SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Except as otherwise stated herein, Part III of the Form 10-K is incorporated by reference from the Registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement for its 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, which is expected to be filed with the Commission on or before April 30, 2021.
FIRST FOUNDATION INC.
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2020
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In addition to historical information, this report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Forward-looking statements are those that predict or describe future events or trends or that do not relate solely to historical matters. However, our actual results and financial performance in the future will be affected by known and currently unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results or financial performance in the future to differ materially from the results or financial performance that may be expressed, predicted or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such risks, uncertainties and other factors include, among others, those set forth below in Item 1A Risk Factors, and readers of this report are urged to read the cautionary statements contained in that section of this report. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by words like “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “believes,” “intends,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “estimates,” “predicts,” “potential,” “project” and “continue” and similar expressions. Readers of this report are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the respective dates on which such statements were made and which are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results and the timing of certain events to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created economic and financial disruptions that have adversely affected, and may continue to adversely affect, our business, operations, financial performance and prospects. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, it is possible that the U.S. and other major economies experience or continue to experience a prolonged recession, which could materially and adversely affect our business, operations, financial performance and prospects. Statements about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business, operations, financial performance and prospects may constitute forward-looking statements and are subject to the risk that the actual impacts may differ, possibly materially, from what is reflected in those forward-looking statements due to factors and future developments that are uncertain, unpredictable and in many cases beyond our control, including the scope and duration of the pandemic, actions taken by governmental authorities in response to the pandemic, and the direct and indirect impact of the pandemic on our customers, third parties and us.
First Foundation Inc. expressly disclaims any intent or any obligation to release publicly any revisions or updates to any of the forward-looking statements contained in this report to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this report or the occurrence of currently unanticipated events or developments or to conform such forward-looking statements to actual results or to changes in its opinions or expectations, except as may be required by applicable law.
Item 1. Business
Unless we state otherwise or the context otherwise requires, references in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to “we,” “our,” and “us” refer to First Foundation Inc., a Delaware corporation, (“FFI” or the “Company”) and its consolidated subsidiaries, First Foundation Advisors (“FFA”) and First Foundation Bank (“FFB” or “Bank”), and FFB’s wholly owned subsidiaries, First Foundation Insurance Services (“FFIS”) and Blue Moon Management, LLC.
We are a financial services company that provides a comprehensive platform of financial services to individuals, businesses and other organizations. We currently conduct our operations in California, Nevada and Hawaii. Our integrated platform provides banking products and services, investment advisory and wealth management services and trust services to effectively and efficiently meet the financial needs of our clients. We provide business banking products and services to small to moderate-sized businesses and professional firms, and consumer banking products and services to individuals and families. As of December 31, 2020, we had $7.0 billion of total assets, $4.8 billion of loans, $0.5 billion of loans held for sale, $5.9 billion of deposits, $4.9 billion of assets under management (“AUM”), and $1.1 billion trust assets under advisement (“AUA”). Our investment advisory and wealth management and trust services provide us with substantial, fee-based, recurring revenues, such that in 2020, our non-interest income was 22% of our total revenues.
Our operating strategy is to build strong and stable long-term client relationships, one at a time, by delivering high quality banking and trust products and services and investment advisory and wealth management services. The primary role of our bankers, relationship managers and loan officers, in addition to attracting new clients, is to develop and maintain a strong relationship with their clients and to coordinate the services we provide to their clients. We take a team approach to delivering our platform of services to our clients. Our bankers, relationship managers and loan officers work as a team to deliver our products and services, with each member of the team responsible for managing the delivery of products and services in their area of expertise. This allows us to provide more tailored solutions while operating in a safe and sound manner. We have created compensation structures that encourage and reward our bankers, relationship managers and loan officers to work together as a team to provide the client with the products and services they desire. We believe we will be able to maintain a client-focused approach by recruiting and retaining experienced and qualified staff.
We intend to continue to grow our business by (i) marketing our services directly to prospective new clients; (ii) obtaining new client referrals from existing clients, professional and fiduciary referrals and through referral agreements with asset custodial firms; (iii) adding experienced bankers, relationship managers and loan officers who may have established client relationships that we can serve; (iv) cross-selling our services among our wealth management and banking clients; and (v) making opportunistic acquisitions of banks and/or establishing de novo offices in select markets within and outside our existing market areas.
Our broad range of financial products, services, and digital delivery are more consistent with those offered by larger financial institutions, while our high level of personalized service, accessibility and responsiveness to our clients are more typical of the services offered by community banks and boutique investment advisory and wealth management firms. We believe this combination of an integrated platform of comprehensive financial services and products and personalized and responsive service, coupled with our continual enhancements of our digital platform, differentiates us from many of our competitors and has contributed to the growth of our client base and our business.
FFI is a bank holding company incorporated in Delaware. As a bank holding company, we are subject to regulation and examination by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve Board” or “FRB”) and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (“FRBSF”) under delegated authority from the FRB. FFB is a California state chartered bank and is subject to regulation and examination by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) and the California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation (“DFPI”). FFB also is a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (“FHLB”), which provides it with a source of funds in the form of short-term and long-term borrowings. FFA is a California corporation that began operating as a fee-based registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Investment Advisers Act”) in 1990, and is subject to regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, (“SEC”), under that Act.
Overview of Our Banking Business
Through FFB, we offer a wide range of loan products, deposit products, treasury management products and services, and trust services. The yields we realize on our loans and other interest-earning assets and the interest rates we pay to attract and retain deposits are the principal determinants of our banking revenues.
We also provide trust services to clients using our California and Nevada trust powers. Those services, which consist primarily of the management of trust assets, complement the investment and wealth management services that FFA offers to our clients. Additionally, trust service fees provide additional sources of noninterest income for us.
FFB’s operations comprise the banking and trust segments of our business. At December 31, 2020, FFB had $6.9 billion of total assets, $4.8 billion of loans, $0.5 billion of loans held for sale, $5.9 billion of deposits and $1.1 billion of trust AUA.
Overview of Our Investment Advisory and Wealth Management Business
FFA is a fee-based investment advisor which provides investment advisory and wealth management services primarily to high net-worth individuals, their families and their family businesses, and other affiliated organizations. FFA strives to provide its clients with a high level of personalized service by its staff of experienced relationship managers. FFA’s operations comprise the investment advisory and wealth management segments of our business. As of December 31, 2020, FFA had $4.9 billion of AUM.
Banking Products and Services
Through FFB, we offer a wide range of loan products, deposit products, treasury management products and services, and trust services. Our loan products are designed to meet the credit needs of our clients in a manner that, at the same time, enables us to effectively manage the credit and interest rate risks inherent in our lending activities. Our lending products are the primary drivers of revenues and earnings for the consolidated entity. As such, we are committed to offer market competitive lending products that: meet the needs of our clients; are underwritten in a prudent manner; and provide an adequate return based on their size and credit risk. Deposits represent our principal source of funds for making loans and acquiring other interest-earning assets.
We maintain a client-focused approach by recruiting and retaining experienced and qualified banking personnel, who are described as relationship bankers, commercial bankers, small business bankers, regional directors of loan production for multifamily and non-owner occupied commercial real estate, specialty deposit bankers, and branch managers. FFB has bankers in each location across the platform sourcing loan and deposit business to cultivate and develop quality banking relationships from existing and potential clients, as well as a digital bank platform that attracts new deposit clients across the country. FFB’s banking platform is focused on program-specific products and clients, with an emphasis on digital delivery.
The following table sets forth information regarding the types of loans that we make, by principal amounts and as a percentage of our total loans outstanding at December 31:
(dollars in thousands)
% of Total
% of Total
Recorded Investment balance:
Loans secured by real estate:
Total loans secured by residential properties
Total real estate loans
Commercial and industrial loans
Premiums, discounts and deferred fees and expenses
We have established a lending platform that provides financing solutions to our strong and stable client relationships, including individuals, entities and businesses. The primary objective of each of the lending channels is to provide exceptional client service to differentiate us from our competitors. Each lending channel features standardized pricing, uniform sizing and a streamlined process resulting in a high through-put application-to-funding ratio. Each of our office locations are focused on serving the businesses and clients within their market area. Our lending activities serve the credit needs of individuals, owners of multifamily and commercial real estate properties, small to moderate size businesses and professional firms in our market areas. As a result we offer a variety of loan products consisting of multifamily and single family residential real estate loans, commercial real estate loans, commercial term loans and lines of credit, and consumer loans.
We have a lending platform focused on three primary channels: 1) Commercial Real Estate (“CRE”), defined as multifamily residential, non-owner occupied commercial real estate, construction and land; 2) Commercial and Industrial (“C&I”) defined as term and revolving credit/lines of credit for small to moderate-sized businesses and professional firms, owner occupied commercial real estate; and 3) Consumer defined as loan products to individuals, including single family residential real estate loans and home equity lines of credit and other consumer-related loans focused on the current and prospective clients of our platform.
CRE Loan Channel: Loans originated under the CRE loan channel are supported by the underlying cash flow from operations of the related real estate collateral. The loan types under this channel consist of multifamily residential, non-owner occupied CRE and construction and land.
