Service charges income drives growth in non-interest revenue; continued focus on expense management
Non-interest revenues totaled $536 million, up 1 percent linked quarter. Service charges income increased to $254 million, which is 4 percent higher than the prior quarter. Mortgage production for the quarter was approximately $2.1 billion, an 18 percent increase from the prior year. HARP II loan production year-to-date was $1.6 billion, surpassing the full year company goal of $1 billion in HARP II loans. As of the end of the quarter, analysis indicated that less than approximately 20 percent of HARP-eligible loans have refinanced. Throughout 2012 approximately 50 percent of HARP II applications were for homeowners whose mortgage was not originally serviced by Regions. Customers continue to take advantage of the low interest rate environment through traditional and HARP II mortgages for both refinancing and new home purchases.
Additionally, non-interest revenue has also benefited from the Now Banking suite of products, which was developed to meet the needs of consumers who rely on check cashing services, money remittance, money orders and prepaid cards, either in addition to or in place of a checking account. The number of customers utilizing the products has grown by approximately 25,000 customers a month since the launch of Now Banking in the first quarter of 2012.
Adjusted non-interest expenses 1 were $849 million, a decrease of $20 million linked quarter and $22 million or 2.5 percent from the prior year. On November 30, 2012, Regions entered into an agreement with a third party investor in Regions Asset Management Company, Inc., a real estate investment trust, pursuant to which the investment was fully redeemed. This resulted in extinguishing a $203 million liability, including accrued, unpaid interest, as well as incurring early termination costs of approximately $42 million on a pre-tax basis and $38 million on an after-tax basis for the fourth quarter. Excluding the early termination costs, during 2012 Regions incurred approximately $28 million of non-interest expenses related to this liability. Additionally, during the quarter professional and legal expenses benefitted from a $20 million decrease in legal reserves.Asset quality improvement continues Asset quality continued to improve in the fourth quarter. The provision for loan losses totaled $37 million or $143 million less than net charge-offs. Total net charge-offs decreased linked quarter by 31 percent, or $82 million, to $180 million, the lowest level in almost five years. Net charge-offs as a percentage of total average loans decreased to 0.96 percent, below 1 percent for the first time in over four years. The company’s loan loss allowance to non-performing loan coverage ratio was 1.14x and the allowance for loan losses as a percentage of loans was 2.59 percent as of December 31, 2012.