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Section 1: 10-K (10-K)

bsrr-10k_20181231.htm

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018

Commission file number:  000-33063

 

SIERRA BANCORP

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

California

 

33-0937517

(State of incorporation)

 

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

 

86 North Main Street, Porterville, California

 

93257

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

 

(559) 782-4900

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:  

 

Title of each class

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, No Par Value

 

The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (NASDAQ Global Select Market)

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:  None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.     Yes    No

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes    No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

Yes   No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).

Yes   No

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer

 

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer ☐                                                                           Smaller reporting company

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).   Yes   No

As of June 29, 2018, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $395 million, based on the closing price reported to the registrant on that date of $28.24 per share.  Shares of Common Stock held by each officer and director and each person or control group owning more than ten percent of the outstanding Common Stock have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed to be affiliates.  This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.

The number of shares of common stock of the registrant outstanding as of March 1, 2019 was 15,321,630.

Documents Incorporated by Reference:  Portions of the definitive proxy statement for the 2019 Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to SEC Regulation 14A are incorporated by reference in Part III, Items 10-14.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

ITEM

 

PAGE

 

 

 

 

 

PART I

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

Business

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 2.

Properties

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

23

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Shareholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of  Operations

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 9B.

Other Information

121

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

121

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

121

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

121

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Shareholder Matters

121

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions and Director Independence

122

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

122

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 16.

Form 10-K Summary

124

 

 

 

 

 

SIGNATURES

125

 

 

 


PART I

Item 1.  Business

General

The Company

Sierra Bancorp (the “Company”) is a California corporation headquartered in Porterville, California, and is a registered bank holding company under federal banking laws.  The Company was formed to serve as the holding company for Bank of the Sierra (the “Bank”), and has been the Bank’s sole shareholder since August 2001.  The Company exists primarily for the purpose of holding the stock of the Bank and of such other subsidiaries it may acquire or establish.  As of December 31, 2018, the Company’s only other subsidiaries were Sierra Statutory Trust II, Sierra Capital Trust III, and Coast Bancorp Statutory Trust II, which were formed solely to facilitate the issuance of capital trust pass-through securities (“TRUPS”).  Pursuant to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) standard on the consolidation of variable interest entities, these trusts are not reflected on a consolidated basis in the financial statements of the Company.  References herein to the “Company” include Sierra Bancorp and its consolidated subsidiary, the Bank, unless the context indicates otherwise.  At December 31, 2018, the Company had consolidated assets of $2.523 billion (including gross loans of $1.732 billion), liabilities totaling $2.249 billion (including deposits of $2.116 billion), and shareholders’ equity of $273 million.  The Company’s liabilities include $35 million in debt obligations due to its trust subsidiaries, related to TRUPS issued by those entities.

The Bank

Bank of the Sierra, a California state-chartered bank headquartered in Porterville, California, offers a wide range of retail and commercial banking services via branch offices located throughout California’s South San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, Ventura County, and neighboring communities.  The Bank was incorporated in September 1977, and opened for business in January 1978 as a one-branch bank with $1.5 million in capital.  Our growth in the ensuing years has largely been organic in nature, but includes four whole-bank acquisitions:  Sierra National Bank in 2000, Santa Clara Valley Bank in 2014, Coast National Bank in 2016, and Ojai Community Bank in October 2017.  See the Recent Developments section below for details on our latest acquisitions.

There are not currently any plans for additional branches, but our post-recession branching activity includes the establishment of the Fresno-Palm branch and the purchase of the Lompoc branch in 2018, opening de novo branches in Bakersfield and Pismo Beach and the acquisition of the Woodlake branch in 2017, opening a new branch in Sanger in 2016, the relocation of our Clovis branch to a superior location in 2012, and the opening of a de novo branch in the City of Selma in 2011.  With our latest acquisitions and branching activity, the Bank now maintains administrative offices and operates 40 full-service branches in the following California locations:

 

Porterville:

Administrative Headquarters

86 North Main Street

Main Office

90 North Main Street

West Olive Branch

1498 West Olive Avenue

Arroyo Grande:

Arroyo Grande Office

1360 East Grand Avenue

 

 

Atascadero:

Atascadero Office

7315 El Camino Real

 

 

Bakersfield:

Bakersfield California Office

4456 California Ave

Bakersfield Riverlakes Office

4060 Coffee Road

Bakersfield Ming Office

8500 Ming Avenue

 

Bakersfield East Hills Office

2501 Mt. Vernon Avenue

 

 

California City:

California City Office

8031 California City Blvd.

 

 

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Clovis:

Clovis Office

1835 East Shaw Avenue

 

 

Delano:

Delano Office

1126 Main Street

 

 

Dinuba:

Dinuba Office

401 East Tulare Street

 

 

Exeter:

Exeter Office

1103 West Visalia Road

 

 

Farmersville:

Farmersville Office

400 West Visalia Road

 

 

Fillmore:

Fillmore Office

527 Sespe Avenue

 

 

Fresno:

Fresno Palm Office

7391 North Palm Avenue

Fresno Shaw Office

636 East Shaw Avenue

Fresno Sunnyside Office

5775 E. Kings Canyon Rd.

Hanford:

Hanford Office

427 West Lacey Boulevard

 

 

Lindsay:

 

Lindsay Office

142 South Mirage Avenue

 

 

Lompoc:

Lompoc Office

705 West Central Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ojai:

Ojai Office

402 West Ojai Avenue

 

 

Paso Robles:

Paso Robles Office

1207 Spring Street

 

 

Pismo Beach:

Pismo Beach Office

1401 Dolliver Street

 

 

Reedley:

Reedley Office

1095 West Manning Ave.

 

 

San Luis Obispo:

San Luis Obispo Office

500 Marsh Street

 

 

Sanger:

Sanger Office

1500 7th Street

 

 

Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara Office

21 East Carrillo Street

 

 

Santa Clarita:

Santa Clarita Office

26328 Citrus Street

 

 

Santa Paula:

Santa Paula Office

901 East Main Street

 

 

2


Selma:

Selma Office

2450 McCall Avenue

 

 

Tehachapi:

Tehachapi Downtown Office

224 West “F” Street

Tehachapi Old Town Office

21000 Mission Street

 

Three Rivers:

Three Rivers Office

40884 Sierra Drive

 

 

Tulare:

Tulare Office

246 East Tulare Avenue

Tulare Prosperity Office

1430 East Prosperity Avenue

 

Ventura:

Ventura Office

89 South California Street

 

 

Visalia:

Visalia Mooney Office

2515 South Mooney Blvd.

Visalia Downtown Office

128 East Main Street

 

Woodlake:

Woodlake Office

232 N. Valencia Boulevard

 

 

 

Complementing the Bank’s stand-alone offices are specialized lending units which include our agricultural credit center and an SBA lending division.  We also have ATMs at all branch locations and seven non-branch locations.  Furthermore, the Bank is a member of the Allpoint network, which provides our deposit customers with surcharge-free access to over 43,000 ATMs across the nation and another 12,000 ATMs in foreign countries, and customers have access to electronic point-of-sale payment alternatives nationwide via the Pulse network.  To ensure that account access preferences are addressed for all customers, we provide the following options:  an internet branch which provides the ability to open deposit accounts online; an online banking option with bill-pay and mobile banking capabilities, including mobile check deposit; online lending solutions for consumers and small businesses; a customer service center that is accessible by toll-free telephone during business hours; and an automated telephone banking system that is usually accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  We offer a variety of other banking products and services to complement and support our lending and deposit products, including remote deposit capture and payroll services for business customers.

Our chief products and services relate to extending loans and accepting deposits.  Our lending activities cover real estate, commercial (including small business), mortgage warehouse, agricultural, and consumer loans.  The bulk of our real estate loans are secured by commercial, professional office and agricultural properties, but we also offer commercial construction loans and multifamily credit facilities among other types of loans.  As noted above, gross loans totaled $1.732 billion at December 31, 2018, and the percentage of our total loan and lease portfolio for each of the principal types of credit we extend was as follows: (i) loans secured by real estate (84.0%); (ii) agricultural production loans (2.8%); (iii) commercial and industrial loans and leases (including SBA loans and direct finance leases) (7.4%); (iv) mortgage warehouse loans (5.3%); and (v) consumer loans (0.5%).  Interest, fees, and other income on real-estate secured loans, which is by far the largest segment of our portfolio, totaled $73.0 million, or 64% of net interest plus other income in 2018, and $53.3 million, or 55% of net interest plus other income in 2017.

In addition to loans, we offer a wide range of deposit products and services for individuals and businesses including checking accounts, savings accounts, money market demand accounts, time deposits, retirement accounts, and sweep accounts.  The Bank’s deposit accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) up to maximum insurable amounts.  We attract deposits throughout our market area via referrals from other customers, direct-mail campaigns, a customer-oriented product mix, and competitive pricing, and by offering convenient locations, drive-through banking, and various other delivery channels.  We strive to retain our deposit customers by providing a consistently high level of service.  At December 31, 2018, the consolidated Company had 122,500 deposit accounts totaling $2.116 billion, compared to 118,700 deposit accounts totaling $1.988 billion at December 31, 2017.

We have not engaged in any material research activities related to the development of new products or services during the last two fiscal years.  However, our officers and employees are continually searching for ways to increase public convenience, enhance customer access to payment systems, and enable us to improve our competitive position.  The

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cost to the Bank for these development, operations, and marketing activities cannot be calculated with any degree of certainty.  We hold no patents or licenses (other than licenses required by bank regulatory agencies), franchises, or concessions.  Our business has a modest seasonal component due to the heavy agricultural orientation of the Central Valley, but as our branch network has expanded to include more metropolitan areas we have become less reliant on the agriculture-related base.  We are not dependent on a single customer or group of related customers for a material portion of our core deposits, but our time deposit balances at December 31, 2018 include $120 million in deposits from the State of California, comprising 6% of total deposits.  Furthermore, for loans we have what could be considered to be concentrations in loans to the dairy industry (8% of total loans), and the hotel industry (9% of total loans).  Our efforts to comply with government and regulatory mandates on consumer protection and privacy, anti-terrorism, and other initiatives have resulted in significant ongoing expense to the Bank, including compliance staffing costs and other expenses associated with compliance-related software.  However, as far as can be determined there has been no material effect upon our capital expenditures, earnings, or competitive position as a result of environmental regulation at the Federal, state, or local level. The Company is not involved with chemicals or toxins that might have an adverse effect on the environment, thus its primary exposure to environmental legislation is through lending activities.  The Company’s lending procedures include steps to identify and monitor this exposure in an effort to avoid any related loss or liability.

Recent Developments

On May 18, 2018, the Company purchased most of the deposits of the Lompoc branch of Community Bank of Santa Maria, located in Santa Barbara County.  The purchase also included the Lompoc branch building, the real property on which the building is located, and certain other equipment and fixed assets at their aggregate fair value of $1.7 million.  The Lompoc branch is now operating as a full-service branch of Bank of the Sierra.  Lompoc branch deposits totaled $38 million at the time of purchase, consisting of $32 million in non-maturity deposits and $6 million in time deposits. In accordance with GAAP, the Company recorded a $1.169 million deposit purchase premium in connection with the transaction and is amortizing that amount on a straight line basis over eight years.

On November 3, 2017 the Company acquired the Woodlake branch of Citizen’s Business Bank.  Woodlake branch deposits totaled approximately $27 million at the acquisition date, consisting largely of non-maturity deposits.  The acquisition also included the purchase of the Woodlake branch building, the real property on which the building is located, and certain other equipment and fixed assets at their aggregate fair value of $500,000.  In accordance with GAAP, the Company recorded $625,000 of goodwill and a $486,000 core deposit intangible in connection with the transaction.  The core deposit intangible is being amortized on a straight line basis over eight years.

On October 1, 2017, the Company acquired 100% of the outstanding common shares of Ojai Community Bancorp, parent company to Ojai Community Bank (collectively referred to herein as “Ojai”), in exchange for $809,000 in cash and 1,376,431 shares of Sierra Bancorp stock.  Immediately thereafter, Ojai Community Bank was merged into Bank of the Sierra.  At the time of the acquisition, the fair value of Ojai’s loans and deposits totaled $218 million and $231 million, respectively.  In accordance with GAAP, the Company also recorded $18.5 million of goodwill and a $3.5 million core deposit intangible in connection with the transaction.  The core deposit intangible is being amortized on a straight line basis over eight years.  The conversion of Ojai’s core banking system to Bank of the Sierra’s core system took place on November 3, 2017.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

Information on recent accounting pronouncements is contained in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements.

Competition

The banking business in California is generally highly competitive, including in our market areas.  Continued consolidation within the banking industry has heightened competition in recent periods, following on the heels of a relatively large number of FDIC-assisted takeovers of failed banks and other acquisitions of troubled financial institutions in the aftermath of the Great Recession.  There are also a number of unregulated companies competing for business in our markets, with financial products targeted at profitable customer segments.  Many of those companies are able to compete across geographic boundaries and provide meaningful alternatives to banking products and services.  These competitive trends are likely to continue.