Residential Mortgage Loans – Multi-family: We make multi-family residential mortgage loans for terms up to 30 years for 5+ unit properties. These loans generally are adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes; although in many cases these loans have initial fixed rate periods ranging from 3 to 10 years and adjust thereafter based on an applicable index. These loans generally have interest rate floors, payment caps, and prepayment penalties. The loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the subject real estate collateral cash flow, the character and creditworthiness of the borrower and guarantors, loan-to-value and debt service coverage ratios, borrower liquidity and credit history. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates, capitalization rates and other factors and review general economic trends such as rental rates, values and vacancy rates. We typically require full or limited recourse from the owners of the entities to which we make such loans.
CRE Loans – Non-owner Occupied: Our commercial real estate loans are secured by first trust deeds on nonresidential real property with terms up to 10 years. We typically focus on multi-tenant industrial, office and retail real
estate collateral with strong, stable tenancy, strong, stable historical cash flow and located in stable, strong demand submarket locations. We will consider special purpose lending on a limited basis for our existing client base. These loans generally are adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes; although in many cases these loans have initial fixed rate periods ranging from 3 to 10 years and adjust thereafter based on an applicable index. These loans generally have interest rate floors, payment caps, and prepayment penalties. The loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the subject real estate collateral cash flow, the character and creditworthiness of the borrower and guarantors, loan-to-value and debt service coverage ratios, borrower liquidity and credit history. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates, capitalization rates and other factors and review general economic trends such as lease rates, values and absorption rates. We typically require full recourse from the owners of the entities to which we make such loans.
Construction and Land Loans: Construction and land loans are provided to borrowers with extensive construction experience and as an accommodation to existing or potential clients of the platform; or were obtained through acquisition of other banks. There is not a separate sales effort to generate construction and land loans. These loans are custom tailored to fit the individual needs of each specific request. We typically consider construction loan requests for urban infill multifamily properties and owner-occupied single family primary residences in the submarket locations where we have experience and offer permanent real estate loans. Construction and land loans are secured by first trust deeds on real property. These loans generally are adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes; although in some rare cases these loans have fixed interest rates for short periods and adjust thereafter based on an applicable index. These loans generally have interest rate floors, payment caps, and prepayment penalties. The loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the character and creditworthiness of the borrower and guarantors, loan to value and debt service coverage ratios, borrower liquidity and credit history. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates, capitalization rates and other factors and review general economic trends such as lease rates, values and absorption rates. We typically require full recourse from the owners of the entities to which we make such loans.
C&I Loan Channel: Loans originated under the C&I loan channel are generally supported by the cash flows generated from the business operations of the entity to which the loan is made, and, except for loans secured by owner occupied CRE, are generally secured by non-real estate assets, such as equipment, inventories or accounts receivable. The C&I loan channel is focused on developing quality full service business banking relationships, including loans and deposits, by offering commercial products for small to moderate-sized businesses across the banking platform. This allows us to provide support for small to mid-sized businesses in our market areas. The typical C&I loan client utilizes more than one element of our platform, including almost all such clients using our deposit products and services. We typically focus on C&I clients that are manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and professional service companies.
Commercial Real Estate Loans - Owner Occupied: Owner occupied CRE loans are generally made to businesses that have demonstrated a history of profitable operations. To qualify for such loans, prospective borrowers generally must have operating cash flow sufficient to meet their obligations as they become due, good payment histories, proper balance sheet management of key cash flow drivers, and experienced management. Our commercial real estate loans are secured by first trust deeds on nonresidential real property, typically office, industrial or warehouse. These loans generally are adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes; although in some cases these loans have fixed interest rates for periods ranging from 3 to 15 years and adjust thereafter based on an applicable indices and terms. These loans generally have interest rate floors, payment caps, and prepayment penalties. The loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the character and creditworthiness of the borrower and guarantors, loan-to-value and debt service coverage ratios, borrower liquidity and credit history and the trends in balance sheet and income statement management. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates, capitalization rates and other factors and review general economic trends such as lease rates, values and absorption rates. We typically require full recourse from the owners of the entities to which we make such loans.
Commercial Loans: We offer commercial term loans and commercial lines of credit to our clients. Commercial loans generally are made to businesses that have demonstrated a history of profitable operations. To qualify for such loans, prospective borrowers generally must have operating cash flow sufficient to meet their obligations as they become due, good payment histories, proper balance sheet management of key cash flow drivers, and experienced management. Commercial term loans are either fixed rate loans or adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent
indexes and are made for terms ranging from one to seven years subject to the useful life of the asset financed. Commercial lines of credit are adjustable rate loans with interest rates usually tied to the Wall Street Journal prime rate or LIBOR rates, are made for terms ranging from one to two years, and contain various covenants, including possible requirements that the borrower reduce its credit line borrowings to zero for specified time periods during the term of the line of credit, maintains liquidity requirements with advances tied to periodic reviews and approved based upon a percentage of accounts receivable, and inventory or unmonitored lines for very small lines or credit or those with significant financial strength and liquidity. Commercial loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the character and creditworthiness of the borrower and guarantors, debt service coverage ratios, historical and projected client income, borrower liquidity and credit history, and the trends in income and balance sheet management. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates and other factors and review general economic trends in the client’s industry. We typically require full recourse from the owners of the entities to which we make such loans.
Equipment Financing: We offer equipment financing to provide financing solutions, including equipment finance agreements and leases for a full range of business equipment, and sourcing the business through third party originators, including equipment brokers, lessors and other referral sources. The majority of the equipment financing business will be for acquiring machines, tools, vehicles, furniture, tenant improvement remodeling/expansion/upgrade and computers. The typical equipment finance loan will be smaller in size, typically less than $100,000; will have terms ranging from 3 to 7 years; will carry fixed rates; and will be secured by the underlying equipment and the operations of the borrower.
Shared National Credits Lending: We will participate in multi-bank transactions referred to as Shared National Credits or Participations where an individual loan is too large to be made by a single institution. These loans are typically originated and led by other larger banks and FFB will be a participant in the transaction. The loans are sourced through relationships with originating lenders as well as through purchase of loans in the secondary market. These loans generally are made to businesses that have demonstrated a history of profitable operations. To qualify for such loans, prospective borrowers generally must have operating cash flow sufficient to meet their obligations as they become due, good payment histories, proper balance sheet management of key cash flow drivers, and experienced management. Syndicated/Participated term loans are either fixed rate loans or adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes and are generally made for terms ranging from one to seven years subject to the useful life of the asset financed. Lines of credit are adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes and are generally made with terms from one to five years, and contain various covenants, including possible requirements that the borrower maintain liquidity requirements with advances tied to periodic reviews. These loans are underwritten independently by us based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the character and creditworthiness of the borrower, debt service coverage ratios, historical and projected client income, borrower liquidity and credit history, and the trends in income and balance sheet management. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates and other factors and review general economic trends in the client’s industry. We typically do not require full recourse from the owners of the entities to which we make such loans.
Small Business Lending and USDA Lending: The Bank is approved as a Small Business Administration (“SBA”) lender and as a United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) lender. We are committed to our small business commercial lending to serve our communities and small businesses that operate in our network of retail branch locations. As government guaranteed programs, we need to comply with underwriting guidelines, servicing and monitoring requirements, and terms and conditions set forth under the related programs standard operating procedures. SBA loans follow our underwriting guidelines established for non-SBA commercial and industrial loans and meet the underwriting criteria set forth by the SBA. We have also established a small balance portfolio loan program, up to a maximum loan amount of $250,000, to meet the requirements of our small business clients through a streamlined underwriting process.
Consumer Channel: The Consumer channel for FFB offers single family residential loans, home equity lines of credit, personal lines of credit and other consumer related products. We do not have a separate marketing program for this channel, rather this channel is directed to a limited amount of fully-vetted broker relationships and as an accommodation for clients or prospective clients of our platform. We expect single family loans to comprise a substantial majority of the balances in this channel.
Residential Mortgage Loans – Single-family: We offer single family residential mortgage loans that in most cases take the form of non-conforming jumbo and super-jumbo loans. We do not currently sell or securitize any of our single
family residential mortgage loan originations. We do not originate loans defined as high cost by state or federal banking regulators. The majority of our single family residential loan originations are collateralized by first mortgages on real properties located in Southern California. These loans are generally adjustable rate loans with initial fixed rate periods ranging from 3 to 10 year terms and terms of the loan not exceeding 30 years. These loans generally have interest rate floors and payment caps. The loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the character and creditworthiness of the borrower and guarantors, loan-to-value and debt to income ratios, borrower liquidity, income verification and credit history. In addition, we perform stress testing for changes in interest rates and other factors and review general economic trends such as market values.
Consumer Loans: We offer consumer loans and line of credit products as an accommodation to clients of our primary business lines, including personal installment loans and lines of credit, and home equity lines of credit designed to meet the needs of our clients. Consumer loans are either fixed rate loans or adjustable rate loans with interest rates tied to a variety of independent indexes and are made for terms ranging from one to ten years. The loans are underwritten based on a variety of underwriting criteria, including an evaluation of the character, creditworthiness and credit history of the borrower and guarantors, debt to income ratios, borrower liquidity, income verification, and the value of any collateral securing the loan. Historically, a high percentage of home equity lines of credit originated by FFB have been in first trust deed position. Repayment of consumer loan are largely dependent on the borrower’s ongoing cash flows and financial stability and, as a result, generally pose higher credit risks than the other loans that we make.
