The efficiency ratio, which measures the ratio of noninterest expense to total revenue, was 49.82% for the fourth quarter of 2012, as compared to 56.97% for the fourth quarter of 2011. Noninterest expenses were $20.3 million for the three months ended December 31, 2012, as compared to $18.3 million for the three months ended December 31, 2011, an 11% increase. Cost increases for salaries and benefits were $2.0 million, due to staffing increases primarily as a result of growth in residential lending, as well as additional commercial lending and branch personnel and merit and benefit cost increases, increases in incentive pay. Premises and equipment expenses were $288 thousand higher, due to the cost of new branch offices, a new commercial lending office, two new residential lending offices and normal increases in leasing costs.
Analysis of the twelve months ended December 31, 2012 compared to December 31, 2011
For the twelve months ended December 31, 2012, the Company reported an ROAA of 1.18% as compared to 0.97% (1.01% excluding the effect of the settlement deposit) for the twelve months of 2011, while the ROAE was 14.14% in 2012, as compared to 11.71% for the same twelve month period in 2011. The increase in these ratios was due to an expanded net interest margin, higher noninterest income and improved operating efficiency.
A lower dividend rate on preferred stock contributed approximately $945 thousand of the aggregate $11.7 million increase in earnings available to common shareholders for the twelve months ended December 31, 2012 as compared to the same period in 2011.For the twelve months of 2012, net interest income increased 29% over the same period for 2011. This increase was attributed to both an increase in average earning assets of 19% and an increase in the net interest margin to 4.32% for the twelve months of 2012, as compared to 3.99% (4.17% excluding the effect of the settlement deposit) for the twelve months of 2011. The Company has been able to maintain its loan portfolio yields in 2012 close to 2011 levels due to loan pricing practices, and has experienced a significant increase in the mix of average loans held for sale, which has benefited earning asset yields, and has seen a reduction in its funding costs while maintaining a favorable deposit mix.