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With respect to commercial bank competitors, our business is dominated by a relatively small number of major banks that operate a large number of offices within our geographic footprint.  Based on June 30, 2018 FDIC combined market share data for the 31 cities within which the Company currently maintains branches, the largest portion of deposits belongs to Wells Fargo Bank with 21.1% of total combined deposits, followed by Bank of America (18.8%), JPMorgan Chase (10.9%), Union Bank (8.5%), and Rabobank (5.6%).  Bank of the Sierra ranks sixth on the 2018 market share list with 4.6% of total deposits.  In Tulare County, however, where the Bank was originally formed, we rank first for deposit market share with 20.3% of total deposits at June 30, 2018, and had the largest number of branch locations (13, including our online branch).  The larger banks noted above have, among other advantages, the ability to finance wide-ranging advertising campaigns and allocate their resources to regions of highest yield and demand.  They can also offer certain services that we do not provide directly but may offer indirectly through correspondent institutions, and by virtue of their greater capitalization those banks have legal lending limits that are substantially higher than ours.  For loan customers whose needs exceed our legal lending limits, we typically arrange for the sale, or participation, of some of the balances to financial institutions that are not within our geographic footprint.

In addition to other banks our competitors include savings institutions, credit unions, and numerous non-banking institutions such as finance companies, leasing companies, insurance companies, brokerage firms, asset management groups, mortgage banking firms and internet companies.  Innovative technologies have lowered traditional barriers of entry and enabled many of these companies to offer services that were previously considered traditional banking products, and we have witnessed increased competition from companies that circumvent the banking system by facilitating payments via the internet, mobile devices, prepaid cards, and other means.

Strong competition for deposits and loans among financial institutions and non-banks alike affects interest rates and terms on which financial products are offered to customers.  Mergers between financial institutions have created additional pressures within the financial services industry to streamline operations, reduce expenses, and increase revenues in order to remain competitive.  Competition is also impacted by federal and state interstate banking laws which permit banking organizations to expand into other states.  The relatively large California market has been particularly attractive to out-of-state institutions.

For years we have countered rising competition by offering a broad array of products with flexibility in structure and terms that cannot always be matched by our competitors.  We also offer our customers community-oriented, personalized service, and rely on local promotional activity and personal contact by our employees.  As noted above, layered onto our traditional personal-contact banking philosophy are technology-driven initiatives that improve customer access and convenience.

Employees  

As of December 31, 2018 the Company had 468 full-time and 88 part-time employees.  On a full-time equivalent basis staffing stood at 541 at December 31, 2018, down from 556 at December 31, 2017.

Regulation and Supervision

Banks and bank holding companies are heavily regulated by federal and state laws and regulations.  Most banking regulations are intended primarily for the protection of depositors and the deposit insurance fund and not for the benefit of shareholders.  The following is a summary of certain statutes, regulations and regulatory guidance affecting the Company and the Bank.  This summary is not intended to be a complete explanation of such statutes, regulations and guidance, all of which are subject to change in the future, nor does it fully address their effects and potential effects on the Company and the Bank.

Regulation of the Company Generally

The Company is a legal entity separate and distinct from the Bank and its other subsidiaries.  As a bank holding company, the Company is regulated under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (the “BHC Act”), and is subject to supervision, regulation and inspection by the Federal Reserve Board.  The Company is also subject to certain provisions of the California Financial Code which are applicable to bank holding companies.  In addition, the Company is under the jurisdiction of the SEC and is subject to the disclosure and regulatory requirements of the Securities Act

5


of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, each administered by the SEC.  The Company’s common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select market (“NASDAQ”) with “BSRR” as its trading symbol, and the Company is subject to the rules of NASDAQ for listed companies.

The Company is a bank holding company within the meaning of the BHC Act and is registered as such with the Federal Reserve Board.  A bank holding company is required to file annual reports and other information with the Federal Reserve regarding its business operations and those of its subsidiaries.  In general, the BHC Act limits the business of bank holding companies to banking, managing or controlling banks and other activities that the Federal Reserve has determined to be so closely related to banking as to be a proper incident thereto, including securities brokerage services, investment advisory services, fiduciary services, and management advisory and data processing services, among others.  A bank holding company that also qualifies as and elects to become a “financial holding company” may engage in a broader range of activities that are financial in nature or complementary to a financial activity (as determined by the Federal Reserve or Treasury regulations), such as securities underwriting and dealing, insurance underwriting and agency, and making merchant banking investments.  The Company has not elected to become a financial holding company but may do so at some point in the future if deemed appropriate in view of opportunities or circumstances at the time.

The BHC Act requires the prior approval of the FRB for the direct or indirect acquisition of more than five percent of the voting shares of a commercial bank or its parent holding company.  Acquisitions by the Bank are subject instead to the Bank Merger Act, which requires the prior approval of an acquiring bank’s primary federal regulator for any merger with or acquisition of another bank.  Acquisitions by both the Company and the Bank also require the prior approval of the California Department of Business Oversight (the “DBO”) pursuant to the California Financial Code.

The Company and the Bank are deemed to be “affiliates” of each other and thus are subject to Sections 23A and 23B of the Federal Reserve Act as well as related Federal Reserve Regulation W which impose both quantitative and qualitative restrictions and limitations on transactions between affiliates.  The Bank is also subject to laws and regulations requiring that all extensions of credit to our executive officers, directors, principal shareholders and related parties must, among other things, be made on substantially the same terms and follow credit underwriting procedures no less stringent than those prevailing at the time for comparable transactions with persons not related to the Bank.

Under certain conditions, the Federal Reserve has the authority to restrict the payment of cash dividends by a bank holding company as an unsafe and unsound banking practice, and may require a bank holding company to obtain the approval of the Federal Reserve prior to purchasing or redeeming its own equity securities.  The Federal Reserve also has the authority to regulate the debt of bank holding companies.

A bank holding company is required to act as a source of financial and managerial strength for its subsidiary banks and must commit resources as necessary to support such subsidiaries.  The Federal Reserve may require a bank holding company to contribute additional capital to an undercapitalized subsidiary bank and may disapprove of the holding company’s payment of dividends to the shareholders in such circumstances.

Regulation of the Bank Generally

As a state chartered bank, the Bank is subject to broad federal regulation and oversight extending to all its operations by the FDIC and to state regulation by the DBO.  The Bank is also subject to certain regulations of the Federal Reserve Board.

Capital Adequacy Requirements

The Company and the Bank are subject to the regulations of the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC, respectively, governing capital adequacy.  These agencies have adopted risk-based capital guidelines to provide a systematic analytical framework that imposes regulatory capital requirements based on differences in risk profiles among banking organizations, considers off-balance sheet exposures in evaluating capital adequacy, and minimizes disincentives to holding liquid, low-risk assets.  Capital levels, as measured by these standards, are also used to categorize financial institutions for purposes of certain prompt corrective action regulatory provisions.

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Pursuant to the adoption of final rules implementing the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s capital guidelines for all U.S. banks and bank holding companies with more than $500 million in assets, minimum regulatory requirements for both the quantity and quality of capital held by the Company and the Bank increased effective January 1, 2015.  Furthermore, a capital class known as Common Equity Tier 1 capital was established in addition to Tier 1 capital and Tier 2 capital, and most financial institutions were given the option of a one-time election to continue to exclude accumulated other comprehensive income (“AOCI”) from regulatory capital.  The Company has exercised its option to exclude AOCI from regulatory capital.  The final rules also increased capital requirements for certain categories of assets, including higher-risk construction and real estate loans, certain past-due or nonaccrual loans, and certain exposures related to securitizations.  The final rules permanently grandfather non-qualifying capital instruments (such as trust preferred securities and cumulative perpetual preferred stock) issued before May 19, 2010 for inclusion in the Tier 1 capital of banking organizations with total consolidated assets of less than $15 billion at December 31, 2009, subject to a limit of 25% of Tier 1 capital.  All of the Company’s trust preferred securities were issued prior to that date and continue to qualify as Tier 1 capital.  

Our Common Equity Tier 1 capital includes common stock, additional paid-in capital, and retained earnings, less the following: disallowed goodwill and intangibles, disallowed deferred tax assets, and any insufficient additional capital to cover the deductions.  Tier 1 capital is generally defined as the sum of core capital elements, less the following:  goodwill and other intangible assets, accumulated other comprehensive income, disallowed deferred tax assets, and certain other deductions.  The following items are defined as core capital elements:  (i) common shareholders’ equity; (ii) qualifying non-cumulative perpetual preferred stock and related surplus (and, in the case of holding companies, senior perpetual preferred stock issued to the U.S. Treasury Department pursuant to the Troubled Asset Relief Program); (iii) minority interests in the equity accounts of consolidated subsidiaries; and (iv) “restricted” core capital elements (which include qualifying trust preferred securities) up to 25% of all core capital elements.  Tier 2 capital includes the following supplemental capital elements: (i) allowance for loan and lease losses (but not more than 1.25% of an institution’s risk-weighted assets); (ii) perpetual preferred stock and related surplus not qualifying as core capital; (iii) hybrid capital instruments, perpetual debt and mandatory convertible debt instruments; and, (iv) term subordinated debt and intermediate-term preferred stock and related surplus.  The maximum amount of Tier 2 capital is capped at 100% of Tier 1 capital.  

The final rules established a regulatory minimum of 4.5% for common equity Tier 1 capital to total risk weighted assets (“Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio”), a minimum of 6.0% for Tier 1 capital to total risk weighted assets (“Tier 1 Risk-Based Capital Ratio” or “Tier 1 RBC Ratio”), a minimum of 8.0% for qualifying Tier 1 plus Tier 2 capital to total risk weighted assets (“Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio” or “Total RBC Ratio”), and a minimum of 4.0% for the Leverage Ratio, which is defined as Tier 1 capital to adjusted average assets (quarterly average assets less the disallowed capital items noted above).  In addition to the other minimum risk-based capital standards, the final rules also require a Common Equity Tier 1 capital conservation buffer which was phased in over three years.  The capital conservation buffer was 0.625% for 2016, 1.25% for 2017, and 1.875% for 2018, and it became fully phased in at 2.5% of risk-weighted assets beginning on January 1, 2019.  Effective January 1, 2019, the buffer effectively raises the minimum required Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio to 7.0%, the Tier 1 RBC Ratio to 8.5%, and the Total RBC Ratio to 10.5%.  Institutions that do not maintain the required capital buffer will become subject to progressively more stringent limitations on the percentage of earnings that can be paid out in dividends or used for stock repurchases, and on the payment of discretionary bonuses to executive management.

Based on our capital levels at December 31, 2018 and 2017, the Company and the Bank would have met all capital adequacy requirements under the Basel III Capital Rules on a fully phased-in basis.  For more information on the Company’s capital, see Part II, Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation – Capital Resources.  Risk-based capital ratio (“RBC”) requirements are discussed in greater detail in the following section.

Prompt Corrective Action Provisions

Federal law requires each federal banking agency to take prompt corrective action to resolve the problems of insured financial institutions, including but not limited to those that fall below one or more of the prescribed minimum capital ratios.  The federal banking agencies have by regulation defined the following five capital categories: “well capitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of 10%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 8%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 6.5%; and Leverage Ratio of 5%); “adequately capitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of 8%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 6%; Common Equity Tier 1

7


RBC Ratio of 4.5%; and Leverage Ratio of 4%); “undercapitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of less than 8%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 6%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 4.5%; or Leverage Ratio of less than 4%); “significantly undercapitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of less than 6%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 4%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 3%; or Leverage Ratio less than 3%); and “critically undercapitalized” (tangible equity to total assets less than or equal to 2%).  A bank may be treated as though it were in the next lower capital category if, after notice and the opportunity for a hearing, the appropriate federal agency finds an unsafe or unsound condition or practice merits a downgrade, but no bank may be treated as “critically undercapitalized” unless its actual tangible equity to assets ratio warrants such treatment.  As of December 31, 2018 and 2017, both the Company and the Bank qualified as well capitalized for regulatory capital purposes.

At each successively lower capital category, an insured bank is subject to increased restrictions on its operations.  For example, a bank is generally prohibited from paying management fees to any controlling persons or from making capital distributions if to do so would cause the bank to be “undercapitalized.”  Asset growth and branching restrictions apply to undercapitalized banks, which are required to submit written capital restoration plans meeting specified requirements (including a guarantee by the parent holding company, if any).  “Significantly undercapitalized” banks are subject to broad regulatory authority, including among other things capital directives, forced mergers, restrictions on the rates of interest they may pay on deposits, restrictions on asset growth and activities, and prohibitions on paying bonuses or increasing compensation to senior executive officers without FDIC approval.  Even more severe restrictions apply to “critically undercapitalized” banks.  Most importantly, except under limited circumstances, not later than 90 days after an insured bank becomes critically undercapitalized the appropriate federal banking agency is required to appoint a conservator or receiver for the bank.

In addition to measures taken under the prompt corrective action provisions, insured banks may be subject to potential actions by the federal regulators for unsafe or unsound practices in conducting their businesses or for violations of any law, rule, regulation or any condition imposed in writing by the agency or any written agreement with the agency.  Enforcement actions may include the issuance of cease and desist orders, termination of insurance on deposits (in the case of a bank), the imposition of civil money penalties, the issuance of directives to increase capital, formal and informal agreements, or removal and prohibition orders against “institution-affiliated” parties.

