit quality remains extremely strong. We continue to closely manage our expenses during this period of inflation and experienced a very reasonable 3.9% increase in noninterest expense in 2022, and that would have included increase in salary and benefits related to the addition of five bankers during -- through late 2021 and into 2022.

As it relates to margin, our net interest margin was 2.49% for the fourth quarter compared to 2.78% for the third quarter. Our loan yields increased to 4.63% for the fourth quarter compared to 4.34% for the third quarter of 2022 and 4.07% for the fourth quarter of 2021. This yield improvement was outpaced by the increasing cost of funding. Our deposit costs increased to 1.99% for the fourth quarter compared to 1.16% for the third quarter and 36 basis points for the fourth quarter of last year. Brokered deposits and short-term funding increased in the second half of the year with the drop in longer-term rates. Since October, we've been evaluating and executing various long-term funding and swap transactions to convert some of our short-term funding into three to five-year fixed rate terms.

Our deposit base sensitivity to the rate changes has been magnified by this extreme nature of the rate movements this year and the competitive deposit activities in our markets. Our efficiency ratio has increased to 50% in the fourth quarter from the low 40s earlier in the year, primarily due to the decline in the net interest income. That's the end of my prepared remarks, and now we will open it up for questions.

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