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United Community Banks targets lending growth with new hires, LPO

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United Community Banks targets lending growth with new hires, LPO

UnitedCommunity Banks Inc. executives outlined the bank's strategy toboost lending through new hires and a new loan production office during anearnings call April 27.

During the first quarter Blairsville, Ga.-based UnitedCommunity opened a loan production office in Macon, marking the company's entryinto central Georgia. Melanie Marshall, who has more than 15 years ofcommercial lending experience in the market, was tapped to lead the office.

The bank also added 11 people in specialized lending,including relationship managers and lenders, some of whom are in the company'stargeted Small Business Administration verticals. The bank's loan productionoffices in Midtown Atlanta and in Charleston, S.C., also added lenders duringthe first quarter. After quarter-end, the company hired two more middle-marketbankers and related support.

"Our recruiting pipeline remains strong and we're veryexcited about the opportunities that we are seeing," Chairman and CEOJimmy Tallent said during the earningscall. He noted that growth in loans and deposits is expected tocontinue in the mid- to high single-digit range for the rest of the year, andthat the mortgage business will see a pickup as spring arrives and as the newlenders drive further growth in fee revenue.

United Community also expects competitive loan pricingpressures to lower the margin by a few basis points through the remainder ofthe year, assuming there are no further Federal Reserve rate hikes. Moreover,the company expects favorable trends and credit quality to continue and resultin more low provisions for credit losses in the near term.

For the second quarter, the company expects solid feerevenue growth and expenses to be flat with the first quarter, Tallent said.The bank expects its efficiency ratio to return to the sub-58% range in thesecond quarter, and the return on assets to improve by 3 basis points to 5basis points.

United Community reported first-quarter available to commonshareholders of $22.3 million or 31 cents per share. On an operating basis, thebank reported net income of $23.9 million or 33 cents per share. Operatingexpense was $55.2 million, down $1.2 million from the fourth quarter of 2015.