Safety and Soundness Standards

The federal banking agencies have also adopted guidelines establishing safety and soundness standards for all insured depository institutions.  Those guidelines relate to internal controls, information systems, internal audit systems, loan underwriting and documentation, compensation, and liquidity and interest rate exposure.  In general, the standards are designed to assist the federal banking agencies in identifying and addressing problems at insured depository institutions before capital becomes impaired.  If an institution fails to meet the requisite standards, the appropriate federal banking agency may require the institution to submit a compliance plan and could institute enforcement proceedings if an acceptable compliance plan is not submitted or followed.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

Legislation and regulations enacted and implemented since 2008 in response to the U.S. economic downturn and financial industry instability continue to impact most institutions in the banking sector.  Certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), which was enacted in 2010, are now effective and have been fully implemented, including revisions to the deposit insurance assessment base for FDIC insurance and a permanent increase in coverage to $250,000; the permissibility of paying interest on business checking accounts; the removal of barriers to interstate branching; and, required disclosures and shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation.  Additional actions taken to implement Dodd-Frank provisions include (i) final capital rules, (ii) a final rule to implement the so called Volcker rule restrictions on certain proprietary trading and investment activities, and (iii) final rules and increased enforcement action by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (discussed further below in connection with consumer protection).

Some aspects of Dodd-Frank are still subject to rulemaking, making it difficult to anticipate the ultimate financial impact on the Company, its customers or the financial services industry more generally.  However, many provisions of Dodd-Frank are already affecting our operations and expenses, including but not limited to changes in FDIC assessments, the permitted payment of interest on demand deposits, and enhanced compliance requirements.  Some

8


of the rules and regulations promulgated or yet to be promulgated under Dodd-Frank will apply directly only to institutions much larger than ours, but could indirectly impact smaller banks, either due to competitive influences or because certain required practices for larger institutions may subsequently become expected “best practices” for smaller institutions.  We could see continued attention and resources devoted by the Company to ensure compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements engendered by Dodd-Frank.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

On December 22, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”) was signed into law.  The Act made significant changes that impact corporate taxation, including the reduction of the maximum federal income tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21% and changes or limitations to certain tax deductions.  The reduced tax rate had a favorable impact on our tax expense beginning in 2018, as our blended marginal income tax rate dropped to 29.56% in 2018 from 42.05% in 2017.  The tax rate reduction also resulted in an adjustment to our deferred tax assets and liabilities to reflect their value to the Company at the lower federal tax rate of 21%, with such revaluation required in the period in which the legislation was enacted.  Subsequent to a detailed analysis of our deferred tax assets and liabilities we reduced our net deferred tax asset by $2.710 million via a charge to our income tax provision in December 2017.

Deposit Insurance

The Bank’s deposits are insured up to maximum applicable limits under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, and the Bank is subject to deposit insurance assessments to maintain the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund (the “DIF”).  In October 2010, the FDIC adopted a revised restoration plan to ensure that the DIF’s designated reserve ratio (“DRR”) reaches 1.35% of insured deposits by September 30, 2020, the deadline mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act.  In August 2016 the FDIC announced that the DIF reserve ratio had surpassed 1.15% as of June 30, 2016 and assessment rates for most institutions were adjusted downward, but institutions with $10 billion or more in assets were assessed a quarterly surcharge which will continue until the reserve ratio reaches the statutory minimum of 1.35%.  Furthermore, the restoration plan proposed an increase in the DRR to 2% of estimated insured deposits as a long-term goal for the fund.  On September 30, 2018, the DIF ratio reached 1.36 percent.  Because the ratio exceeded 1.35 percent, two deposit insurance assessment changes occurred under FDIC regulations:  surcharges on large banks (total consolidated assets of $10 billion or more) ended, with the last surcharge on large banks being collected on December 28, 2018; and, banks with total consolidated assets of less than $10 billion were awarded credits for the portion of their assessments that contributed to the growth in the reserve ratio from 1.15 percent to 1.35 percent, to be applied when the reserve ratio is at least 1.38 percent.  Bank of the Sierra is eligible for such credits, which could reduce our FDIC assessments in future periods.

As noted above, the Dodd-Frank Act provided for a permanent increase in FDIC deposit insurance per depositor from $100,000 to $250,000 retroactive to January 1, 2008.  Furthermore, effective in the second quarter of 2011, FDIC deposit insurance premium assessment rates were adjusted, and the assessment base was established as an institution’s total assets less tangible equity.  We are generally unable to control the amount of premiums that we are required to pay for FDIC deposit insurance.  If there are additional bank or financial institution failures or if the FDIC otherwise determines, we may be required to pay higher FDIC premiums, which could have a material adverse effect on our earnings and/or on the value of, or market for, our common stock.

In addition to DIF assessments, banks have been required to pay quarterly assessments that are applied to the retirement of Financing Corporation bonds issued in the 1980’s to assist in the recovery of the savings and loan industry.  The assessment amount fluctuates, but was 0.32 basis points of insured deposits for the fourth quarter of 2018.  The Financing Corporation bonds mature in September 2019, and a final assessment of 0.14 basis points of insured deposits is projected for March 2019.

Community Reinvestment Act

The Bank is subject to certain requirements and reporting obligations involving Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”) activities.  The CRA generally requires federal banking agencies to evaluate the record of a financial institution in meeting the credit needs of its local communities, including low and moderate income neighborhoods. The CRA further requires the agencies to consider a financial institution’s efforts in meeting its community credit needs when evaluating applications for, among other things, domestic branches, mergers or acquisitions, or the formation of

9


holding companies.  In measuring a bank’s compliance with its CRA obligations, the regulators utilize a performance-based evaluation system under which CRA ratings are determined by the bank’s actual lending, service, and investment performance, rather than on the extent to which the institution conducts needs assessments, documents community outreach activities or complies with other procedural requirements.  In connection with its assessment of CRA performance, the FDIC assigns a rating of “outstanding,” “satisfactory,” “needs to improve” or “substantial noncompliance.”  The Bank most recently received a satisfactory CRA assessment rating in January 2019.

Privacy and Data Security

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 (the “Financial Modernization Act”), imposed requirements on financial institutions with respect to consumer privacy.  Financial institutions, however, are required to comply with state law if it is more protective of consumer privacy than the Financial Modernization Act.  The Financial Modernization Act generally prohibits disclosure of consumer information to non-affiliated third parties unless the consumer has been given the opportunity to object and has not objected to such disclosure.  The statute also directed federal regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, to establish standards for the security of consumer information, and requires financial institutions to disclose their privacy policies to consumers annually.

Overdrafts

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act, as implemented by the Federal Reserve’s Regulation E, governs transfers initiated through automated teller machines (“ATMs”), point-of-sale terminals, and other electronic banking services.  Regulation E prohibits financial institutions from assessing an overdraft fee for paying ATM and one-time point-of-sale debit card transactions, unless the customer affirmatively opts in to the overdraft service for those types of transactions.  The opt-in provision establishes requirements for clear disclosure of fees and terms of overdraft services for ATM and one-time debit card transactions.  The rule does not apply to other types of transactions, such as check, automated clearinghouse (“ACH”) and recurring debit card transactions.  Additionally, in November 2010 the FDIC issued its Overdraft Guidance on automated overdraft service programs, to ensure that a bank mitigates the risks associated with offering automated overdraft payment programs and complies with all consumer protection laws and regulations.

Consumer Financial Protection and Financial Privacy

Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) as an independent entity with broad rulemaking, supervisory and enforcement authority over consumer financial products and services including deposit products, residential mortgages, home-equity loans and credit cards.  The CFPB’s functions include investigating consumer complaints, conducting market research, rulemaking, supervising and examining bank consumer transactions, and enforcing rules related to consumer financial products and services.  CFPB regulations and guidance apply to all financial institutions, including the Bank, although only banks with $10 billion or more in assets are subject to examination by the CFPB.  Banks with less than $10 billion in assets, including the Bank, are examined for compliance by their primary federal banking agency.

In January 2013, the CFPB issued final regulations governing consumer mortgage lending.  Certain rules which became effective in January 2014 impose additional requirements on lenders, including the directive that lenders need to ensure the ability of their borrowers to repay mortgages.  The CFPB also finalized a rule on escrow accounts for higher priced mortgage loans and a rule expanding the scope of the high-cost mortgage provision in the Truth in Lending Act.  The CFPB also issued final rules implementing provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that relate to mortgage servicing.  In November 2013 the CFPB issued a final rule on integrated and simplified mortgage disclosures under the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which became effective in October 2015.

The CFPB has broad rulemaking authority for a wide range of consumer financial laws that apply to all banks, including, among other things, the authority to prohibit “unfair, deceptive or abusive” acts and practices.  Abusive acts or practices are defined as those that materially interfere with a consumer’s ability to understand a term or condition of a consumer financial product or service or take unreasonable advantage of a consumer’s:  (i) lack of financial savvy, (ii) inability to protect himself in the selection or use of consumer financial products or services, or (iii) reasonable reliance on a covered entity to act in the consumer’s interests.

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The Bank continues to be subject to numerous other federal and state consumer protection laws that extensively govern its relationship with its customers.  Those laws include the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Truth in Savings Act, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, the Expedited Funds Availability Act, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Service Members Civil Relief Act, and respective state-law counterparts to these laws, as well as state usury laws and laws regarding unfair and deceptive acts and practices.  These and other laws require disclosures including the cost of credit and terms of deposit accounts, provide substantive consumer rights, prohibit discrimination in credit transactions, regulate the use of credit report information, provide financial privacy protections, prohibit unfair, deceptive and abusive practices, restrict the Company’s ability to raise interest rates and otherwise subject the Company to substantial regulatory oversight.

In addition, as is the case with all financial institutions, the Bank is required to maintain the privacy of its customers’ non-public, personal information.  Such privacy requirements direct financial institutions to:  (i) provide notice to customers regarding privacy policies and practices; (ii) inform customers regarding the conditions under which their non-public personal information may be disclosed to non-affiliated third parties; and (iii) give customers an option to prevent disclosure of such information to non-affiliated third parties.

Identity Theft

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (the “FACT Act”), the Bank is required to develop and implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program to detect, prevent and mitigate identity theft “red flags” in connection with certain existing accounts or the opening of certain accounts.  Under the FACT Act, the Bank is required to adopt reasonable policies and procedures to (i) identify relevant red flags for covered accounts and incorporate those red flags into the program; (ii) detect red flags that have been incorporated into the program; (iii) respond appropriately to any red flags that are detected to prevent and mitigate identity theft; and (iv) ensure the program is updated periodically, to reflect changes in risks to customers or to the safety and soundness of the financial institution or creditor from identity theft.  The Bank maintains a program to meet the requirements of the FACT Act and the Bank believes it is currently in compliance with these requirements.

Interstate Banking and Branching

The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (the “Interstate Act”), together with Dodd-Frank, relaxed prior interstate branching restrictions under federal law by permitting, subject to regulatory approval, state and federally chartered commercial banks to establish branches in states where the laws permit banks chartered in such states to establish branches.  The Interstate Act requires regulators to consult with community organizations before permitting an interstate institution to close a branch in a low-income area.  Federal banking agency regulations prohibit banks from using their interstate branches primarily for deposit production and the federal banking agencies have implemented a loan-to-deposit ratio screen to ensure compliance with this prohibition.  Dodd-Frank effectively eliminated the prohibition under California law against interstate branching through de novo establishment of California branches.  Interstate branches are subject to certain laws of the states in which they are located.  The Bank presently does not have any interstate branches.

USA Patriot Act of 2001

The impact of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (the “Patriot Act”) on financial institutions of all kinds has been significant and wide ranging.  The Patriot Act substantially enhanced anti-money laundering and financial transparency laws, and required certain regulatory authorities to adopt rules that promote cooperation among financial institutions, regulators, and law enforcement entities in identifying parties that may be involved in terrorism or money laundering.  Under the Patriot Act, financial institutions are subject to prohibitions regarding specified financial transactions and account relationships, as well as enhanced due diligence and “know your customer” standards in their dealings with foreign financial institutions and foreign customers.  The Patriot Act also requires all financial institutions to establish anti-money laundering programs.  The Bank expanded its Bank Secrecy Act compliance staff and intensified due diligence procedures concerning the opening of new accounts to fulfill the anti-money laundering requirements of the Patriot Act, and also implemented systems and procedures to identify suspicious banking activity and report any such activity to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

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Incentive Compensation

In June 2010, the FRB and the FDIC issued comprehensive final guidance on incentive compensation policies intended to help ensure that banking organizations do not undermine their own safety and soundness by encouraging excessive risk-taking.  The guidance, which covers all employees who have the ability to materially affect the risk profile of an organization, either individually or as part of a group, is based upon the key principles that incentive compensation arrangements should (i) provide incentives that do not encourage risk-taking beyond the organization’s ability to effectively identify and manage risks, (ii) be compatible with effective internal controls and risk management, and (iii) be supported by strong corporate governance, including active and effective oversight by the organization's board of directors.  The regulatory agencies will review, as part of their regular risk-focused examination process, the incentive compensation arrangements of banking organizations, such as the Company, that are not “large, complex banking organizations.”  Where appropriate, the regulatory agencies will take supervisory or enforcement action to address perceived deficiencies in an institution’s incentive compensation arrangements or related risk-management, control, and governance processes.  The Company believes that it is in full compliance with the regulatory guidance on incentive compensation policies.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

The Company is subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“Sarbanes-Oxley”) which addresses, among other issues, corporate governance, auditing and accounting, executive compensation, and enhanced and timely disclosure of corporate information.  Among other things, Sarbanes-Oxley mandates chief executive and chief financial officer certifications of periodic financial reports, additional financial disclosures concerning off-balance sheet items, and accelerated share transaction reporting for executive officers, directors and 10% shareholders.  In addition, Sarbanes-Oxley increased penalties for non-compliance with the Exchange Act.  SEC rules promulgated pursuant to Sarbanes-Oxley impose obligations and restrictions on auditors and audit committees intended to enhance their independence from Management, and include extensive additional disclosure, corporate governance and other related rules.

