In his first earnings call as new CEO of Berkshire Bank, Richard Marotta stuck to the numbers, kept on point and spoke very little of the leadership transition that saw longtime CEO Michael Daly depart under controversial circumstances.

“This is my first earnings call as CEO. I intend to present our perspective simply and directly, and of course, I want to be responsive to your questions,” he said on the call, adding that the bank is engaging in a strategic review to address revenue challenges.

The parent company of Berkshire Bank reported $14 million, or $0.31 per common share, in the fourth quarter. That’s up from the $2 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2017, but earnings in that quarter were dramatically impacted by a one-time write down most banks took as a result of the new tax reform bill.

Fourth quarter earnings were significantly lower compared to all other quarters in 2018, and total expenses were up in the fourth quarter due to core and non-core activity.

In the non-core bucket, Berkshire took an $8 million expense as a result of a strategic restructuring of its technology provider relationship.

“During 2018, we conducted an extensive strategic technology review including a core systems RFP, due diligence and competitive vendor proposals,” Berkshire CFO Jamie Moses said on the call. “This came to a completion in Q4 in the form of restructured master contract that gives us new flexibility in managing our technology development and service providers along with a better cost-benefit formula as we scale our enterprise.”

Other expenses the bank took were related to the CEO transition. When Michael Daly left the bank in November, reportedly as a result of what one analyst called a “toxic” workplace environment, the bank paid Daly a $7.5 million separation payment. But Daly also forfeited the right to certain existing accrued benefits, make the net expense of the CEO transition about $2 million.

There was also a $3 million settlement expense the bank took to settle a class action lawsuit and $3 million in merger-related charges during the quarter due to the bank’s pending acquisition of Willimantic, Connecticut-based Savings Institute, which was announced in the fourth quarter.

Net interest income was more than $93 million in the fourth quarter, up about $7 million from the same time period in 2017. The margin dropped nine basis points year-over-year, sitting at 3.41 percent at the end of the fourth quarter.

Total assets reached $12.08 billion at the end of the year, up more than $970 million year-over-year. While total loans grew in line with asset growth, total deposits grew at a much slower rate, stymied by big losses in money market accounts. Commercial real estate, commercial and industrial and residential loans all saw solid increases year-over-year, while consumer loans dropped in volume.

The bank is still in the process of consolidating six branches and adjusting branch hours.

The allowance for loan losses in the quarter was $61 million, up $9 million from a year ago. Total non-performing assets as a percentage of total assets remained low at .28 percent, up seven basis points from the fourth quarter of 2017, but down two basis points from the linked quarter.

Berkshire Bank Q4 Earnings Slow Thanks to CEO Transition, Technology Changes

by Bram Berkowitz time to read: 2 min