John P. Barnes
Thank you, Peter. Good afternoon, everyone. We appreciate you joining us today. Now is a good time of the year to reflect on the past year, as well as our goals for 2012. You will recall that throughout 2011, we have had 2 primary objectives: optimizing existing businesses and efficiently deploying capital. In 2011, we executed well against both of these goals. We've now integrated 5 acquisitions since 2010 and taken out more cuts -- costs than were estimated at the time of each transaction. Integration and systems conversions have become a core competency for this organization. Further, we've become very focused on organic loan and deposit growth, having entered the large new markets of the Boston and New York City MSAs. Our momentum is based on our 170-year-old brand and outstanding customer service throughout the financial crisis. We offer the full breadth of products and services our customers need while providing a true relationship-based solution. All of this was accomplished while retaining strong asset quality, solid capital levels and a 5% dividend yield.
Our 2011 financial results show substantial improvement. Operating earnings grew $112 million or 89% year-over-year. Likewise, our operating return on average assets was 91 basis points, up 34 basis points or 60% over 2010.
The primary driver behind our improvement has been and continues to be loan and deposit growth per share. During 2011, loans per share grew 20%, and deposits per share grew 18%.I want to share 6 goals for 2012: first, grow loans in the mid-single digit to low double digits; second, increase deposits in the mid-single digits; third, strive to maintain a net interest margin above 4% for the first half of the year and minimize the decline below 4% for the second half; fourth, reduce operating expenses to a run rate of $790 million to $810 million. Kirk will provide more detail. But at the highest level, we've accomplished 2 things: We have completed benchmarking process for the entire company and instituted a number of organizational changes. And second, we've established an expense management committee, which will manage costs from a horizontal perspective in addition to the traditional vertical business unit perspective; fifth, we will work to offset 40% to 60% of the impact of Dodd-Frank. We believe we've offset 20% already; and sixth, maintain a fortress balance sheet with continuing excellent credit quality and strong capital levels.