Commercial Real Estate Lending Concentrations

As a part of their regulatory oversight, the federal regulators have issued guidelines on sound risk management practices with respect to a financial institution’s concentrations in commercial real estate (“CRE”) lending activities.  These guidelines were issued in response to the agencies’ concerns that rising CRE concentrations might expose institutions to unanticipated earnings and capital volatility in the event of adverse changes in the commercial real estate market.  The guidelines identify certain concentration levels that, if exceeded, will expose the institution to additional supervisory analysis with regard to the institution’s CRE concentration risk.  The guidelines are designed to promote appropriate levels of capital and sound loan and risk management practices for institutions with a concentration of CRE loans.  In general, the guidelines establish the following supervisory criteria as preliminary indications of possible CRE concentration risk: (1) the institution’s total construction, land development and other land loans represent 100% or more of total risk-based capital; or (2) total CRE loans as defined in the regulatory guidelines represent 300% or more of total risk-based capital, and the institution’s CRE loan portfolio has increased by 50% or more during the prior 36 month period.  The Bank believes that the guidelines are applicable to it, as it has a relatively high concentration in CRE loans.  The Bank and its board of directors have discussed the guidelines and believe that the Bank’s underwriting policies, management information systems, independent credit administration process, and monitoring of real estate loan concentrations are sufficient to address the guidelines.

Other Pending and Proposed Legislation

Other legislative and regulatory initiatives which could affect the Company, the Bank and the banking industry in general are pending, and additional initiatives may be proposed or introduced before the United States Congress, the California legislature and other governmental bodies in the future.  Such proposals, if enacted, may further alter the structure, regulation and competitive relationship among financial institutions, and may subject the Bank to increased regulation, disclosure and reporting requirements.  In addition, the various banking regulatory agencies often adopt new rules and regulations to implement and enforce existing legislation.  It cannot be predicted whether, or in what form, any such legislation or regulations may be enacted or the extent to which the business of the Company or the Bank would be affected thereby.

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Item 1A.  RISK FACTORS

You should carefully consider the following risk factors and all other information contained in this Annual Report before making investment decisions concerning the Company’s common stock.  The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones the Company faces.  Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to the Company, or that the Company currently believes are immaterial, may also adversely impact the Company’s business.  If any of the events described in the following risk factors occur, the Company’s business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.  In addition, the trading price of the Company’s common stock could decline due to any of the events described in these risks.

Risks Relating to the Bank and to the Business of Banking in General

Our business has been and may in the future be adversely affected by volatile conditions in the financial markets and unfavorable economic conditions generally.  National and global economies are constantly in flux, as evidenced by market volatility both recently and in years past.  Future economic conditions cannot be predicted, and recurrent deterioration in the economies of the nation as a whole or in the Company’s markets could have an adverse effect, which could be material, on our business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects, and could cause the market price of the Company’s stock to decline.

From December 2007 through June 2009, the U.S. economy was officially in recession.  Business activity across a wide range of industries and regions in the U.S. was greatly reduced during and after the recession.  The U.S. economy has undergone a continued and gradual expansion since 2009, but financial stress on borrowers as a result of an uncertain future economic environment could still have an unfavorable effect on the ability of the Company’s borrowers to repay their loans, which could adversely affect the Company’s business, financial condition and results of operations.

California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the Company is headquartered and has many of its branch locations, was particularly hard hit by the most recent adverse economic cycle.  Unemployment levels have historically been elevated in the San Joaquin Valley, including Tulare County which is our geographic center, but recessionary conditions pushed unemployment rates to exceptionally high levels.  The unemployment rate for Tulare County reached a high of 19.3% in March 2010.  It reflects a steady downward trend since 2010 and had declined to 9.6% by December 2018, but is still well above the 4.2% aggregate unemployment rate reported for California in December 2018.  In addition, as discussed below in connection with challenges to the agricultural industry, the persistence of a California drought could have a significant negative impact on unemployment rates in our market areas.  Furthermore, a drop in oil prices like the decline experienced in recent years could also negatively impact unemployment rates, particularly in Kern County.

Economic conditions are currently stable or improving in most of our local markets, and the real estate sector also appears to be reasonably stable.  However, any adverse developments could depress business and/or consumer confidence levels, negatively impact real estate values, and otherwise lead to economic weakness which could have one or more of the following undesirable effects on our business:

 

a lack of demand for loans, or other products and services offered by us;

 

a decline in the value of our loans or other assets secured by real estate;

 

a decrease in deposit balances due to increased pressure on the liquidity of our customers;

 

an impairment of our investment securities; or

 

an increase in the number of borrowers who become delinquent, file for protection under bankruptcy laws or default on their loans or other obligations to us, which in turn could result in higher levels of nonperforming assets, net charge-offs and provisions for credit losses.

Challenges in the agricultural industry could have an adverse effect on our customers and their ability to make payments to us, particularly in view of recent drought conditions in California and disruptions involving international trade.  While the Company’s nonperforming assets are currently comprised mainly of other real estate owned (“OREO”) and loans secured by non-agricultural real estate, difficulties experienced by the agricultural

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industry have led to relatively high levels of nonperforming assets in previous economic cycles.  This is due to the fact that a considerable portion of our borrowers are involved in, or are impacted to some extent by, the agricultural industry.  While a great number of our borrowers are not directly involved in agriculture, they would likely be impacted by difficulties in the agricultural industry since many jobs in our market areas are ancillary to the regular production, processing, marketing and sale of agricultural commodities.

The markets for agricultural products can be adversely impacted by increased supply from overseas competition, a drop in consumer demand, tariffs and numerous other factors.  In recent periods in particular, retaliatory tariffs levied by certain countries in response to tariffs imposed by the US Government on imports from those countries have created a high degree uncertainty and disruption in the agricultural community in California, due to the level of goods that are exported.  The ripple effect of any resulting drop in commodity prices could lower borrower income and depress collateral values.  Weather patterns are also of critical importance to row crop, tree fruit, and citrus production.  A degenerative cycle of weather has the potential to adversely affect agricultural industries as well as consumer purchasing power, and could lead to higher unemployment throughout the San Joaquin Valley.  The state of California has recently experienced the worst drought in recorded history, and it is difficult to predict if the drought will resume and how long it might last.  Another looming issue that could have a major impact on the agricultural industry involves water availability and distribution rights.  If the amount of water available to agriculture becomes increasingly scarce as a result of diversion to other uses, farmers may not be able to continue to produce agricultural products at a reasonable profit, which has the potential to force many out of business.  Such conditions have affected and may continue to adversely affect our borrowers and, by extension, our business, and if general agricultural conditions decline our level of nonperforming assets could increase.

Another significant drop in oil prices could have an adverse impact on our customers and their ability to make payments to us, particularly in areas such as Kern County where oil production is a key economic driver.  As we have experienced in the past, a drop in oil prices could lead to declines in property values and property taxes, particularly in Kern County, which is home to about three quarters of California’s oil production.  The Company does not have direct exposure to oil producers, and our exposure via loans outstanding to borrowers involved in servicing oil companies totaled only $14 million at December 31, 2018.  However, if cash flows are disrupted for our energy-related borrowers, or if other borrowers are indirectly impacted and/or non-oil property values decline, our level of nonperforming assets and loan charge-offs could increase.  Furthermore, economic multipliers to a contracting oil industry include the prospects of a depressed residential housing market and a drop in commercial real estate values.

Concentrations of real estate loans have negatively impacted our performance in the past, and could subject us to further risks in the event of another real estate recession or natural disaster.  Our loan portfolio is heavily concentrated in real estate loans, particularly commercial real estate.  At December 31, 2018, 84% of our loan portfolio consisted of real estate loans, and a sizeable portion of the remaining loan portfolio had real estate collateral as a secondary source of repayment or as an abundance of caution.  Loans on commercial buildings represented approximately 51% of all real estate loans, while construction/development and land loans were 15%, loans secured by residential properties accounted for 24%, and loans secured by farmland were 10% of real estate loans.  The Company’s $6.2 million balance of nonperforming assets at December 31, 2018 includes nonperforming real estate loans totaling $3.6 million, and $1.1 million in OREO.

The residential real estate market experienced significant deflation in property values during 2008 and 2009, and foreclosures occurred at relatively high rates during and after the recession.  While residential real estate values in our market areas seem to have stabilized, if they were to slide again, or if commercial real estate values were to decline materially, the Company could experience additional migration into nonperforming assets.  An increase in nonperforming assets could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations by reducing our income and increasing our expenses.  Deterioration in real estate values might also further reduce the amount of loans the Company makes to businesses in the construction and real estate industry, which could negatively impact our organic growth prospects.  Similarly, the occurrence of more natural disasters like those California has experienced recently, including fires, flooding, and earthquakes, could impair the value of the collateral we hold for real estate secured loans and negatively impact our results of operations.

Moreover, banking regulators give commercial real estate loans extremely close scrutiny due to risks relating to the cyclical nature of the real estate market and risks for lenders with high concentrations of such loans.  The regulators have required banks with relatively high levels of CRE loans to implement enhanced underwriting standards, internal

14


controls, risk management policies and portfolio stress testing, which has resulted in higher allowances for possible loan losses.  Expectations for higher capital levels have also emerged.  Any required increase in our allowance for loan losses could adversely affect our net income, and any requirement that we maintain higher capital levels could adversely impact financial performance measures including earnings per share and return on equity.

Our concentration of commercial real estate, construction and land development, and commercial and industrial loans exposes us to increased lending risks.  Commercial and agricultural real estate, commercial construction and land development, and commercial and industrial loans and leases (including agricultural production loans but excluding mortgage warehouse loans), which comprised approximately 68% of our total loan portfolio as of December 31, 2018, expose the Company to a greater risk of loss than residential real estate and consumer loans, which were a smaller percentage of the total loan portfolio.  Commercial real estate and land development loans typically involve relatively large balances to a borrower or a group of related borrowers, and an adverse development with respect to a larger commercial loan relationship would expose us to greater risk of loss than would issues involving a smaller residential mortgage loan or consumer loan.

Repayment of our commercial loans is often dependent on the cash flows of the borrowers, which may be unpredictable, and the collateral securing these loans may fluctuate in value.  At December 31, 2018, we had $177 million, or 10% of total loans, in commercial loans and leases (including agricultural production loans but excluding mortgage warehouse loans).  Commercial lending involves risks that are different from those associated with real estate lending.  Real estate lending is generally considered to be collateral based lending with loan amounts based on predetermined loan to collateral values, and liquidation of the underlying real estate collateral being viewed as the primary source of repayment in the event of borrower default.  Our commercial loans are primarily extended based on the cash flows of the borrowers, and secondarily on any underlying collateral provided by the borrowers.  A borrower’s cash flows may be unpredictable, and collateral securing those loans may fluctuate in value.  Although commercial loans are often collateralized by equipment, inventory, accounts receivable, or other business assets, the liquidation of such collateral in the event of default is often an insufficient source of repayment for a number of reasons, including uncollectible accounts receivable and obsolete or special-purpose inventories among others.

Nonperforming assets adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition, and can take significant time to resolve.  Our nonperforming loans may return to elevated levels, which would negatively impact earnings, possibly in a material way depending on the severity.  We do not record interest income on non-accrual loans, thereby adversely affecting income levels.  Furthermore, when we receive collateral through foreclosures and similar proceedings we are required to record the collateral at its fair market value less estimated selling costs, which may result in charges against our allowance for loan losses if that value is less than the book value of the related loan.  Additionally, our non-interest expense has risen materially in adverse economic cycles due to the costs of reappraising adversely classified assets, write-downs on foreclosed assets resulting from declining property values, operating costs related to foreclosed assets, legal and other costs associated with loan collections, and various other expenses that would not typically be incurred in a normal operating environment.  A relatively high level of nonperforming assets also increases our risk profile and may impact the capital levels our regulators believe is appropriate in light of such risks.  We have utilized various techniques such as loan sales, workouts and restructurings to manage our problem assets.  Deterioration in the value of these problem assets, the underlying collateral, or in the borrowers’ performance or financial condition, could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.  In addition, the resolution of nonperforming assets requires a significant commitment of time from Management and staff, which can be detrimental to their performance of other responsibilities.  There can be no assurance that we will avoid increases in nonperforming loans in the future.