For all of our loan offerings, we utilize a comprehensive approach in our underwriting process. This includes the requirement that all factors considered in our underwriting be appropriately documented. In our underwriting, our primary focus is always on the primary, secondary and tertiary sources of repayment, which include the subject real estate collateral cash flow, the business/borrower’s ability to repay and value of the subject collateral securing the loan. However, because our underwriting process allows us to view the totality of the borrower’s capacity to repay, concerns or issues in one area can be compensated for by other favorable financial criteria. This personalized and detailed approach allows us to better understand and meet our clients’ borrowing needs. We handle substantially all of our loan processing, underwriting and servicing at our administrative office in Irvine, California.
Deposit Products and Services
The following table sets forth information regarding the type of deposits which our clients maintained with us and the average interest rates on those deposits as of December 31:
(dollars in thousands)
% of Total
% of Total
Money market and savings
Certificates of deposits
Deposit Products: We offer a wide range of deposit products, including personal and business checking, savings accounts, interest-bearing demand deposit accounts, money market accounts and time certificates of deposit. Our pricing strategy is to maintain deposit pricing at levels consistent with our competitors. This generally allows us to maintain our current deposit relationships. From time to time, we will offer promotional rates to attract new clients to our platform. Our pricing strategy is intended to complement our other products and services so that we can attract and retain clients without always paying the highest rates. As of December 31, 2020, our nine largest bank depositors accounted for, in the aggregate, 31% of our total deposits. See Item 1A—Risk Factors.
Deposit Services: Our deposits services include the following:
|●||Treasury Management: Our comprehensive suite of Treasury Management products and services provide our customers the tools to bank with us conveniently without having the need to visit one of our offices and are necessary to attract complex commercial and specialty deposit clients. These products and services include bill pay, check/payee/ACH positive pay, wire origination, internal and external transfers, account reconciliation reporting, remote deposit capture, mobile banking, mobile deposit, lockbox, cash vault services and merchant processing.|
|●||Online Banking: FFB offers Online Banking services to consumer, small business and commercial clients. The consumer online platform offers account management, internal and external transfers, consumer loan payments, electronic documents, bill pay, real-time alerts, P2P payments and requests, credit score reporting and debit card management. The business online platform allows our business clients to be more productive by offering ease of access to account information, electronic documents, transfer and funds management, real-time alerts, user administration, and reporting tools. These clients can also leverage most TM services as integrated solutions through business online.|
|●||Online Account Opening: FFB utilizes a platform for online account acquisition. The bank offers checking, savings, and CDs, as well as complementary products such as ATM/debit cards and eStatements through the system.|
Deposit Delivery Channels: Our deposit products and services are delivered through the following delivery channels:
|●||Retail Banking: The retail banking delivery channel is made up of 20 banking offices located throughout our market areas. We attempt to place our banking offices in strategic locations to establish a presence in our target markets, rather than saturating a market with numerous banking offices. The sales activities at our banking offices are led by the bankers and branch managers located at the offices. In addition to a branch manager, each banking office has a strong operations manager and staff to serve the clients of the office, to provide support to the bankers and branch managers in their sales efforts and to maintain the operational integrity of their offices. In addition to the sales activities of the bankers and branch managers, we provide marketing support through periodic deposit campaigns and targeted marketing programs tailored to the region in which the banking office is located.|
|●||Specialty Deposits: The specialty deposits channel focuses on banking large complex commercial customers and fiduciaries who manage intricate deposit relationships. This team consists of bankers with industry expertise in our targeted specialty niches, which include, but are not limited to escrow, title, 1031 exchange accommodators, contractor retention escrows, commercial property management and homeowners associations as well as financial institutions and mortgage servicers, commercial borrowers, EB-5 projects, political treasurers and Opportunity Zone funds. The nature of the specialty deposit customer is generally complex and typically requires a larger volume of transactional servicing needs and reporting requirements. These customers are supported exclusively by the experts in our commercial client services team. This team is responsible for establishing new accounts, maintenance of existing accounts, monitoring accounts, account reporting, review and acceptance of depository agreements and other account related contracts. This team possesses a thorough understanding of legal documentation for complex organizations and legal and regulatory banking requirements for niche industries, balance bank control accounts, ledger posting, and funds disbursement.|
|●||Digital Bank: The digital bank channel offers consumers high-yield savings accounts, low cost checking accounts, and certificates of deposits through our online account opening. These digital bank products are offered to consumers across all 50 states and enables FFB to target Millennial, Gen Z, and more digitally savvy prospects with increased efficiency and is supported by a dedicated digital bank operations team.|
Trust Services: FFB is licensed to provide trust services to clients in California, Nevada and Hawaii. Those services, which consist primarily of the management of trust assets, complement the investment advisory and wealth management services that FFA offers to our clients and, as a result, provide us with cross-selling opportunities. At December 31, 2020, trust AUA totaled $1.1 billion.
Wealth Management Products and Services
FFA is a fee-based investment advisor which provides investment advisory and wealth management services primarily for individuals and their families, family businesses and other affiliated organizations (including public and closely-held corporations, family foundations and private charitable organizations). Through FFA, we provide clients with personalized services designed to enable them to reach their personal and financial goals by coordinating our investment advisory and wealth management services with risk management and estate and tax planning services that are provided by outside service providers, for which we do not receive commissions or referral fees. FFA’s clients benefit from certain cost efficiencies available to institutional managers, such as block trading, access to institutionally priced no-load mutual funds, ability to seek competitive bid/ask pricing for bonds, low transaction costs and management fees charged as a percentage of the assets managed, with tiered pricing for larger accounts.
Our investment advisory and wealth management team strives to create diversified investment portfolios for its clients that are individually designed, monitored and adjusted based on the discipline of fundamental investment analysis. We focus on creating investment portfolios that are commensurate with a client’s objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon, using traditional investments such as individual stocks and bonds and mutual funds. We also provide comprehensive and ongoing advice and coordination regarding estate planning, retirement planning and charitable and business ownership issues.
AUM at FFA has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 8% over the four year period ending December 31, 2020. Changes in our AUM reflects additions from new clients, the gains or losses recognized from investment results, additional funds received from existing clients, withdrawals of funds by clients, and terminations.
We do not provide custodial services for our clients through FFA. Instead, client investment accounts are maintained under custodial arrangements with large, well established brokerage firms, either directly or through FFB. However, we notify our clients that they are not obligated to use those services and that they are free to select securities brokerage firms and custodial service providers of their own choosing. We have entered into referral agreements with certain of the asset custodial firms that provide custodial services to our clients. Under these arrangements, the asset custodial firms provide referrals of prospective new clients whose wealth warrants the more personalized and expansive breadth of financial services that we are able to provide in exchange for a fee. This fee is either a percentage of the fees we charge to the client or a percentage of the AUM of the client. The asset custodial firms are entitled to continue to receive these fees for as long as we continue to provide services to the referral client. These referral agreements do not require the client to maintain their assets at the custodial firm and are fully disclosed to the client prior to our providing services to them.
The banking and investment advisory and wealth management businesses in California, Nevada and Hawaii, generally, and in our market areas, in particular, are highly competitive. A relatively small number of major national and regional banks, operating over wide geographic areas, including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank, Comerica, Union Bank and Bank of America, dominate our banking markets. Those banks, or their affiliates, may also offer investment advisory and wealth management services. We also compete with large, well known banking and wealth management firms, including City National, First Republic and Northern Trust. Those banks and investment advisory and wealth management firms generally have much greater financial and capital resources than we do and as a result of their ability to conduct extensive advertising campaigns and their relatively long histories of operations in our markets, are generally better known than us. In addition, by virtue of their greater total capitalization, the large banks have substantially higher lending limits than we do, which enables them to make much larger loans and to offer loan products that we are not able to offer to our clients.
We compete with these much larger banks and investment advisory and wealth management firms primarily on the basis of the personal and “one-on-one” service that we provide to our clients, which many of these competitors are unwilling or unable to provide, other than to their wealthiest clients, due to costs involved or their “one size fits all” approaches to providing financial services to their clients. We believe that our principal competitive advantage is our ability to offer our services through one integrated platform, enabling us to provide our clients with the efficiencies and benefits of dealing with a cohesive group working together to assist our clients to meet their personal investment and financial goals. We believe that only the largest financial institutions in our area provide similar integrated platforms of products and services, which they sometimes reserve for their wealthiest and institutional clients. In addition, while we also compete with many local and regional banks and numerous local and regional investment advisory and wealth management firms, we believe that only a very few of these banks offer investment advisory or wealth management services and that a very few of these investment advisory and wealth management firms offer banking services and, therefore, these competitors are not able to provide such an integrated platform of comprehensive financial services to their clients. This enables us to compete effectively for clients who are dissatisfied with the level of service provided at larger financial institutions, yet are not able to receive an integrated platform of comprehensive financial services from other regional or local financial services organizations.
While we provide our clients with the convenience of technological access services, such as remote deposit capture, internet banking and mobile banking, we compete primarily by providing a high level of personal service. As a result, we do not try to compete exclusively on pricing. However, because we are located in a highly competitive market place and because we are seeking to grow our businesses, we attempt to maintain our pricing in line with our principal competitors.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Acquisitions have been a key component of our growth strategy. We have completed five acquisitions since 2012. In June 2018, we completed the acquisition of PBB Bancorp, the holding company for Premier Business Bank (“PBB”). In November 2017, we completed the acquisition of Community 1st Bancorp, the holding company for Community 1st Bank. In December 2016, we completed the acquisition of two branches located in Orange County, California from Pacific Western Bank. In June 2015, we completed the acquisition of Pacific Rim Bank. In August 2012, we completed the acquisition of Desert Commercial Bank.
