Spokane Journal of Business

Wheatland Bank's earnings rise slightly, deposits jump

Loans slip 7.8 percent, but institution boosts capital; assets increase

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Wheatland Bank, of Spokane, says it posted net income of just over $1.1 million last year, up about $92,000 from 2009, and had strong increases in deposits and assets, but a decline in loans, similar to what many other banks here experienced.

Susan M. Horton, president, CEO, and chairwoman of both the bank and its holding company, Community Financial Group Inc., says she was pleased with the bank's overall performance, given the economy. Horton adds, "We've got one of the strongest core deposit bases of any bank in our peer group."

She says she expects the bank's performance this year to be similar to last year's, with projected net income of around $1 million, but that it's set a goal of 10 percent overall loan growth, with much of that anticipated to come from the Spokane area.

To help push that production growth, the bank has hired Mike Palmer to fill the newly created executive-team position of executive vice president and chief banking officer, she says.

Wheatland Bank's total deposits climbed 13 percent last year, to $223 million, and Horton says she anticipates further deposit growth this year, although the bank—currently with 13 branches—has no plans to open additional branches this year.

Reflecting the strength of its demand deposit base—meaning those from which withdrawals can be made without notice—Horton notes that Wheatland's checking account and money market deposits grew by 16 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in 2010.

The bank let some of its certificate-of-deposit business drop off because of its strong liquidity, she says.

Its total loans declined to $161 million at the end of last year, down from $175 million a year earlier, but its total assets grew 9 percent, to $262 million, Horton says.

Along with greater cautiousness by prospective borrowers in general, due to the poor economy, she attributes part of the decline in loans to the vitality of the agricultural industry and a reduced need by farmers for operating lines of credit.

"We see that as something very favorable because it strengthens that industry," even if it translates into reduced loan business for the bank for a while, Horton says.

Wheatland Bank has little debt and its total capital increased to $25.7 million at the end of 2010, up from $23.4 million a year earlier, which helped keep it well-capitalized by all regulatory standards, she says.

"Our board has anticipated we're going to continue to have opportunities for growth. We wanted to make sure we continued to stay ahead of the capital curve," Horton adds.

She notes that the 31-year-old bank, which was founded in Davenport, Wash., and now has operations in seven counties, has received a five-star rating for financial soundness from Bauer Financial Inc., of Coral Gables, Fla., for 15 consecutive quarters.

Kim Crompton
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