We may experience loan and lease losses in excess of our allowance for such losses.  We endeavor to limit the risk that borrowers might fail to repay; nevertheless, losses can and do occur.  We have established an allowance for estimated loan and lease losses in our accounting records based on:

 

historical experience with our loans;

 

our evaluation of economic conditions;

 

regular reviews of the quality, mix and size of the overall loan portfolio;

 

a detailed cash flow analysis for nonperforming loans;

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regular reviews of delinquencies; and

 

the quality of the collateral underlying our loans.

At any given date, we maintain an allowance for loan and lease losses that we believe is adequate to absorb specifically identified probable losses as well as any other losses inherent in our loan portfolio as of that date.  While we strive to carefully monitor credit quality and to identify loans that may become nonperforming, at any given time there may be loans in our portfolio that could result in losses but have not been identified as nonperforming or potential problem loans. We cannot be sure that we will identify deteriorating loans before they become nonperforming assets, or that we will be able to limit losses on loans that have been so identified.  Changes in economic, operating and other conditions which are beyond our control, including interest rate fluctuations, deteriorating collateral values, and changes in the financial condition of borrowers may lead to an increase in our estimate of probable losses, or could cause actual loan losses to exceed our current allowance.  In addition, the FDIC and the DBO, as part of their supervisory functions, periodically review our allowance for loan and lease losses.  Such agencies may require us to increase our provision for loan and lease losses or to recognize further losses based on their judgment, which may be different from that of our Management.  Any such increase in the allowance required by regulators could also hurt our business.

Our use of appraisals in deciding whether to make a loan on or secured by real property does not ensure the value of the collateral.  In considering whether to make a loan secured by real property, we generally require an appraisal of the property.  However, an appraisal is only an estimate of the value of the property at the time the appraisal is made, and an error in fact or judgment could adversely affect the reliability of the appraisal.  In addition, events occurring after the initial appraisal may cause the value of the real estate to decrease.  As a result of any of these factors the value of the collateral backing a loan may be less than supposed, and if a default occurs we may not recover the entire outstanding balance of the loan via the liquidation of such collateral.

Our expenses could increase as a result of increases in FDIC insurance premiums or other regulatory assessments.  The FDIC charges insured financial institutions a premium to maintain the DIF at a certain level.  In the event that deteriorating economic conditions increase bank failures, the FDIC ensures payments of deposits up to insured limits from the DIF.  Although the Bank's FDIC insurance assessments have not increased as a result of changes in recent periods, and could possibly even be reduced in the near term, there can be no assurance that the FDIC will not increase assessment rates in the future or that the Bank will not be subject to higher assessment rates as a result of a change in its risk category, either of which could have an adverse effect on the Bank’s earnings.

We may not be able to continue to attract and retain banking customers, and our efforts to compete may reduce our profitability.  The banking business in our market areas is highly competitive with respect to virtually all products and services, which may limit our ability to attract and retain banking customers.  In California generally, and in our service areas specifically, major banks dominate the commercial banking industry.  Such banks have substantially greater lending limits than we have, offer certain services we cannot offer directly, and often operate with economies of scale that result in relatively low operating costs.  We also compete with numerous financial and quasi-financial institutions for deposits and loans, including providers of financial services via the internet.  Recent advances in technology and other changes have allowed parties to effectuate financial transactions that previously required the involvement of banks.  For example, consumers can maintain funds in brokerage accounts or mutual funds that would have historically been held as bank deposits.  Consumers can also complete transactions such as paying bills and transferring funds directly without the assistance of banks.  The process of eliminating banks as intermediaries, known as disintermediation, could result in the loss of customer deposits and the fee income generated by those deposits.  The loss of these revenue streams and access to lower cost deposits as a source of funds could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Moreover, with the large number of bank failures in the past decade some customers have become more concerned about the extent to which their deposits are insured by the FDIC.  Customers may withdraw deposits in an effort to ensure that the amount they have on deposit with their bank is fully insured.  Decreases in deposits may adversely affect our funding costs and net income.  Ultimately, competition can and does increase our cost of funds, reduce loan yields and drive down our net interest margin, thereby reducing profitability.  It can also make it more difficult for us to continue to increase the size of our loan portfolio and deposit base, and could cause us to rely more heavily on wholesale borrowings which are generally more expensive than retail deposits.

16


If we are not able to successfully keep pace with technological changes in the industry, our business could be hurt.  The financial services industry is constantly undergoing technological change, with the frequent introduction of new technology-driven products and services.  The effective use of technology increases efficiency and enables financial institutions to better serve clients and reduce costs.  Our future success depends, in part, upon our ability to respond to the needs of our clients by using technology to provide desired products and services and create additional operating efficiencies.  Some of our competitors have substantially greater resources to invest in technological improvements.  We may not be able to effectively implement new technology-driven products and services or be successful in marketing these products and services to our clients.  Failure to keep pace with technological change in the financial services industry could have a material adverse impact on our business and, in turn, on our financial condition and results of operations.

Unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential customer information, whether through a cyber-attack, other breach of our computer systems or any other means, could severely harm our business.  In the normal course of business we collect, process and retain sensitive and confidential customer information.  Despite the security measures we have in place, our facilities and systems may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, security breaches, acts of vandalism, computer viruses, misplaced or lost data, programming and/or human errors, or other similar events.

In recent periods there has been a rise in fraudulent electronic activity, security breaches, and cyber-attacks, including in the banking sector.  Some financial institutions have reported breaches of their websites and systems which have involved sophisticated and targeted attacks intended to misappropriate sensitive or confidential information, destroy or corrupt data, disable or degrade service, disrupt operations and/or sabotage systems.  These breaches can remain undetected for an extended period of time.  Furthermore, our customers and employees have been, and will continue to be, targeted by parties using fraudulent e-mails and other communications that may appear to be legitimate messages sent by the Bank, in attempts to misappropriate passwords, card numbers, bank account information or other personal information or to introduce viruses or malware to personal computers.  Information security risks for financial institutions have increased in part because of new technologies, mobile services and other web-based products used to conduct financial and other business transactions, as well as the increased sophistication and activities of organized crime, perpetrators of fraud, hackers, terrorists and others.  The secure maintenance and transmission of confidential information, as well as the secure and reliable execution of transactions over our systems, are essential to protect us and our customers and to maintain our customers’ confidence.  Despite our efforts to identify, contain and mitigate these threats through detection and response mechanisms, product improvement, the use of encryption and authentication technology, and customer and employee education, such attempted fraudulent activities directed against us, our customers, and third party service providers remain a serious issue.  The pervasiveness of cyber security incidents in general and the risks of cyber-crime are complex and continue to evolve.

We also face risks related to cyber-attacks and other security breaches in connection with debit card transactions, which typically involve the transmission of sensitive information regarding our customers through various third parties.  Some of these parties have in the past been the target of security breaches and cyber-attacks, and because the transactions involve third parties and environments that we do not control or secure, future security breaches or cyber-attacks affecting any of these third parties could impact us through no fault of our own, and in some cases we may have exposure and suffer losses for breaches or attacks relating to them.  We also rely on third party service providers to conduct certain other aspects of our business operations, and face similar risks relating to them.  While we require regular security assessments from those third parties, we cannot be sure that their information security protocols are sufficient to withstand a cyber-attack or security breach.

Any cyber-attack or other security breach involving the misappropriation or loss of Company assets or those of its customers, or unauthorized disclosure of confidential customer information, could severely damage our reputation, erode confidence in the security of our systems, products and services, expose us to the risk of litigation and liability, disrupt our operations, and have a material adverse effect on our business.

If our information systems were to experience a system failure, our business and reputation could suffer.  We rely heavily on communications and information systems to conduct our business.  The computer systems and network infrastructure we use could be vulnerable to unforeseen problems.  Our operations are dependent upon our ability to minimize service disruptions by protecting our computer equipment, systems, and network infrastructure from physical damage due to fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or a similar catastrophic event.  We have protective measures in place to prevent or limit the effect of the failure or interruption of our information systems, and

17


will continue to upgrade our security technology and update procedures to help prevent such events.  However, if such failures or interruptions were to occur, they could result in damage to our reputation, a loss of customers, increased regulatory scrutiny, or possible exposure to financial liability, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to a variety of operational risks, including reputational risk, legal risk, compliance risk, the risk of fraud or theft by employees or outsiders, and the risk of clerical or record-keeping errors, which may adversely affect our business and results of operations.  If personal, non-public, confidential or proprietary customer information in our possession were to be mishandled or misused, we could suffer significant regulatory consequences, reputational damage and financial loss.  This could occur, for example, if information was erroneously provided to parties who are not permitted to have the information, either by fault of our systems, employees, or counterparties, or where such information is intercepted or otherwise inappropriately taken by third parties.

Because the nature of the financial services business involves a high volume of transactions, certain errors may be repeated or compounded before they are discovered and successfully remediated.  Our necessary dependence upon automated systems to record and process transactions and our large transaction volume may further increase the risk that technical flaws or employee tampering or manipulation of those systems could result in losses that are difficult to detect.  We also may be subject to disruptions of our operating systems arising from events that are wholly or partially beyond our control (for example, computer viruses or electrical or telecommunications outages, or natural disasters, disease pandemics or other damage to property or physical assets) which may give rise to disruption of service to customers and to financial loss or liability.  We are further exposed to the risk that our external vendors may be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations (or will be subject to the same risk of fraud or operational errors by their employees) and to the risk that our (or our vendors’) business continuity and data security efforts might prove to be inadequate.  The occurrence of any of these risks could result in a diminished ability to operate our business (for example, by requiring us to expend significant resources to correct the defect), as well as potential liability to clients, reputational damage and regulatory intervention, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, perhaps materially.

Previously enacted and potential future regulations could have a significant impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  Dodd-Frank, which was enacted in 2010, is having a broad impact on the financial services industry, including significant regulatory and compliance changes.  Many of the requirements called for in Dodd-Frank will be implemented over time, and most will be facilitated by the enactment of regulations over the course of several years.  Given the uncertainty associated with the manner in which the provisions of Dodd-Frank will be implemented, the full extent to which they will impact our operations is unclear.  The changes resulting from Dodd-Frank may impact the profitability of business activities, require changes to certain business practices, impose more stringent capital, liquidity and leverage requirements or otherwise adversely affect our business.  In particular, the potential impact of Dodd-Frank on our operations and activities, both currently and prospectively, include, among others:

 

an increase in our cost of operations due to greater regulatory oversight, supervision and examination of banks and bank holding companies, and higher deposit insurance premiums;

 

the limitation of our ability to expand consumer product and service offerings due to more stringent consumer protection laws and regulations;

 

a negative impact on our cost of funds in a rising interest rate environment, since financial institutions can now pay interest on business checking accounts;

 

a potential reduction in fee income, due to limits on interchange fees applicable to larger institutions which could ultimately lead to a competitive-driven reduction in the fees we receive; and

 

a potential increase in competition due to the elimination of the remaining barriers to de novo interstate branching.

Further, we may be required to invest significant management attention and resources to evaluate and make any changes necessary to comply with new statutory and regulatory requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act, which could negatively impact our results of operations and financial condition.  We cannot predict whether there will be additional laws or reforms that would affect the U.S. financial system or financial institutions, when such changes may be

18


adopted, how such changes may be interpreted and enforced or how such changes may affect us.  However, the costs of complying with any additional laws or regulations could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Growing by acquisition entails integration and certain other risks, and our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively affected if our expansion efforts are unsuccessful or we fail to manage our growth effectively.  In addition to organic growth and the establishment of de novo branches, over the past several years we have engaged in expansion through acquisitions of branches and whole institutions.  We may continue to pursue this growth strategy, within our current footprint and/or via geographic expansion, but there are risks associated with any such expansion.  Those risks include, among others, incorrectly assessing the asset quality of a bank acquired in a particular transaction, encountering greater than anticipated costs in integrating acquired businesses, facing resistance from customers or employees, being unable to profitably deploy assets acquired in the transaction, and regulatory compliance risks.  To the extent we issue capital stock in connection with additional transactions, if any, these transactions and related stock issuances may have a dilutive effect on earnings per share and share ownership. 

Our earnings, financial condition, and prospects after a merger or acquisition depend in part on our ability to successfully integrate the operations of the acquired company.  We may be unable to integrate operations successfully or to achieve expected cost savings.  Any cost savings which are realized may be offset by losses in revenues or other charges to earnings.  There also may be business disruptions that cause us to lose customers or cause customers to remove their accounts from us and move their business to competing financial institutions.  In addition, our ability to grow may be limited if we cannot make acquisitions.  We compete with other financial institutions with respect to proposed acquisitions.  We cannot predict if or when we will be able to identify and attract acquisition candidates or make acquisitions on favorable terms.