Supervision and Regulation
Federal and state laws extensively regulate bank holding companies and banks. This regulation is intended primarily for the protection of depositors, customers and the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund and is not for the benefit of our stockholders. Set forth below are summary descriptions of the material laws and regulations that affect or bear on our operations. The summaries are not intended, and do not purport, to be complete and are qualified in their entirety by reference to the described laws and regulations.
Bank Holding Company Regulation
First Foundation Inc. is a registered bank holding company subject to regulation under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended (the “Holding Company Act”). Pursuant to the Holding Company Act, we are subject to supervision and periodic examination by, and are required to file periodic reports with the Federal Reserve.
As a bank holding company, we are allowed to engage, directly or indirectly, only in banking and other activities that the Federal Reserve has determined, or in the future may deem, to be so closely related to banking or managing or controlling banks as to be a proper incident thereto. Business activities that the Federal Reserve has designated as being closely related to banking include the provision of investment advisory, securities brokerage, insurance agency and data processing services, among others. A bank holding company meeting certain eligibility requirements may elect to qualify as a “financial holding company,” allowing it and its non-bank affiliated companies to engage in a broader range of financial activities including securities underwriting, dealing and market making; sponsoring mutual funds and investment companies; engaging in insurance underwriting; and engaging in merchant banking activities. We have not elected to be a financial holding company.
Under Federal Reserve regulations, a bank holding company is required to serve as a source of financial and managerial strength to its subsidiary banks and may not conduct its operations in an unsafe or unsound manner. In addition, it is the Federal Reserve’s policy that a bank holding company, in serving as a source of strength to its subsidiary banks, should stand ready to use available resources to provide adequate capital funds to its subsidiary banks during periods of financial stress or adversity and should maintain the financial flexibility and capital-raising capacity to obtain additional resources for assisting its subsidiary banks. For that reason, among others, the Federal Reserve requires all bank holding companies to maintain capital at or above certain prescribed levels. A bank holding company’s failure to meet these requirements will generally be considered by the Federal Reserve to be an unsafe and unsound banking practice or a violation of the Federal Reserve’s regulations or both, which could lead to the imposition of restrictions (including restrictions on growth) on, or a regulatory enforcement order against, the bank holding company.
Additionally, among its powers, the Federal Reserve may require any bank holding company to terminate an activity or terminate control of, or liquidate or divest itself of, any subsidiary or affiliated company that the Federal Reserve determines constitutes a significant risk to the financial safety, soundness or stability of the bank holding company or any of its banking subsidiaries. The Federal Reserve also has the authority to regulate aspects of a bank holding company’s debt. Subject to certain exceptions, bank holding companies also are required to file written notice and obtain approval from the Federal Reserve prior to purchasing or redeeming their common stock or other equity securities. A bank holding company and its non-banking subsidiaries also are prohibited from implementing so-called tying arrangements whereby clients may be required to use or purchase services or products from the bank holding company or any of its non-bank subsidiaries in order to obtain a loan or other services from any of the holding company’s subsidiary banks.
Because FFB is a California state chartered bank, the Company is deemed to be a bank holding company within the meaning of Section 1280 of the California Financial Code. As such, we are subject to examination by, and may be required to file reports with, the DFPI.
Regulation of First Foundation Bank
FFB is subject to primary supervision, periodic examination and regulation by the FDIC, which is its primary federal banking regulator, and the DFPI, because FFB is a California state chartered bank.
Various requirements and restrictions under federal and California banking laws affect the operations of FFB. These laws and the implementing regulations can determine the extent of supervisory control to which a bank will be subject by its federal and state bank regulators. These laws and regulations cover most aspects of a bank’s operations, including:
|●||the reserves a bank must maintain against deposits and for possible loan losses and other contingencies;|
|●||the types of and limits on loans and investments that a bank may make;|
|●||the borrowings that a bank may incur;|
|●||the opening of branch offices;|
|●||the rate at which it may grow its assets and business;|
|●||the acquisition and merger activities of a bank;|
|●||the amount of dividends that a bank may pay; and|
|●||the capital requirements that a bank must satisfy.|
California law permits state chartered commercial banks to engage in any activity permissible for national banks. Those permissible activities include conducting many so-called “closely related to banking” or “nonbanking” activities either directly or through their operating subsidiaries.
Acquisition of Control of a Bank Holding Company or a Bank
As a bank holding company, we must obtain the prior approval of the Federal Reserve to acquire more than five percent of the outstanding shares of voting securities or substantially all of the assets, by merger or purchase, of (i) any bank or other bank holding company and (ii) any other entities engaged in banking-related businesses or that provide banking-related services. In addition, FFB must obtain the prior approval of the FDIC and the DFPI before acquiring or merging with any other depository institution.
Capital Requirements Applicable to Banks and Bank Holding Companies
The federal bank regulatory agencies have adopted rules establishing a comprehensive capital framework for U.S. banking organizations (the “Capital Rules”) based on 2010 guidelines issued by the International Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (the “Dodd-Frank Act”). The Capital Rules apply to the Company on a consolidated basis and FFB.
Under the Capital Rules, specific categories of assets and off-balance-sheet activities such as letters of credit are assigned risk weights, depending on the nature of assets, generally ranging from 0% for U.S. Government and agency securities, to 600% for certain equity exposures, and resulting in higher risk weights for a variety of asset categories. These risk weights are multiplied by corresponding asset balances to determine a “risk weighted” asset base, which is then measured against various forms of capital to produce capital ratios.
Among other things, the Capital Rules (i) specify a capital measure called “Common Equity Tier 1” (“CET-1”), (ii) specify that Tier 1 capital consists of CET-1 and “Additional Tier 1 capital” instruments meeting specified requirements, and (iii) make most deductions and adjustments to regulatory capital measures applicable to CET-1 and not to the other components of capital, and expanded the scope of the deductions and adjustments from capital compared to the prior capital rules, thus potentially requiring banking organizations to achieve and maintain higher levels of CET-1 in order to meet minimum capital ratios.
The Capital Rules implement a “capital conservation buffer” that is designed to absorb losses during periods of economic stress. If a banking organization does not maintain a capital conservation buffer consisting of an additional 2.5% of CET-1 on top of the minimum risk-weighted asset ratios, it faces constraints on dividends, equity repurchases and executive compensation, depending on the amount of the shortfall.
Under the Capital Rules, the minimum capital ratios (including the 2.5% capital conservation buffer) applicable to the Company and FFB as of January 1, 2019 are as follows:
CET-1 to risk-weighted assets
Tier 1 capital (i.e., CET-1 plus Additional Tier 1) to risk-weighted assets
Total capital (i.e., Tier 1 plus Tier 2) to risk-weighted assets
Tier 1 capital-to-average consolidated assets as reported on consolidated financial statements(1)
|(1)||Commonly referred to as a banking institution’s “leverage ratio” The capital conversion buffer does not apply to the leverage ratio.|
The Capital Rules provide for a number of deductions from and adjustments to CET-1. These include, for example, the requirement that mortgage servicing rights, deferred tax assets dependent upon future taxable income, and significant investments in common equity issued by nonconsolidated financial entities, be deducted from CET-1 to the extent that any one such category exceeds 10% of CET-1 or all such categories, in the aggregate, exceed 15% of CET-1. While the Capital Rules require the impact of certain items of Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income (“AOCI”) to be included in capital for purposes of determining regulatory capital ratios, most banking organizations, including FFI and FFB, were entitled to make a one-time permanent election to continue to exclude these items from capital. In 2015, we elected to continue this exclusion.
The Capital Rules require that trust preferred securities be phased out from Tier 1 capital by January 1, 2016, except in the case of banking organizations with total consolidated assets of less than $15 billion, which will be permitted to include trust preferred securities issued prior to May 19, 2010 in Tier 1 capital, subject to a limit of 25% of tier 1 capital elements.
Prompt Corrective Action
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (“FDICIA”), established a framework for regulation of federally insured depository institutions, including banks, and their parent holding companies and other affiliates, by their federal banking regulators. Among other things, FDICIA requires the relevant federal banking regulator to take “prompt corrective action” with respect to a depository institution if that institution does not meet certain capital adequacy standards, including requiring the prompt submission by that bank of an acceptable capital restoration plan if its bank regulator has concluded that it needs additional capital.
Supervisory actions by a bank’s federal regulator under the prompt corrective action rules generally depend upon an institution’s classification within one of five capital categories, which is determined on the basis of a bank’s Tier 1 leverage ratio, Tier 1 capital ratio and total capital ratio. Tier 1 capital consists principally of common stock and nonredeemable preferred stock and retained earnings.
