We know that if we execute on our intermediate-term goals, we will on our own, without M&A or interest rate improvement, reach our 55% efficiency ratio goal in mid-2013 and our 125 basis point return on average asset goal in 2014. We believe that there will be significant regulatory undertakings for all institutions in 2012 and later years as the numerous regulations are enacted under Dodd-Frank.
As we've said in the past, this is a significant tax on the industry, and we'll inevitably contribute to the fatigue factor, particularly among smaller players, specially in light of the additional lost revenue and the higher compliance costs related to Dodd-Frank. We know we can hit our financial goals on our own through organic growth, dividends and share repurchases, but we'll also be working diligently to get there faster via industry consolidation. Global deleveraging and the rising level of fatigue within the U.S. banking industry would provide acquisition opportunities in 2012 and 2013.
With that, I'll pass it to Kirk to discuss the quarter and the expense management initiatives in more detail. Kirk?
Kirk W. WaltersThank you. On Slide 4, we provide an overview of our fourth quarter results. For the quarter, operating earnings were $58.7 million, or $0.17 per share, with a net income of $43 million, or $0.12 per share. The net interest margin improved to 4.16% compared to 4.11% in the third quarter. The improvement in the reported level is the result of cost recovery income resulting from better-than-expected performance, uncertain acquired loans in the Bank of Smithtown portfolio. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com