We may experience future goodwill impairment.  In accordance with GAAP, we record assets acquired and liabilities assumed at their fair value with the excess of the purchase consideration over the net assets acquired resulting in the recognition of goodwill.  We perform a goodwill evaluation at least annually to test for potential impairment.  As part of our testing, we first assess qualitative factors to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount.  If we determine that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount using these qualitative factors, we then measure the impairment loss by comparing the implied fair value of goodwill with the carrying amount of that goodwill.  Adverse conditions in our business climate, including a significant decline in future operating cash flows, a significant change in our stock price or market capitalization, or a deviation from our expected growth rate and performance may significantly affect the fair value of our goodwill and may trigger impairment losses, which could be materially adverse to our operating results and financial position.  We cannot provide assurance that we will not be required to take an impairment charge in the future.  Any impairment charge would have an adverse effect on our shareholders’ equity and financial results and could cause a decline in our stock price.  

Changes in accounting standards may affect our performance.  Our accounting policies and methods are fundamental to how we record and report our financial condition and results of operations.  From time to time the FASB and SEC change the financial accounting and reporting standards that govern the preparation of our financial statements.  These changes can be difficult to predict and can materially impact how we report and record our financial condition and results of operations.  In some cases, we could be required to apply a new or revised standard retroactively, resulting in a retrospective adjustment to prior financial statements.

One significant pronouncement is ASU 2016-13, which was released by the FASB in 2016 and which the Company is required to adopt no later than January 1, 2020.  ASU 2016-13 includes changes to the methodology for determining the amount of the allowance for credit losses, among other things.  The new credit loss model will be a substantial change from the standard in place today, as it requires the Company to calculate its allowance on the basis of current expected credit losses over the lifetime of its loans (commonly referred to as the “CECL” model), instead of losses inherent in the portfolio as of a point in time.  On the effective date, institutions will record a cumulative-effect balance sheet adjustment for financial assets carried at amortized cost for any change in the related allowance for loan and lease losses generated by the adoption of the new standard.  The Company’s preliminary evaluation indicates that when adopted, the provisions of ASU 2016-13 will impact our consolidated financial statements, particularly the level of our reserve for credit losses and shareholders’ equity, which could materially affect our financial condition and

19


future results of operations.  See Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements under “Recent Accounting Pronouncements” for additional details on ASU 2016-13 and its expected impact on the Company.

We may be adversely affected by the financial stability of other financial institutions.  Our ability to engage in routine transactions could be adversely affected by the actions and liquidity of other financial institutions.  Financial institutions are often interconnected as a result of trading, clearing, counterparty, or other business relationships.  We have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including commercial banks, brokers and dealers, investment banks, and other institutional clients.  Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event of a default by a counterparty or client.  Even if the transactions are collateralized, credit risk could exist if the collateral held by us cannot be liquidated at prices sufficient to recover the full amount of the credit or derivative exposure due to us.  Any such losses could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Changes in interest rates could adversely affect our profitability, business and prospects.  Net interest income, and therefore earnings, can be adversely affected by differences or changes in the interest rates on, or the repricing frequency of, our financial instruments.  In addition, fluctuations in interest rates can affect the demand of customers for products and services, and an increase in the general level of interest rates may adversely affect the ability of certain borrowers to make variable-rate loan payments.  Accordingly, changes in market interest rates could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s asset quality, loan origination volume, financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows.  This interest rate risk can arise from Federal Reserve Board monetary policies, as well as other economic, regulatory and competitive factors that are beyond our control.

We depend on our executive officers and key personnel to implement our business strategy, and could be harmed by the loss of their services.  We believe that our continued growth and success depends in large part upon the skills of our management team and other key personnel.  The competition for qualified personnel in the financial services industry is intense, and the loss of key personnel or an inability to attract, retain or motivate key personnel could adversely affect our business.  If we are not able to retain our existing key personnel or attract additional qualified personnel, our business operations could be impaired.

The value of the securities in our investment portfolio may be negatively affected by market disruptions, adverse credit events or fluctuations in interest rates, which could have a material adverse impact on capital levels.  Our available-for-sale investment securities are reported at their estimated fair values, and fluctuations in fair values can result from changes in market interest rates, rating agency actions, issuer defaults, illiquid markets and limited investor demand, among other things.  As long as the change in the fair value of a security is not considered to be “other than temporary,” we directly increase or decrease accumulated other comprehensive income in shareholders’ equity by the amount of the change in fair value, net of the tax effect.  Because of the size of our fixed income bond portfolio relative to total assets, a relatively large increase in market interest rates, in particular, could result in a material drop in fair values and, by extension, our capital.  Investment securities that have an amortized cost in excess of their current fair value at the end of a reporting period are also evaluated for other-than-temporary impairment.  If such impairment is indicated, the difference between the amortized cost and the fair value of those securities will be recorded as a charge in our income statement, which could also have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and capital levels.

We are exposed to the risk of environmental liabilities with respect to properties to which we obtain title.  Approximately 84% of our loan portfolio at December 31, 2018 consisted of real estate loans.  In the normal course of business we may foreclose and take title to real estate collateral, and could be subject to environmental liabilities with respect to those properties.  We may be held liable to a governmental entity or to third parties for property damage, personal injury, investigation and clean-up costs incurred by these parties in connection with environmental contamination, or may be required to investigate or clean up hazardous or toxic substances, or chemical releases at a property.  The costs associated with investigation or remediation activities could be substantial.  In addition, if we are the owner or former owner of a contaminated site, we may be subject to common law claims by third parties based on damages and costs resulting from environmental contamination emanating from the property.  These costs and claims could adversely affect our business and prospects.

20


Risks Related to our Common Stock

You may not be able to sell your shares at the times and in the amounts you want if the price of our stock fluctuates significantly or the trading market for our stock is not active.  The trading price of our common stock could be impacted by a number of factors, many of which are outside our control.  Although our stock has been listed on NASDAQ for many years and our trading volume has increased in recent periods, trading in our stock does not consistently occur in high volumes and the market for our stock cannot always be characterized as active.  Thin trading in our stock may exaggerate fluctuations in the stock’s value, leading to price volatility in excess of that which would occur in a more active trading market.  In addition, the stock market in general is subject to fluctuations that affect the share prices and trading volumes of many companies, and these broad market fluctuations could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.  Factors that could affect our common stock price in the future include but are not necessarily limited to the following:

 

actual or anticipated fluctuations in our operating results and financial condition;

 

changes in revenue or earnings estimates or publication of research reports and recommendations by financial analysts;

 

failure to meet analysts’ revenue or earnings estimates;

 

speculation in the press or investment community;

 

strategic actions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions or restructurings;

 

actions by shareholders;

 

sales of our equity or equity-related securities, or the perception that such sales may occur;

 

fluctuations in the trading volume of our common stock;

 

fluctuations in the stock prices, trading volumes, and operating results of our competitors;

 

market conditions in general and, in particular, for the financial services industry;

 

proposed or adopted regulatory changes or developments;

 

regulatory action against us;

 

actual, anticipated or pending investigations, proceedings, or litigation that involve or affect us; and

 

domestic and international economic factors unrelated to our performance.

The stock market and, more specifically, the market for financial institution stocks, has experienced significant volatility in the past, including in the latter part of 2018.  As a result, the market price of our common stock has at times been unpredictable and could be in the future, as well.  The capital and credit markets have also experienced volatility and disruption over the past several years, at times reaching unprecedented levels.  In some cases, the markets have produced downward pressure on stock prices and adversely impacted credit availability for certain issuers without regard to the issuers’ underlying financial strength.

We could pursue additional capital in the future, which may or may not be available on acceptable terms, could dilute the holders of our outstanding common stock, and may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.  Our ability to raise additional capital, if needed, will depend on, among other things, conditions in the capital markets at the time, which are outside of our control, and our financial performance.  Furthermore, any capital raising activity could dilute the holders of our outstanding common stock, and may adversely affect the market price of our common stock and performance measures such as return on equity and earnings per share.

Future acquisitions may dilute shareholder ownership and value, especially tangible book value per share.  We periodically evaluate opportunities to acquire other financial institutions and/or bank branches, and could incorporate such acquisitions as part of our future growth strategy.  Such acquisitions may involve cash, debt, and/or equity securities.  Acquisitions typically involve the payment of a premium over book and market values, and, therefore, some dilution of our tangible book value per common share may occur in connection with any future acquisitions.  To

21


the extent we issue capital stock in connection with such transactions, the share ownership of our existing shareholders may be diluted.

The Company relies heavily on the payment of dividends from the Bank.  Other than $2.3 million in cash available at the holding company level at December 31, 2018, the Company’s ability to meet debt service requirements and pay dividends depends on the Bank’s ability to pay dividends to the Company, as the Company has no other source of significant income.  However, the Bank is subject to regulations limiting the amount of dividends it may pay.  For example, the payment of dividends by the Bank is affected by the requirement to maintain adequate capital pursuant to the capital adequacy guidelines issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  If (i) any capital requirements are increased; and/or (ii) the total risk-weighted assets of the Bank increase significantly; and/or (iii) the Bank’s income declines significantly, the Bank’s Board of Directors may decide or be required to retain a greater portion of the Bank’s earnings to achieve and maintain the required capital or asset ratios.  This would reduce the amount of funds available for the payment of dividends by the Bank to the Company.  Further, one or more of the Bank’s regulators could prohibit the Bank from paying dividends if, in their view, such payments would constitute unsafe or unsound banking practices.  The Bank’s ability to pay dividends to the Company is also limited by the California Financial Code.  Whether dividends are paid, and the frequency and amount of such dividends will also depend on the financial condition and performance of the Bank and the decision of the Bank’s Board of Directors.  Information concerning the Company’s dividend policy and historical dividend practices is set forth in Item 5 below under “Dividends.”  However, no assurance can be given that our future performance will justify the payment of dividends in any particular year.

Your investment may be diluted because of our ability to offer stock to others, and from the exercise of stock options.  The shares of our common stock do not have preemptive rights, which means that you may not be entitled to buy additional shares if shares are offered to others in the future.  We are authorized to issue up to 24,000,000 shares of common stock, and as of December 31, 2018 we had 15,300,460 shares of common stock outstanding.  Except for certain limitations imposed by NASDAQ, nothing restricts our ability to offer additional shares of stock for fair value to others in the future.  Any issuances of common stock would dilute our shareholders’ ownership interests and may dilute the per share book value of our common stock.  Furthermore, when our directors and officers exercise in-the-money stock options your ownership in the Company is diluted.  As of December 31, 2018, there were outstanding options to purchase an aggregate of 453,020 shares of our common stock with an average exercise price of $18.45 per share.  At the same date there were an additional 767,000 shares available to grant under our 2017 Stock Incentive Plan.

Shares of our preferred stock issued in the future could have dilutive and other effects on our common stock.  Our Articles of Incorporation authorize us to issue 10,000,000 shares of preferred stock, none of which is presently outstanding.  Although our Board of Directors has no present intention to authorize the issuance of shares of preferred stock, such shares could be authorized in the future.  If such shares of preferred stock are made convertible into shares of common stock, there could be a dilutive effect on the shares of common stock then outstanding.  In addition, shares of preferred stock may be provided a preference over holders of common stock upon our liquidation or with respect to the payment of dividends, in respect of voting rights, or in the redemption of our common stock.  The rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions applicable to any series or preferred stock would be determined by resolution of our Board of Directors.

The holders of our debentures have rights that are senior to those of our shareholders.  In 2004 we issued $15,464,000 of junior subordinated debt securities due March 17, 2034, and in 2006 we issued an additional $15,464,000 of junior subordinated debt securities due September 23, 2036 in order to supplement regulatory capital.  Moreover, the Coast Bancorp acquisition included $7,217,000 of junior subordinated debt securities due December 15, 2037.  All of these junior subordinated debt securities are senior to the shares of our common stock.  As a result, we must make interest payments on the debentures before any dividends can be paid on our common stock, and in the event of our bankruptcy, dissolution or liquidation, the holders of debt securities must be paid in full before any distributions may be made to the holders of our common stock.  In addition, we have the right to defer interest payments on the junior subordinated debt securities for up to five years, during which time no dividends may be paid to holders of our common stock.  In the event that the Bank is unable to pay dividends to us, we may be unable to pay the amounts due to the holders of the junior subordinated debt securities and thus would be unable to declare and pay any dividends on our common stock.

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Provisions in our articles of incorporation could delay or prevent changes in control of our corporation or our management.  Our articles of incorporation contain provisions for staggered terms of office for members of the board of directors; no cumulative voting in the election of directors; and the requirement that our board of directors consider the potential social and economic effects on our employees, depositors, customers and the communities we serve as well as certain other factors, when evaluating a possible tender offer, merger or other acquisition of the Company.  These provisions make it more difficult for another company to acquire us, which could cause our shareholders to lose an opportunity to be paid a premium for their shares in an acquisition transaction and reduce the current and future market price of our common stock.

ITEM 1B.  UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

Not applicable.

Item 2.  Properties

The Company’s administrative headquarters is housed in a 37,000 square foot, three-story office building located at 86 North Main Street, Porterville, California, and our main office consists of a one-story brick building located at 90 N. Main Street, Porterville, California, adjacent to our administrative headquarters.  Both of those buildings are situated on unencumbered property owned by the Company.  The Company also owns unencumbered property on which 18 of our other offices are located, namely the following branches:  Bakersfield Ming, California City, Dinuba, Exeter, Farmersville, Fresno Shaw, Hanford, Lindsay, Lompoc, Porterville West Olive, San Luis Obispo, Santa Paula, Tehachapi Downtown, Tehachapi Old Town, Three Rivers, Tulare, Visalia Mooney and Woodlake.  The remaining branches, as well as our technology center and remote ATM locations, are leased from unrelated parties.  Management believes that existing back-office facilities are adequate to accommodate the Company’s operations for the immediately foreseeable future.