FDICIA regulations implementing the prompt corrective action framework, establish minimum capital thresholds for five capital categories based on the Capital Rules. An insured depository institution’s capital category depends upon whether its capital levels meet these capital thresholds and potentially other determinations of the institution’s primary federal banking regulator. These regulations provide that a bank would be classified as: “well capitalized” if it had a total risk-based capital ratio of 10.0% or greater, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 8.0% or greater, a CET-1 ratio of 6.5% or greater, and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 5.0% or greater, and was not subject to any order or written directive by any such regulatory agency to meet and maintain a specific capital level for any capital measure; “adequately capitalized” if it had a total risk-based capital ratio of 8.0% or greater, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 6.0% or greater, a CET-1 ratio of 4.5% or greater and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 4.0% or greater; “undercapitalized” if it had a total risk-based capital ratio that is less than 8.0%, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of less than 6.0%, a CET-1 ratio of less than 4.5% and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of less than 4.0%; “significantly undercapitalized” if it had a total risk-based capital ratio of less than 6.0%, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of less than 4.0%, a CET-1 ratio of less than 3.0% or a Tier 1 leverage ratio of less than 3.0%; and “critically undercapitalized” if its tangible equity was equal to or less than 2.0% of average quarterly tangible assets. A bank that is classified as well-capitalized, adequately capitalized or undercapitalized based on its capital levels may be treated as though it were in the next lower capital category if the appropriate federal banking agency, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, determines that an unsafe or unsound condition or practice warrants such treatment.
A bank’s capital classification affects the frequency of examinations of the bank by its primary federal bank regulatory agency, the ability of the bank to engage in certain activities and the deposit insurance premiums that are payable by the bank. Under FDICIA, the federal banking regulators are required to conduct a full-scope, on-site examination of every bank with more than $3.0 billion in assets at least once every 12 months.
An undercapitalized bank is generally prohibited from paying dividends or management fees to its holding company. In addition, an undercapitalized bank that fails to submit, or fails to obtain the approval by its federal banking regulator of a capital restoration plan will be treated as if it is “significantly undercapitalized.” In that event, the bank’s federal banking regulator may impose a number of additional requirements and restrictions on the bank, including orders or requirements (i) to sell sufficient voting stock to become “adequately capitalized,” (ii) to reduce its total assets, and (iii) cease the receipt of deposits from correspondent banks. “Critically undercapitalized” institutions are subject to the appointment of a receiver or conservator. If an undercapitalized bank is a subsidiary of a bank holding company, then, for its capital restoration plan to be approved, the bank’s parent holding company must guarantee that the bank will comply with, and provide assurances of the performance by the bank of, its capital restoration plan. Under such a guarantee and assurance of performance, if the bank fails to comply with its capital restoration plan, the parent holding company may become subject to liability for such failure in an amount up to the lesser of (i) 5.0% of its bank subsidiary’s total assets at the time it became undercapitalized, or (ii) the amount that is necessary (or would have been necessary) to bring the bank into compliance with all applicable capital standards as of the time it failed to comply with the plan.
If a bank is classified as “significantly undercapitalized” or “critically undercapitalized,” its federal banking regulator would be required to take one or more prompt corrective actions that would, among other things require the bank to (i) raise additional capital by means of sales of common stock or nonredeemable preferred shares, (ii) improve its management, (iii) limit the interest rates it may pay on deposits, (iv) altogether prohibit transactions by the bank with its affiliates, (v) terminate certain activities that pose undue or unreasonable risks, and (vi) restrict the compensation being paid to its executive officers. If a bank is classified as critically undercapitalized, FDICIA requires the bank to be placed into conservatorship or receivership within 90 days, unless its federal banking regulatory agency determines that there are other measures that would enable the bank, within a relatively short period of time, to increase its capital in an amount sufficient to improve its capital classification under the prompt corrective action framework.
Safety and Soundness Standards
Banking institutions may be subject to potential enforcement actions by the federal banking regulators for unsafe or unsound practices or for violating any law, rule, regulation, or any condition imposed in writing by its primary federal banking regulatory agency or any written agreement with that agency. The federal banking agencies have adopted guidelines designed to identify and address potential safety and soundness concerns that could, if not corrected, lead to deterioration in the quality of a bank’s assets, liquidity or capital. Those guidelines set forth operational and managerial standards relating to such matters as internal controls, information systems and internal audit systems; risk management; loan documentation; credit underwriting; asset growth; earnings; and compensation, fees and benefits.
In addition, the federal banking agencies have adopted safety and soundness guidelines with respect to the quality of loans and other assets of insured depository institutions. These guidelines provide standards for establishing and maintaining a system to identify problem loans and other problem assets and to prevent those assets from deteriorating. Under these standards, an FDIC-insured depository institution is expected to conduct periodic asset quality reviews to identify problem loans and any other problem assets, estimate the inherent losses in those loans and other assets and establish reserves that are sufficient to absorb those estimated losses; compare problem loans and other problem asset totals to capital; take appropriate corrective action to resolve problem loans and other problem assets; consider the size and potential risks of material asset concentrations; and provide periodic quality reports with respect to their loans and other assets which provide adequate information for the bank’s management and the board of directors to assess the level of risk to its loans and other assets.
These guidelines also establish standards for evaluating and monitoring earnings and for ensuring that earnings are sufficient for the maintenance of adequate capital and reserves.
Potential Regulatory Enforcement Actions
If a bank holding company’s or a bank’s federal banking regulatory agency, determines that its financial condition, capital resources, asset quality, earnings prospects, management, liquidity, or other aspects of its operations are unsatisfactory or that the bank holding company or bank or its management has violated any law or regulation, the agency has the authority to take a number of different remedial actions as it deems appropriate under the circumstances. These actions include the power to enjoin any “unsafe or unsound” banking practices; to require that affirmative action be taken to correct any conditions resulting from any violation of law or unsafe or unsound practice; to issue an administrative order that can be judicially enforced; to require that it increase its capital; to restrict its growth; assess civil monetary penalties against the it or its officers or directors; to remove officers and directors of the bank; and if the federal agency concludes that such conditions at the bank cannot be corrected or there is an imminent risk of loss to depositors, to terminate a bank’s deposit insurance, which in the case of a California state chartered bank would result in revocation of its charter and require it to cease its banking operations. Under California law the DFPI has many of these same remedial powers with respect to FFB.
Dividends and Stock Repurchases
It is the policy of the Federal Reserve that bank holding companies should generally pay dividends on common stock only out of income available over the past year, and only if prospective earnings retention is consistent with the holding company’s expected future needs for capital and liquidity and to maintain its financial condition. It is also a Federal
Reserve policy that bank holding companies should not maintain dividend levels that undermine their ability to be a source of financial strength for their banking subsidiaries. Additionally, the Federal Reserve has indicated that bank holding companies should carefully review their dividend policies and has discouraged dividend payment ratios that are at maximum allowable levels unless both asset quality and capital are very strong. Similar Federal Reserve policies and limitations apply to a bank holding company’s repurchase of its capital stock.
Cash dividends from FFB are one of the principal sources of cash (in addition to any cash dividends that might be paid to the Company by FFA) that is available to the Company for its operations and to fund any cash dividends or stock repurchases that the Company’s board of directors might declare or approve in the future. The Company is a legal entity separate and distinct from FFB and FFB is subject to various statutory and regulatory restrictions on its ability to pay cash dividends to the Company. Under the California law, a bank’s ability to pay cash dividends is limited to the lesser of: (i) the bank’s retained earnings or (ii) the bank’s income for its last three fiscal years (less any distributions to shareholders made during such period). However, with the prior approval of the DFPI, a bank may pay cash dividends in an amount not to exceed the greatest of the: (1) retained earnings of the bank; (2) net income of the bank for its last fiscal year; or (3) net income of the bank for its current fiscal year. In addition, under FDIC regulations, FFB is generally prohibited from paying cash dividends in amounts that would cause FFB to become undercapitalized. Additionally, the FDIC and the DFPI have the authority to prohibit FFB from paying cash dividends, if either of those agencies deems the payment of dividends by FFB to be an unsafe or unsound practice.
The FDIC also has established guidelines with respect to the maintenance of appropriate levels of capital by banks under its jurisdiction. Compliance with the standards set forth in those guidelines and the restrictions that are or may be imposed under the prompt corrective action provisions of federal law could limit the amount of dividends which FFB may pay.
Single Borrower Loan Limitations
With certain limited exceptions, the maximum amount of unsecured obligations that any borrower (including certain related entities) may owe to a California state bank at any one time may not exceed 15% of the sum of the bank’s shareholders’ equity, allowance for credit losses related to loans, capital notes and debentures. The combined secured and unsecured obligations of any borrower may not exceed 25% of the sum of the bank’s shareholders’ equity, allowance for credit losses related to loans, capital notes and debentures.
The deposits of FFB are insured by the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund (the “DIF”), up to applicable limits. The Dodd-Frank Act permanently increased the maximum deposit insurance amount for banks, savings institutions and credit unions to $250,000 per depositor.
The FDIC uses a risk-based assessment system that imposes insurance premiums based upon a risk matrix that takes into account a bank’s CAMELS supervisory rating. The risk matrix utilizes different risk categories distinguished by capital levels and supervisory ratings. As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, the base for insurance assessments is now consolidated average assets less average tangible equity. Assessment rates are calculated using formulas that take into account the risk of the institution being assessed. FDIC deposit insurance expense also includes FICO assessments related to outstanding FICO bonds.
The FDIC may terminate deposit insurance upon a finding that the institution has engaged in unsafe and unsound practices, is in an unsafe or unsound condition to continue operations, or has violated any applicable law, regulation, rule, order or condition imposed by the FDIC. The Company’s management is not aware of any practice, condition, or violation that might lead to the termination of its deposit insurance.
