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Community Bank System Reports Record Fourth Quarter And Full Year Results

Fourth quarter net interest income of $55.1 million increased 19.5% from the fourth quarter of 2010, almost entirely a result of an $891 million increase in average interest-earning assets. The Company has productively reinvested most of its cash flow generation during the last year, but it still retains a significant net liquidity position, with average interest-earning cash balances of $234 million for the fourth quarter remaining well above the $105 million average balance held in the fourth quarter of 2010. Low market interest rates and diligence in managing deposit pricing resulted in the fourth quarter cost of funds declining 24 basis points in comparison to the same quarter last year. The benefit derived from the lower cost of funds was offset by a 25-basis point decline in earning-asset yields, driven primarily by lower yields on investment securities and the $129 million increase in the Company’s holdings of low-rate, cash equivalents versus last year’s fourth quarter. On a full year basis the Company’s net interest income increased $27.7 million or 15.3% in 2011, a product of 13.5% growth in interest-earning assets and a three-basis point increase in the net interest margin.

Fourth quarter non-interest income of $22.4 million was up 2.8% versus the same quarter of last year. The Company’s employee benefits administration and consulting businesses grew revenues by 9.4 % over fourth quarter 2010, and its wealth management group generated an 18.4% revenue increase, driven principally by incremental revenue produced by the acquired Wilber trust operations. Mortgage banking revenues were down $1.4 million from last year’s fourth quarter, reflective of the decision to hold a majority of secondary market eligible mortgages in portfolio in the latter half of 2011, as well as a $0.3 million impairment of mortgage servicing rights in the quarter. Deposit service fees of $11.0 million were up $0.7 million from the fourth quarter of 2010, as the addition of the Wilber branches and solid growth in debit card-related revenue more than offset generally lower utilization of overdraft protection programs. Full year 2011 non-interest income of $89.2 million was up $0.4 million over prior year results, as incremental income from the Wilber acquisition and strong organic growth in benefit plan administration and consulting revenue more than offset a net decline in deposit service fees and lower mortgage banking income.

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