Item 3.  Legal Proceedings

From time to time the Company is a party to claims and legal proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business. After taking into consideration information furnished by counsel to the Company as to the current status of these claims or proceedings to which the Company is a party, Management is of the opinion that the ultimate aggregate liability represented thereby, if any, will not have a material adverse effect on the financial condition of the Company.

Item 4.  MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.

23


PART II

Item 5.  Market for REGISTRANT’S Common Equity, Related Shareholder Matters AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

(a)

Market Information

Sierra Bancorp’s Common Stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol BSRR, and the CUSIP number for our stock is #82620P102.  Trading in the Company’s Common Stock has not consistently occurred in high volumes, and such trading activity cannot always be characterized as an active trading market.

The following table summarizes trades of the Company’s Common Stock, setting forth the approximate high and low sales prices and volume of trading for the periods indicated, based upon information available via public sources:

 

 

Sale Price Of The Company's

 

 

Approximate Trading

 

Calendar

 

Common Stock

 

 

Volumes

 

Quarter End

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

Shares

 

March 31, 2017

 

 

29.50

 

 

 

25.06

 

 

 

3,199,738

 

June 30, 2017

 

 

27.86

 

 

 

23.10

 

 

 

2,107,112

 

September 30, 2017

 

 

28.03

 

 

 

23.29

 

 

 

1,904,551

 

December 31, 2017

 

 

28.87

 

 

 

24.32

 

 

 

2,368,197

 

March 31, 2018

 

 

28.70

 

 

 

25.42

 

 

 

1,557,545

 

June 30, 2018

 

 

29.96

 

 

 

25.72

 

 

 

1,666,047

 

September 30, 2018

 

 

31.18

 

 

 

28.03

 

 

 

2,576,212

 

December 31, 2018

 

 

29.02

 

 

 

22.94

 

 

 

2,598,735

 

(b)

Holders

As of January 31, 2019 there were an estimated 4,824 shareholders of the Company’s Common Stock.  There were 695 registered holders of record on that date, and per Broadridge, an investor communication company, there were 4,129 beneficial holders with shares held under a street name, including “objecting beneficial owners” whose names and addresses are unavailable.  Since some holders maintain multiple accounts, it is likely that the above numbers overstate the actual number of the Company’s shareholders.

(c)

Dividends

The Company paid cash dividends totaling $9.8 million, or $0.64 per share in 2018 and $7.9 million, or $0.56 per share in 2017, which represents 33% of annual net earnings for 2018 and 41% for 2017.  The Company’s general dividend policy is to pay cash dividends within the range of typical peer payout ratios, provided that such payments do not adversely affect the Company’s financial condition and are not overly restrictive to its growth capacity.  However, in the past when many of our peers elected to suspend dividend payments, the Company’s Board determined that we should continue to pay a certain level of dividends without regard to peer payout ratios, as long as our core operating performance was adequate and policy or regulatory restrictions did not preclude such payments.  That said, no assurance can be given that our financial performance in any given year will justify the continued payment of a certain level of cash dividend, or any cash dividend at all.

As a bank holding company that currently has no significant assets other than its equity interest in the Bank, the Company’s ability to declare dividends depends upon cash on hand as supplemented by dividends from the Bank.  The Bank’s dividend practices in turn depend upon the Bank’s earnings, financial position, regulatory standing, ability to meet current and anticipated regulatory capital requirements, and other factors deemed relevant by the Bank’s Board of Directors.  The authority of the Bank’s Board of Directors to declare cash dividends is also subject to statutory restrictions.  Under California banking law, the Bank may at any time declare a dividend in an amount not to exceed the lesser of (i) its retained earnings, or (ii) its net income for the last three fiscal years reduced by distributions to the Bank’s shareholder during such period.  However, with the prior approval of the California Commissioner of Business Oversight the Bank may declare a larger dividend, in an amount not exceeding the greatest of (i) the retained earnings of the Bank, (ii) the net income of the Bank for its last fiscal year, or (iii) the net income of the Bank for its current fiscal year.

24


The Company’s ability to pay dividends is also limited by state law.  California law allows a California corporation to pay dividends if its retained earnings equal at least the amount of the proposed dividend plus any preferred dividend arrears amount.  If a California corporation does not have sufficient retained earnings available for the proposed dividend, it may still pay a dividend to its shareholders if immediately after the dividend the value of the company’s assets would equal or exceed the sum of its total liabilities plus any preferred dividend arrears amount.  In addition, during any period in which the Company has deferred the payment of interest otherwise due and payable on its subordinated debt securities, it may not pay any dividends or make any distributions with respect to its capital stock (see “Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Capital Resources”).

(d)

Securities Authorized for Issuance under Equity Compensation Plans

The following table provides information as of December 31, 2018 with respect to options outstanding and available under our 2017 Stock Incentive Plan and the now-terminated 2007 Stock Incentive Plan, which are our only equity compensation plans other than an employee benefit plan meeting the qualification requirements of Section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code:

Plan Category

Number of Securities

to be Issued Upon Exercise

of Outstanding Options

Weighted-Average

Exercise Price of

Outstanding Options

Number of Securities

Remaining Available

for Future Issuance

Equity compensation plans

   approved by security holders

453,020

$18.45

767,000

(e)

Performance Graph

Below is a five-year performance graph comparing the cumulative total return on the Company’s common stock to the cumulative total returns of the NASDAQ Composite Index (a broad equity market index), the SNL Bank Index, and the SNL $1 billion to $5 billion Bank Index (the latter two qualifying as peer bank indices), assuming a $100 investment on December 31, 2013 and the reinvestment of dividends.

25


 

 Period Ending

Index

12/31/13

12/31/14

12/31/15

12/31/16

12/31/17

12/31/18

Sierra Bancorp

100.00

111.43

114.91

177.96

181.55

168.05

NASDAQ Composite Index

100.00

114.75

122.74

133.62

173.22

168.30

SNL Bank $1B-$5B Index

100.00

104.56

117.04

168.38

179.51

157.27

SNL Bank Index

100.00

111.79

113.69

143.65

169.64

140.98

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

(f)

Stock Repurchases

In September 2016 the Board authorized 500,000 shares of common stock for repurchase, subsequent to the completion of previous stock buyback plans.  The authorization of shares for repurchase does not provide assurance that a specific quantity of shares will be repurchased, and the program may be suspended at any time at Management’s discretion.  The Company did not repurchase any shares in the fourth quarter of 2018, and there were 478,954 authorized shares remaining available for repurchase at December 31, 2018.  As of the date of this report, Management has no immediate plans to resume stock repurchase activity.

Item 6. Selected Financial Data

The following table presents selected historical financial information concerning the Company, which should be read in conjunction with our audited consolidated financial statements, including the related notes, and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included elsewhere herein.  The selected financial data as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, and for each of the years in the three year period ended December 31, 2018, is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes which are included in this Annual Report.  The selected financial data presented for earlier years is from our audited financial statements which are not included in this Annual Report.  Throughout this Annual Report, information is for the consolidated Company unless otherwise stated.

26


Selected Financial Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(dollars in thousands, except per share data)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of and for the years ended December 31,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating Data

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

2015

 

 

2014

 

Interest income

 

$

101,638

 

 

$

80,924

 

 

$

68,505

 

 

$

62,707

 

 

$

55,121

 

Interest expense

 

 

9,244

 

 

 

5,223

 

 

 

3,323

 

 

 

2,581

 

 

 

2,796

 

Net interest income before provision for loan losses

 

 

92,394

 

 

 

75,701

 

 

 

65,182

 

 

 

60,126

 

 

 

52,325

 

(Benefit) provision for loan losses

 

 

4,350

 

 

 

(1,140

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

350

 

Non-interest income

 

 

21,564

 

 

 

21,779

 

 

 

19,238

 

 

 

17,715

 

 

 

15,831

 

Non-interest expense

 

 

70,024

 

 

 

65,441

 

 

 

58,053

 

 

 

50,703

 

 

 

 

Income before provision for income taxes

 

 

39,584

 

 

 

33,179

 

 

 

26,367

 

 

 

27,138

 

 

 

21,431

 

Provision for income taxes

 

 

9,907

 

 

 

13,640

 

 

 

8,800

 

 

 

9,071

 

 

 

6,191

 

Net income

 

 

29,677

 

 

 

19,539

 

 

 

17,567

 

 

 

18,067

 

 

 

15,240

 

Selected Balance Sheet Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total loans, net

 

 

1,724,780

 

 

 

1,551,551

 

 

 

1,255,754

 

 

 

1,124,602

 

 

 

961,056

 

Allowance for loan losses

 

 

9,750

 

 

 

9,043

 

 

 

9,701

 

 

 

10,423

 

 

 

11,248

 

Securities available for sale

 

 

560,479

 

 

 

558,329

 

 

 

530,083

 

 

 

507,582

 

 

 

511,883

 

Cash and due from banks

 

 

74,132

 

 

 

70,137

 

 

 

120,442

 

 

 

48,623

 

 

 

50,095

 

Foreclosed assets

 

 

1,082

 

 

 

5,481

 

 

 

2,225

 

 

 

3,193

 

 

 

3,991

 

Premises and equipment, net

 

 

29,500

 

 

 

29,388

 

 

 

28,893

 

 

 

21,990

 

 

 

21,853

 

Total interest-earning assets

 

 

2,286,952

 

 

 

2,118,875

 

 

 

1,827,192

 

 

 

1,634,180

 

 

 

1,474,629

 

Total assets

 

 

2,522,502

 

 

 

2,340,298

 

 

 

2,032,873

 

 

 

1,796,537

 

 

 

1,637,320

 

Total interest-bearing liabilities

 

 

1,561,039

 

 

 

1,417,590

 

 

 

1,277,416

 

 

 

1,150,010

 

 

 

1,038,177

 

Total deposits

 

 

2,116,340

 

 

 

1,988,386

 

 

 

1,695,471

 

 

 

1,464,628

 

 

 

1,366,695

 

Total liabilities

 

 

2,249,478

 

 

 

2,084,356

 

 

 

1,826,995

 

 

 

1,606,197

 

 

 

1,450,229

 

Total shareholders' equity

 

 

273,024

 

 

 

255,942

 

 

 

205,878

 

 

 

190,340

 

 

 

187,091

 

Per Share Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net income per basic share

 

 

1.94

 

 

 

1.38

 

 

 

1.30

 

 

 

1.34

 

 

 

1.09

 

Net income per diluted share

 

 

1.92

 

 

 

1.36

 

 

 

1.29

 

 

 

1.33

 

 

 

1.08

 

Book value

 

 

17.84

 

 

 

16.81

 

 

 

14.94

 

 

 

14.36

 

 

 

13.67

 

Cash dividends

 

 

0.64

 

 

 

0.56

 

 

 

0.48

 

 

 

0.42

 

 

 

0.34

 

Weighted average common shares outstanding basic

 

 

15,261,794

 

 

 

14,172,196

 

 

 

13,530,293

 

 

 

13,460,605

 

 

 

14,001,958

 

Weighted average common shares outstanding diluted

 

 

15,432,120

 

 

 

14,357,782

 

 

 

13,651,804

 

 

 

13,585,110

 

 

 

14,136,486

 

Key Operating Ratios:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Ratios: (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return on average equity

 

 

11.37

%

 

 

8.82

%

 

 

8.71

%

 

 

9.59

%

 

 

8.18

%

Return on average assets

 

 

1.23

%

 

 

0.93

%

 

 

0.95

%

 

 

1.07

%

 

 

1.03

%

Net interest spread (tax-equivalent) (4)

 

 

4.03

%

 

 

3.90

%

 

 

3.86

%

 

 

3.92

%

 

 

3.92

%

Net interest margin (tax-equivalent)

 

 

4.24

%

 

 

4.04

%

 

 

3.95

%

 

 

3.99

%

 

 

4.01

%

Dividend payout ratio

 

 

32.99

%

 

 

40.61

%

 

 

36.97

%

 

 

31.29

%

 

 

31.33

%

Equity to assets ratio

 

 

10.80

%

 

 

10.53

%

 

 

10.93

%

 

 

11.13

%

 

 

12.58

%

Efficiency ratio (tax-equivalent)

 

 

60.79

%

 

 

65.52

%

 

 

67.23

%

 

 

63.98

%

 

 

66.30

%

Net loans to total Deposits at Period end

 

 

81.50

%

 

 

78.03

%

 

 

74.07

%

 

 

70.32

%

 

 

70.32

%

Asset Quality Ratios: (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-performing loans to total loans (2)

 

 

0.30

%

 

 

0.25

%

 

 

0.50

%

 

 

0.85

%

 

 

2.13

%

Non-performing assets to total loans and other real estate owned (2)

 

 

0.36

%

 

 

0.60

%

 

 

0.68

%

 

 

1.13

%

 

 

2.53

%

Net (recoveries) charge-offs to average loans

 

 

0.22

%

 

 

-0.04

%

 

 

0.06

%

 

 

0.08

%

 

 

0.09

%

Allowance for loan losses to net loans at period end

 

 

-0.57

%

 

 

-0.58

%

 

 

-0.77

%

 

 

-0.93

%

 

 

-1.17

%

Allowance for Loan Losses to Non-Performing Loans

 

 

-189.10

%

 

 

-228.19

%

 

 

-152.41

%

 

 

-108.19

%

 

 

-54.40

%

Regulatory Capital Ratios: (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common equity tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets

 

 

12.61

%

 

 

12.84

%

 

 

14.09

%

 

N/A

 

 

N/A

 

Tier 1 capital to adjusted average assets (leverage ratio)

 

 

11.49

%

 

 

11.32

%

 

 

11.92

%

 

 

12.99

%

 

 

12.99

%

Tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets

 

 

14.38

%

 

 

14.79

%

 

 

16.53

%

 

 

17.39

%

 

 

17.39

%

Total capital to risk-weighted assets

 

 

14.89

%

 

 

15.32

%

 

 

17.25

%

 

 

18.44

%

 

 

18.44

%

 

(1)

Asset quality ratios are end of period ratios. Performance ratios are based on average daily balances during the periods indicated.