Executive Compensation Restrictions
In June 2010, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC issued comprehensive guidelines on incentive compensation policies intended to ensure that the incentive compensation policies of banking organizations do not undermine the safety
and soundness of the organizations by encouraging excessive risk-taking. The guidelines apply to those employees of a banking organization that have the ability to materially affect the risk profile of a banking organization, either individually or as part of a group. Generally, the guidelines (i) prohibit incentive compensation that encourages risk-taking beyond the organization’s ability to effectively identify and manage risks, (ii) prohibit incentive compensation arrangements that are inconsistent with effective internal controls and risk management, and (iii) mandate that incentive compensation programs be supported by strong corporate governance principles and practices, including active and effective oversight by the banking organization’s board of directors. The federal banking regulatory agencies have the authority to bring enforcement actions against a banking organization if the agency concludes that its incentive compensation arrangements, or related risk-management control or governance processes, pose an undue risk to the organization’s safety and soundness and that the organization is not taking prompt and effective measures to correct the deficiencies.
In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act directs federal banking regulators to promulgate rules prohibiting incentive-based compensation arrangements that would encourage imprudent risk-taking by executives of depository institutions and their holding companies that have assets of more than $1.0 billion. Proposed rules were issued in 2011 but have not become final.
The Company has adopted an incentive compensation clawback policy that provides, among other things, that if any of the Company’s previously published financial statements are restated due to material noncompliance with any financial reporting requirements under the federal securities laws, the Company will seek to recover the amount by which any incentive compensation paid in the previous three years to any executive officer exceeds the incentive compensation which the Company’s audit committee determines would have been paid to such executive officer had such compensation been determined on the basis of the restated financial statements.
Federal Home Loan Bank System
FFB is a member of the FHLB. Among other benefits, each regional Federal Home Loan Bank serves as a reserve or central bank for its members within its assigned region and makes available loans or advances to its member banks. Each regional Federal Home Loan Bank is financed primarily from the sale of consolidated obligations of the overall Federal Home Loan Bank system. As an FHLB member, FFB is required to own a certain amount of capital stock in the FHLB. At December 31, 2020, FFB was in compliance with the FHLB’s stock ownership requirement. Historically, the FHLB has paid dividends on its capital stock to its members.
Restrictions on Transactions between FFB and the Company and its other Affiliates
FFB is subject to Sections 23A and 23B of, and Federal Reserve Regulation W under, the Federal Reserve Act, which impose restrictions on (i) any extensions of credit to, or the issuance of a guarantee or letter of credit on behalf of, the Company or any of its other subsidiaries; (ii) the purchase of or investments in Company stock or other Company securities; (iii) the taking of Company securities as collateral for the loans that FFB makes; (iv) the purchase of assets from the Company or any of its other subsidiaries and (v) transactions between a bank and its financial subsidiaries, as well as other affiliates. These restrictions prevent the Company and any of its subsidiaries from obtaining borrowings or extensions of credit from FFB, unless the borrowings are secured by marketable obligations in designated amounts, and such secured loans and any investments by FFB in the Company or any of its subsidiaries are limited, individually, to 10% of FFB’s capital and surplus (as defined by federal regulations), and in the aggregate are limited to 20%, of FFB’s capital and surplus.
The Dodd-Frank Act extends the application of Section 23A of the Federal Reserve Act to derivative transactions, repurchase agreements and securities lending and borrowing transactions that create credit exposure to an affiliate or an insider of a bank. Any such transactions with any affiliates must be fully secured. In addition, the exemption from Section 23A for transactions with financial subsidiaries has been eliminated.
California law also imposes restrictions with respect to transactions involving the Company and any other persons that may be deemed under that law to control FFB.
Regulatory Guidelines for Commercial Real Estate Loan Concentrations
The Federal Reserve and the FDIC have published guidelines that call for the adoption of heightened risk mitigation measures by insured banks with a concentration of commercial real estate loans in its loan portfolio. The guidelines provide that a bank will be deemed to have a concentration of commercial real estate loans if (i) the total reported loans for construction, land development and other land represent 100% or more of the bank’s total capital, or (ii) the total reported loans secured by multifamily and non-farm residential properties, plus loans for construction, land development and other land, represent 300% or more of the bank’s total capital and the bank’s commercial real estate loan portfolio has increased by 50% or more during the prior 36 months. If such a concentration exists, the guidelines call for the bank (i) to implement heightened risk assessment and risk management practices, including board and management oversight and strategic planning, (ii) to implement and maintain stringent loan underwriting standards, and to use market analyses and stress testing tools to monitor the condition of the bank’s commercial real estate loan portfolio and to assess the impact that adverse economic conditions affecting the real estate markets could have on the bank’s financial condition, and (iii) if determined to be necessary on the basis of the results of such stress tests, to increase its allowance for credit losses and its capital.
Technology Risk Management and Consumer Privacy
Federal and state banking regulatory agencies have issued various policy statements focusing on the importance of technology risk management and supervision in evaluating the safety and soundness of the banks they regulate. According to those policy statements, the use by banking organizations of technology-related products, services, processes and delivery channels, such as the internet, exposes them to a number of risks which include operational, compliance, security, privacy, and reputational risk. The banking regulators generally expect the banking organizations they regulate to prudently manage technology-related risks as part of their comprehensive risk management policies in order to identify, monitor, measure and control risks associated with the use of technology.
Pursuant to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLBA”), the federal banking agencies have adopted rules and established standards to be followed in implementing safeguards that are designed to ensure the security and confidentiality of customer records and information, protection against any anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of such records and protection against unauthorized access to or use of such records or information in a way that could result in substantial harm or inconvenience to a customer. Among other requirements, these rules require each banking organization to implement a comprehensive written information security program that includes administrative, technical and physical safeguards relating to customer information. GLBA also requires banking organizations to provide each of their customers with a notice of their privacy policies and practices and prohibits a banking organization from disclosing nonpublic personal information about a customer to nonaffiliated third parties unless the banking organization satisfies various notice and “opt-out” requirements and the customer has not chosen to opt out of the disclosure. Additionally, the federal banking agencies are authorized to issue regulations as necessary to implement those notice requirements and non-disclosure restrictions.
Community Reinvestment Act
The Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”) requires the federal banking regulatory agencies to evaluate the record of a bank in meeting the credit needs of its local communities, including those of low and moderate income neighborhoods in its service area. A bank’s compliance with its CRA obligations is based on a performance-based evaluation system which determines the bank’s CRA ratings on the basis of its community lending and community development performance. A bank may have substantial penalties imposed on it and generally will be required to take corrective measures in the event it fails to meet its obligations under CRA. Federal banking agencies also may take compliance with CRA and other fair lending laws into account when regulating and supervising other activities of a bank or its bank holding company. Moreover, when a bank or bank holding company files an application for approval to acquire a bank or another bank holding company, the federal banking regulatory agency reviewing the application will consider CRA assessment of the subsidiary bank or banks of the applicant bank holding company. A lower CRA rating may be the basis for requiring the applicant’s bank subsidiary to take corrective actions to improve its CRA performance as a condition to the approval of the acquisition or as a basis for denying the application altogether.
Bank Secrecy Act and USA Patriot Act
The Company and FFB are subject to the Bank Secrecy Act, as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act, which gives the federal government powers to address money laundering and terrorist threats through enhanced domestic security measures, expanded surveillance powers and mandatory transaction reporting obligations. For example, the Bank Secrecy Act and related regulations require that we report currency transactions that exceed certain thresholds and transactions determined to be suspicious, establish due diligence requirements for accounts and take certain steps to verify customer identification when accounts are opened. The Bank Secrecy Act requires financial institutions to develop and maintain a program reasonably designed to ensure and monitor compliance with its requirements, to train employees to comply with and to test the effectiveness of the program. Any failure to meet the requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act can result in the imposition of substantial penalties and in adverse regulatory action against the offending bank. FFI and FFB have each adopted policies and procedures to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act.
The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA”), which amends the Bank Secrecy Act, was enacted in January 2021. The AMLA is a comprehensive reform and modernization to U.S. bank secrecy and anti-money laundering laws. Among other things, it codifies a risk-based approach to anti-money laundering compliance for financial institutions; requires the development of standards for evaluating technology and internal processes for Bank Secrecy Act compliance; and expands enforcement and investigative authority, including increasing available sanctions for certain Bank Secrecy Act violations and instituting Bank Secrecy Act whistleblower incentives and protections.
