Today we’ll have the introductory remarks from Mr. John Millman, President of Sterling Bancorp; and Mr. John Tietjen, Chief Financial Officer. And after their remarks, we’ll be happy to open up the call to your questions. And so without further ado, I’ll turn the call over to John Millman.
Thank you and good morning everyone. Welcome to our conference for the 2011 full-year and fourth quarter. Sterling’s business performed well and delivered solid results in 2011. We experienced robust loan demand throughout the year. Our double-digit loan growth in both the full year and the fourth quarter was a key factor driving the increase in net interest income at higher fee income from accounts receivable management and related activities. As a result of our attention to expenses, the increase in non-interest expense was 3% compared to the previous year.
These factors contributed to the risk in net interest income for the year while 2011 results also included certain items specific to the fourth quarter which John Tietjen will detail shortly. The strength of our business was the basis of our growing profitability. Let me highlight some of our specific accomplishments for 2011.
Full-year net income available to common shareholders was $15.5 million or 3.5 times to 2010 amount. Return on average assets increased to 0.07% for 2011 from 0.31% a year earlier. Return on average equity rose to 7.83% for 2011 from 3.30% in 2010 on a higher equity base due to our public offering and earnings retention.
Total loans in portfolio were up 12% to nearly $1.5 billion at 2011 yearend, which is an increase of $159 million from a year ago. Loan demand has been strong in our traditional C&I category and we have also seen an accelerated volume in the mortgage warehouse lending product that we introduced last year. The loan pipeline remained robust heading into 2012. Total deposits were up 14% to nearly $2 billion at yearend while total assets increased to nearly $2.5 billion rising 6%. Non-interest bearing demand deposits increased to 34% to $766 million.