(2)

Performing TDR’s are not included in nonperforming loans and are therefore not included in the numerators used to calculate these ratios.

(3)

For definitions and further information relating to regulatory capital requirements, see “Item 1, Business - Supervision and Regulation - Capital Adequacy Requirements herein.

(4)

Represents the average rate earned on interest-earning assets less the average rate paid on interest-bearing liabilities.

27


Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

This discussion presents Management’s analysis of the Company’s financial condition as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, and the results of operations for each year in the three-year period ended December 31, 2018.  The discussion should be read in conjunction with the Company’s consolidated financial statements and the notes related thereto presented elsewhere in this Form 10-K Annual Report (see Item 8 below).

Statements contained in this report or incorporated by reference that are not purely historical are forward looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as amended, including the Company’s expectations, intentions, beliefs, or strategies regarding the future.  All forward-looking statements concerning economic conditions, growth rates, income, expenses, or other values which are included in this document are based on information available to the Company on the date noted, and the Company assumes no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements.  It is important to note that the Company’s actual results could materially differ from those in such forward-looking statements.  Risk factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements include but are not limited to those outlined previously in Item 1A.

Critical Accounting Policies

The Company’s financial statements are prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. The financial information and disclosures contained within those statements are significantly impacted by Management’s estimates and judgments, which are based on historical experience and incorporate various assumptions that are believed to be reasonable under current circumstances.  Actual results may differ from those estimates under divergent conditions.

Critical accounting policies are those that involve the most complex and subjective decisions and assessments, and have the greatest potential impact on the Company’s stated results of operations.  In Management’s opinion, the Company’s critical accounting policies deal with the following areas:  the establishment of an allowance for loan and lease losses, as explained in detail in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements and in the “Provision for Loan Losses” and “Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses” sections of this discussion and analysis; the valuation of impaired loans and foreclosed assets, as discussed in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements; income taxes and deferred tax assets and liabilities, especially with regard to the ability of the Company to recover deferred tax assets as discussed in the “Provision for Income Taxes” and “Other Assets” sections of this discussion and analysis; and goodwill and other intangible assets, which are evaluated annually for impairment and for which we have determined that no impairment exists, as discussed in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements and in the “Other Assets” section of this discussion and analysis.  Critical accounting areas are evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure that the Company’s financial statements incorporate the most recent expectations with regard to those areas.

Overview of the Results of Operations and Financial Condition

Results of Operations Summary

The Company recognized net income of $29.677 million in 2018, relative to $19.539 million in 2017 and $17.567 million in 2016.  Net income per diluted share was $1.92 in 2018, as compared to $1.36 in 2017 and $1.29 for 2016.  The Company’s return on average assets and return on average equity were 1.23% and 11.37%, respectively, in 2018, as compared to 0.93% and 8.82%, respectively, in 2017 and 0.95% and 8.71%, respectively, for 2016.  Our operating results and balance sheet have been materially impacted in recent periods by whole-bank acquisitions and nonrecurring items, as discussed in greater detail in the applicable sections below.  Furthermore, the Company’s financial performance was favorably affected by a substantially lower corporate income tax rate starting in 2018, but was negatively impacted in 2017 by a $2.710 million charge to our income tax provision as we revalued our net deferred tax asset to reflect the lower income tax rate enacted at the end of the year.  Excluding the impact of nonrecurring items, our core financial results have been trending better for the past several years due in part to a higher volume of loans, a strong base of core deposits, and reductions in nonperforming assets.  The following is a summary of the major factors that impacted the Company’s results of operations for the years presented in the consolidated financial statements.

28


Net interest income improved by 22% in 2018 over 2017 and 16% in 2017 over 2016, due primarily to growth in average interest-earning assets.  The increase in average earning assets in 2018 over 2017 was largely organic, resulting from concerted business development efforts and lending opportunities inherent in expanded markets.  The increase in 2017 over 2016 was the result of our acquisitions of Coast National Bank in mid-2016 and Ojai Community Bank in the fourth quarter of 2017, organic loan growth, and a higher level of investments.  The positive impact of asset growth was enhanced by net interest margin expansion of 20 basis points in 2018 and nine basis points in 2017, resulting in part from short-term interest rate increases, discount accretion on acquisition loans, and a favorable shift in our mix of interest-earning assets.  Net interest income has also been impacted by nonrecurring interest items, which added $277,000 to interest income in 2018 relative to $736,000 in 2017 and $563,000 in 2016.

We recorded a loan loss provision of $4.350 million in 2018, relative to a negative provision of $1.140 million in 2017 and no provision for 2016.  The 2018 provision was deemed necessary subsequent to our determination of the appropriate level for our allowance for loan and lease losses, taking into consideration overall credit quality, growth in outstanding loan balances, and reserves required for specifically identified impaired loan balances (including $2.4 million for a large purchased participation loan that was placed on non-accrual status in the third quarter).  The provision reversal in 2017 was made possible by principal recovered on charged-off loan balances, and the zero provision for 2016 was facilitated by the reduction of impaired loan balances, lower loan losses, and tighter underwriting standards for new and renewed loans.

Noninterest income fell by $215,000, or 1%, in 2018 over 2017, but improved by $2.541 million, or 13%, in 2017 compared to 2016.  The decline in 2018 occurred as gains in deposit service charges, debit card interchange income, and other fees were offset by lower income from bank-owned life insurance (“BOLI”) associated with deferred compensation plans, and a drop in nonrecurring income including the impact of an expense amortization adjustment on our tax credit investments (reflected as an offset to income).  The improvement in 2017 is comprised primarily of growth in service charges on deposit accounts and other core fee income, but also includes nonrecurring items as discussed below.

Operating expense increased by $4.583 million, or 7%, in 2018 over 2017, and by $7.388 million, or 13%, in 2017 compared to 2016.  The escalation for 2018 includes the impact of acquisitions on ongoing operating costs and a relatively large increase in group health insurance costs, partially offset by favorable swings of $1.776 million in nonrecurring acquisition costs, $1.000 million in net foreclosed asset costs, and $698,000 in directors deferred compensation expense (related to the drop in BOLI income).  Most of the 2017 increase came from higher operating costs associated with branches added via our acquisitions as well as de novo branch expansion.  Nonrecurring costs, including those related to acquisitions, are delineated below.

The Company recorded income tax provisions of $9.907 million, or 25% of pre-tax income in 2018; $13.640 million, or 41% of pre-tax income in 2017; and $8.800 million, or 33% of pre-tax income in 2016.  The lower tax rate for 2018 resulted from a reduction in our federal income tax rate starting in 2018.  The relatively high tax accrual rate for 2017 over 2016 is primarily the result of the aforementioned $2.710 million deferred tax asset revaluation charge, but also reflects higher taxable income relative to available tax credits.

Financial Condition Summary

The Company’s assets totaled $2.523 billion at December 31, 2018, relative to $2.340 billion at December 31, 2017.  Total liabilities were $2.249 billion at the end of 2018 compared to $2.084 billion at the end of 2017, and shareholders’ equity totaled $273 million at December 31, 2018 relative to $256 million at December 31, 2017.  The following is a summary of key balance sheet changes during 2018.

Total assets increased by $182 million, or 8%.  The increase resulted primarily from net loan growth.

Gross loans and leases were up $174 million, or 11%.  Loan growth consisted mainly of strong organic growth in real estate loans, largely occurring in commercial real estate and construction loans.  Mortgage warehouse loans were down $46 million, or 33%, primarily because a lower utilization rate on mortgage warehouse lines, and commercial and consumer loan balances also declined.

Deposit balances reflect net growth of $128 million, or 6%.  Deposit growth in 2018 includes deposits in our acquired Lompoc branch totaling about $34 million at the reporting date, and the addition of $50 million in wholesale brokered deposits.  Core non-maturity deposits fell by close to $8 million, as the Bank’s time deposit

29


promotion in the fourth quarter resulted in some internal cannibalization of money market deposits in particular, which were down by $48 million, or 28%.  Customer time deposits increased by $86 million, or 23%, during 2018, due in large part to the promotion.

Total capital increased by $17 million, or 7%, ending the year with a balance of $273 million.  The increase in capital is due to the addition of net income and capital from stock options exercised, net of dividends paid, and a $4.3 million increase in our accumulated other comprehensive loss.

Results of Operations

As noted above, acquisitions have had a material impact on our operating results in recent periods, including the recognition of nonrecurring acquisition costs as well as higher revenues and ongoing overhead expense.  Our results were also materially affected by the reduction in our federal income tax rate, which was enacted at the end of 2017 and became effective at the beginning of 2018.  Net income was $29.677 million in 2018, an increase of $10.138 million, or 52%, relative to 2017.  Net income also increased by $1.972 million, or 11%, in 2017 compared to 2016.  The Company earns income from two primary sources.  The first is net interest income, which is interest income generated by earning assets less interest expense on deposits and other borrowed money.  The second is noninterest income, which primarily consists of customer service charges and fees but also comes from non-customer sources such as bank-owned life insurance and investment gains.  The majority of the Company’s noninterest expense is comprised of operating costs that facilitate offering a full range of banking services to our customers.

Net Interest Income and Net Interest Margin

Net interest income was $92.394 million in 2018, compared to $75.701 million in 2017 and $65.182 million in 2016.  This equates to increases of 22% in 2018 and 16% in 2017.  The level of net interest income we recognize in any given period depends on a combination of factors including the average volume and yield for interest-earning assets, the average volume and cost of interest-bearing liabilities, and the mix of products which comprise the Company’s earning assets, deposits, and other interest-bearing liabilities.  Net interest income is also impacted by the reversal of interest for loans placed on non-accrual status, and the recovery of interest on loans that had been on non-accrual and were paid off, sold or returned to accrual status.

The following table shows average balances for significant balance sheet categories and the amount of interest income or interest expense associated with each category for each of the past three years.  The table also displays calculated yields on each major component of the Company’s investment and loan portfolios, average rates paid on each key segment of the Company’s interest-bearing liabilities, and our net interest margin for the noted periods.

 

30


Distribution, Rate & Yield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(dollars in thousands, except footnotes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

 

Average

 

 

Income/

 

 

Average

 

 

Average

 

 

Income/

 

 

Average

 

 

Average

 

 

Income/

 

 

Average

 

Assets

 

Balance(1)

 

 

Expense

 

 

Rate/Yield(2)

 

 

Balance(1)

 

 

Expense

 

 

Rate/Yield(2)

 

 

Balance(1)

 

 

Expense

 

 

Rate/Yield(2)

 

Investments:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal funds sold/due from banks

 

$

13,237

 

 

$

238

 

 

 

1.77

%

 

$

34,832

 

 

$

356

 

 

 

1.01

%

 

$

11,210

 

 

$

84

 

 

 

0.74

%

Taxable

 

 

422,848

 

 

 

9,548

 

 

 

2.23

%

 

 

437,194

 

 

 

8,614

 

 

 

1.94

%

 

 

415,902

 

 

 

7,922

 

 

 

1.87

%

Non-taxable

 

 

140,300

 

 

 

4,060

 

 

 

3.66

%

 

 

133,506

 

 

 

3,711

 

 

 

4.28

%

 

 

108,568

 

 

 

3,009

 

 

 

4.26

%

Equity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,128

 

 

 

16

 

 

 

1.40

%

 

 

1,214

 

 

 

40

 

 

 

3.24

%

Total investments

 

 

576,385

 

 

 

13,846

 

 

 

2.55

%

 

 

606,660

 

 

 

12,697

 

 

 

2.39

%

 

 

536,894

 

 

 

11,055

 

 

 

2.32

%

Loans and Leases: (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real estate

 

 

1,350,425

 

 

 

73,006

 

 

 

5.41

%

 

 

1,029,224

 

 

 

53,329

 

 

 

5.18

%

 

 

827,868

 

 

 

42,107

 

 

 

5.09

%

Agricultural

 

 

52,031

 

 

 

2,980

 

 

 

5.73