Consumer Laws and Regulations
The Company and FFB are subject to a broad range of federal and state consumer protection laws and regulations prohibiting unfair or fraudulent business practices, untrue or misleading advertising and unfair competition. Those laws and regulations include:
|●||The Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, which requires additional disclosures and consumer protections to borrowers designed to protect them against certain lending practices, such as practices deemed to constitute “predatory lending.”|
|●||The Fair Credit Reporting Act, as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which requires banking institutions and financial services businesses to adopt practices and procedures designed to help deter identity theft, including developing appropriate fraud response programs, and provides consumers with greater control of their credit data.|
|●||The Truth in Lending Act which requires that credit terms be disclosed in a meaningful and consistent way so that consumers may compare credit terms more readily and knowledgeably.|
|●||The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which generally prohibits, in connection with any consumer or business credit transactions, discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age (except in limited circumstances), or the fact that a borrower is receiving income from public assistance programs.|
|●||The Fair Housing Act, which regulates many lending practices, including making it unlawful for any lender to discriminate in its housing-related lending activities against any person because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.|
|●||The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which includes a “fair lending” aspect that requires the collection and disclosure of data about applicant and borrower characteristics as a way of identifying possible discriminatory lending patterns and enforcing anti-discrimination statutes.|
|●||The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which requires lenders to provide borrowers with disclosures regarding the nature and cost of real estate settlements and prohibits certain abusive practices, such as kickbacks.|
|●||The National Flood Insurance Act, which requires homes in flood-prone areas with mortgages from a federally regulated lender to have flood insurance.|
|●||The Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008, which requires mortgage loan originator employees of federally insured institutions to register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry, a database created by the states to support the licensing of mortgage loan originators, prior to originating residential mortgage loans.|
The Dodd-Frank Act also contains a variety of provisions intended to reform consumer mortgage practices. The provisions include (1) a requirement that lenders make a determination that at the time a residential mortgage loan is consummated the consumer has a reasonable ability to repay the loan and related costs, (2) a ban on loan originator compensation based on the interest rate or other terms of the loan (other than the amount of the principal), (3) a ban on prepayment penalties for certain types of loans, (4) bans on arbitration provisions in mortgage loans and (5) requirements for enhanced disclosures in connection with the making of a loan. The Dodd-Frank Act also imposes a variety of requirements on entities that service mortgage loans.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Dodd-Frank Act created a new, independent federal agency, called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”), which has been granted broad rulemaking, supervisory and enforcement powers under various federal consumer financial protection laws, including the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Truth in Lending Act, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Act, the Consumer Financial Privacy provisions of the GLBA and certain other statutes. The CFPB has examination and primary enforcement authority with respect to the compliance by depository institutions with $10 billion or more in assets with federal consumer protection laws and regulations. Smaller institutions are subject to rules promulgated by the CFPB, but continue to be examined and supervised by federal banking regulators for consumer compliance purposes. The CFPB has authority to prevent unfair, deceptive or abusive practices in connection with the offering of consumer financial products. The Dodd-Frank Act also (i) authorizes the CFPB to establish certain minimum standards for the origination of residential mortgages, including a determination of the borrower’s ability to repay, and (ii) will allow borrowers to raise certain defenses to foreclosure if they receive any loan other than a “qualified mortgage” as defined by the CFPB. The Dodd-Frank Act permits states to adopt consumer protection laws and standards that are more stringent than those adopted at the federal level and, in certain circumstances, permits state attorneys general to enforce compliance with both the state and federal financial consumer protection laws and regulations.
In December 2013, the federal bank regulatory agencies adopted final rules that implement a part of the Dodd-Frank Act commonly referred to as the “Volcker Rule.” Under these rules and subject to certain exceptions, banking entities are restricted from engaging in activities that are considered proprietary trading and from sponsoring or investing in certain entities, including hedge or private equity funds that are considered “covered funds.” These rules became effective on April 1, 2014, although certain provisions are subject to delayed effectiveness under rules promulgated by the FRB. These new rules may require us to conduct certain internal analysis and reporting to ensure continued compliance. In 2019, the federal bank regulatory agencies adopted a rule excluding from the Volcker Rule community banks with $10 billion or less in assets and total trading assets and liabilities of five percent or less of total consolidated assets. The Company held no investment positions at December 31, 2020 which were subject to the Volcker rule.
Regulation of First Foundation Advisors
FFA is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act and the SEC’s regulations promulgated thereunder. The Investment Advisers Act imposes numerous obligations on registered investment advisors, including fiduciary, recordkeeping, operational, and disclosure obligations. FFA is also subject to regulation under the securities laws and fiduciary laws of certain states and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), and to regulations promulgated thereunder, insofar as it is a “fiduciary” under ERISA with respect to certain of its clients. ERISA and the applicable provisions of the Code, impose certain duties on persons who are fiduciaries under ERISA, and prohibit certain transactions by the fiduciaries (and certain other related parties) to such plans. The foregoing laws and regulations generally grant supervisory agencies broad administrative powers, including the power to limit or restrict FFA from conducting its business in the event that it fails to comply with such laws and regulations. Possible sanctions that may be
imposed in the event of such noncompliance include the suspension of individual employees, limitations on the business activities for specified periods of time, revocation of registration as an investment advisor and/or other registrations, and other censures and fines. Changes in these laws or regulations could have a material adverse impact on the profitability and mode of operations of FFI and its subsidiaries.
Congress may enact legislation from time to time that affects the regulation of the financial services industry, and state legislatures may enact legislation from time to time affecting the regulation of financial institutions chartered by or operating in those states. Federal and state regulatory agencies also periodically propose and adopt changes to their regulations or change the manner in which existing regulations are applied. The substance or impact of pending or future legislation or regulations, or the application thereof, cannot be predicted, although enactment of the proposed legislation could impact the regulatory structure under which we operate and may significantly increase our costs, impede the efficiency of our internal business processes, require us to increase our regulatory capital or modify our business strategy, limit our ability to pursue business opportunities or activities or alter the competitive balance between banks and non-bank financial service providers.
Human Capital Resources
As of December 31, 2020, the Company had approximately 502 full-time employees. None of our employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. We believe relations with our employees are good.
To compete with other financial institutions, our business strategy emphasizes customer relationships and personalized service. To a large degree, our success therefore depends on the personal relationships of our employees and the quality of service they provide. We strive to attract, develop and retain employees who can further our business strategy and build long-term stockholder value. To do so, we offer compensation, benefits, and training designed to attract, develop and retain employees. While we expect to hire employees as we grow, as a result of attrition and as opportunities to recruit talent may arise, in general, we believe our human capital resources are adequate for our current needs.
The Company’s annual reports on Form 10-K, proxy statements, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13 (a) or 15 (d) of the Exchange Act are accessible for free at the Investor Relations section of our website at www.ff-inc.com as soon as reasonably practicable after the Company electronically files such material with, or furnishes it to, the SEC. All website addresses given in this report are for information only and are not intended to be an active link or to incorporate any website information into this report.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could prevent us from achieving our business objectives and could hurt our future financial performance and the price performance of our common stock. Such risks and uncertainties also could cause our future financial condition and future financial performance to differ significantly from our current expectations, which are described in the forward-looking statements contained in this report. Those risks and uncertainties, many of which are outside of our ability to control or prevent, include the following:
Risks Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic and measures intended to prevent its spread are adversely affecting us and our customers, employees and third-party service providers, and the ultimate extent of the impacts on our business, financial condition, results of operations, liquidity and prospects is uncertain.
Global health concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions taken to reduce the spread of the virus have created significant economic uncertainty and reduced economic activity, including within our
market areas. Governmental authorities have implemented numerous measures to try to contain the virus, such as travel bans and restrictions, quarantines, “stay at home” orders and business limitations and shutdowns. These measures have caused significant unemployment and have negatively impacted consumer and business spending. The United States government has taken steps to attempt to mitigate some of the more severe anticipated economic effects of the virus, including the passage of the CARES Act, but there can be no assurance that such steps will be effective or achieve their desired results in a timely fashion. Continued deterioration in general business and economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including further increases in unemployment rates, or turbulence in domestic or global financial markets, could adversely affect our revenues and the values of our assets and liabilities, reduce the availability of funding, lead to a tightening of credit, and further increase stock price volatility, which could result in impairment to our goodwill in future periods. In addition, changes to statutes, regulations, or regulatory policies or practices as a result of, or in response to COVID-19, could affect us in substantial and unpredictable ways, including the potential adverse impact of loan modifications and payment deferrals implemented consistent with recent regulatory guidance.
Our business is dependent upon the willingness and ability of our customers and employees to conduct banking and other financial transactions. Disruptions to our customers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could result in increased risk of delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures and losses on our loans, as well as reductions in loan demand, the liquidity of loan guarantors, loan collateral values (particularly in real estate), loan originations, interest and noninterest income and deposit availability. These factors may remain prevalent for a significant period of time and may continue to adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. We also could be adversely affected if key personnel or a significant number of employees were to become unavailable due to the effects and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic in our market areas. Although we have business continuity plans and other safeguards in place, there is no assurance that such plans and safeguards will be effective. In addition, we rely upon our third-party vendors to conduct business and to process, record, and monitor transactions. If any of these vendors are unable to continue to provide us with these services, it could negatively impact our ability to serve our customers.
The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our business, financial condition, results of operations, liquidity and prospects will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and are difficult to predict, including, but not limited to, the duration and spread of the outbreak, its severity, the actions to contain the virus or treat its impact, and how quickly and to what extent normal economic and operating conditions can resume. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, we may continue to experience materially adverse impacts to our business as a result of the virus’s economic impact and any recession that has occurred or may occur in the future.
There are no comparable recent events that provide guidance as to the effect the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic may have, and, as a result, we do not yet know the full extent of the impacts on our business, our operations or the economy as a whole. However, the effects could have a material impact on our results of operations and heighten many of the other risks factors described in this report.
Our participation in the Payroll Protection Program (“PPP”) exposes us to risks related to noncompliance with the PPP, as well as litigation risk related to our administration of the PPP loan program, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are a participating lender in the PPP, a loan program administered through the SBA, that was created to help eligible businesses, organizations and self-employed persons fund their operational costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this program, the SBA guarantees 100% of the amounts loaned under the PPP. The PPP opened on April 3, 2020; however, because of the short window between the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act and the opening of the PPP, there is some ambiguity in the laws, rules and guidance regarding the operation of the PPP, which exposes us to risks relating to noncompliance with the PPP. For instance, other financial institutions have experienced litigation related to their processes and procedures used in processing applications for the PPP. Any financial liability, litigation costs or reputational damage caused by PPP related litigation could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, we may be exposed to credit risk on PPP loans if a determination is made by the SBA that there is a deficiency in the manner in which the loan was originated, funded, or serviced. If a deficiency is identified, the SBA may deny its liability under the guaranty, reduce the amount of the guaranty, or, if it has already paid under the guaranty, seek recovery of any loss related to the deficiency from us.
Risks Related to Financial Services Business
We could incur losses on the loans we make.
Loan defaults and the incurrence of losses on loans are inherent risks in our business. Loan losses necessitate loan charge-offs and write-downs in the carrying values of a banking organization’s loans and, therefore, can adversely affect its results of operations and financial condition. Accordingly, our results of operations will be directly affected by the volume and timing of loan losses, which for a number of reasons can vary from period to period. The risks of loan losses are exacerbated by economic recessions and downturns, or by other events that can lead to local or regional business downturns. If business and economic conditions weaken generally or specifically in the principal markets in which we do business, more of our borrowers may fail to perform in accordance with the terms of their loans, in which event loan charge-offs and asset write-downs could increase, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Our allowance for credit losses may not be adequate to cover actual losses.
In accordance with regulatory requirements and generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, we maintain an allowance for credit losses (“ACL”) to provide for loan and lease defaults and non-performance and a reserve for unfunded loan commitments, which, when combined, we refer to as our ACL. Our ACL may not be adequate to absorb actual ACL, and future provisions for ACL could materially and adversely affect our operating results. Our ACL is based on prior experience and an evaluation of the risks inherent in our then-current portfolio. The amount of future losses may also vary depending on changes in economic, operating and other conditions, including changes in interest rates that may be beyond our control, and these losses may exceed current estimates. Federal and state regulators, as an integral part of their examination process, review our loans and leases and ACL. While we believe our ACL is appropriate for the risk identified in our loan and lease portfolio, we cannot provide assurance that we will not further increase the ACL, that it will be sufficient to address losses, or that regulators will not require us to increase this allowance. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
The FASB has adopted a new accounting standard for determining the amount of our ACL (ASU No. 2016-13, Financial Instruments - Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments) that became effective for our fiscal year beginning January 1, 2020, referred to as the Current Expected Credit Loss (“CECL”) model. Implementation of CECL requires, among other things, that we determine periodic estimates of lifetime expected future credit losses on loans in the provision for credit losses in the period when the loans are booked, which considers reasonable and supportable forecasts of future economic conditions in addition to information about past events and current conditions. The standard provides significant flexibility and requires a high degree of judgment. Providing for losses over the life of our loan and investment portfolio is a change to the previous method of providing allowances for credit losses that are probable and incurred. The ongoing impact of CECL will be significantly influenced by the composition, characteristics and quality of our loan portfolio and other assets impacted by CECL, as well as the prevailing economic conditions and forecasts utilized. As these factors change, CECL may require us to increase or decrease our ACL in future periods, decreasing or increasing our reported income, and introducing additional volatility into our reported earnings, possibly significantly. In addition, regulators may impose additional capital buffers to absorb this volatility.
Our business and operations may be adversely affected in numerous and complex ways by economic conditions.
Our businesses and operations, which primarily consist of lending money to customers in the form of loans, borrowing money from customers in the form of deposits, investing in securities and investment management, are sensitive to general business and economic conditions in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused and may continue to cause severe disruptions in the U.S. economy at large, and for small businesses in particular, and has resulted and may continue to result in disruptions to our customers’ businesses, and a decrease in consumer confidence and business generally. If the United States economy does not improve or weakens further, our growth and profitability from our lending, deposit and investment operations could be constrained. Uncertainty about the federal fiscal policymaking process, the fiscal outlook of the federal government, and future tax rates is a concern for businesses, consumers and
investors in the United States. In addition, economic conditions in foreign countries could affect the stability of global financial markets, which could hinder United States economic growth. Weak economic conditions may be characterized by deflation, fluctuations in debt and equity capital markets, a lack of liquidity and/or depressed prices in the secondary market for loans, increased delinquencies on mortgage, consumer and commercial loans, residential and commercial real estate price declines and lower home sales and commercial activity. Interest rates remain at historically low levels, which impacts our ability to attract deposits and to generate attractive earnings through our investment portfolio. All of these factors are detrimental to our business, and the interplay between these factors can be complex and unpredictable. Adverse economic conditions and government policy responses to such conditions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Our banking, investment advisory and wealth management operations are geographically concentrated in California, Nevada and Hawaii, leading to significant exposure to those markets.
Our business activities and credit exposure, including real estate collateral for many of our loans, are concentrated in California, Nevada and Hawaii, as approximately 96% of the loans in our loan portfolio were made to borrowers who live and/or conduct business in those states. This geographic concentration imposes risks from lack of geographic diversification. Difficult economic conditions, including state and local government deficits, in any of California, Nevada or Hawaii may affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects, where adverse economic developments, among other things, could affect the volume of loan originations, increase the level of nonperforming assets, increase the rate of foreclosure losses on loans and reduce the value of our loans and loan servicing portfolio. Any regional or local economic downturn that affects California, Nevada or Hawaii or existing or prospective borrowers or property values in such areas may affect us and our profitability more significantly and more adversely than our competitors whose operations are less geographically concentrated.
Changes in interest rates could reduce our net interest margins and net interest income.
Income and cash flows from our banking operations depend to a great extent on the difference or “spread” between the interest we earn on interest-earning assets, such as loans and investment securities, and the rates at which we pay interest on interest-bearing liabilities, such as deposits and borrowings. Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors that are beyond our control, including (among others) general and regional and local economic conditions, the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board, bank regulatory requirements, competition from other banks and financial institutions and a change over time in the mix of our loans, investment securities, on the one hand, and on our deposits and other liabilities, on the other hand. Changes in monetary policy will, in particular, influence the origination and market value of and the yields we can realize on loans and investment securities and the interest we pay on deposits. Our net interest margins and earnings also could be adversely affected if we are unable to adjust our interest rates on loans and deposits on a timely basis in response to changes in economic conditions or monetary policies. For example, if the rates of interest we pay on deposits, borrowings and other interest-bearing liabilities increase faster than we are able to increase the rates of interest we charge on loans or the yields we realize on investments and other interest-earning assets, our net interest income and, therefore, our earnings will decrease. In particular, the rates of interest we charge on loans may be subject to longer fixed interest periods compared to the interest we must pay on deposits. On the other hand, increasing interest rates generally lead to increases in net interest income; however, such increases also may result in a reduction in loan originations, declines in loan prepayment rates and reductions in the ability of borrowers to repay their current loan obligations, which could result in increased loan defaults and charge-offs and could require increases to our ACL, thereby offsetting either partially or totally the increases in net interest income resulting from the increase in interest rates. Additionally, we could be prevented from increasing the interest rates we charge on loans or from reducing the interest rates we offer on deposits due to “price” competition from other banks and financial institutions with which we compete. Conversely, in a declining interest rate environment, our earnings could be adversely affected if the interest rates we are able to charge on loans or other investments decline more quickly than those we pay on deposits and borrowings.
We May be Adversely Impacted by the Transition from LIBOR as a Reference Rate.
The United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority has announced that the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) will no longer be published after 2021. With LIBOR’s expected discontinuance after 2021, there is uncertainty as to what rate or rates may become accepted alternatives to LIBOR, or what the effect of any such changes in views or
alternatives may be on the markets for LIBOR-indexed financial instruments. In response, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (“ARRC”) was convened in the U.S. to explore alternative reference rates and supporting processes. The ARRC identified a potential successor rate to LIBOR in the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) and crafted the Paced Transition Plan to facilitate the transition. However, there are conceptual and technical differences between LIBOR and SOFR that remain unresolved at this time.
We have a significant number of loans with attributes that are either directly or indirectly dependent on LIBOR. We have not yet determined the optimal reference rate(s) that we will ultimately use for our financial instruments going forward; however, it appears likely that it will be SOFR. We have organized a multidisciplinary project team to identify operational and contractual best practices, assess our risks, identify the detailed list of all loans impacted, manage the transition, facilitate communication with our customers, and monitor the impacts. The transition from LIBOR could create considerable costs and additional risk. The uncertainty as to the nature and effect of the discontinuance of LIBOR may adversely affect the value of, the return on our loans that are based on or are linked to LIBOR, may require extensive changes to the contracts that govern these LIBOR-based products as well as our systems and processes, and could impact our pricing and interest rate risk models, our loan product structures, our valuation tools and result in increased compliance and operational costs. In addition, the market transition away from LIBOR to an alternative reference rate could prompt inquiries or other actions from regulators in respect of our preparation and readiness for the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative reference rate, and result in disputes, litigation or other actions with counterparties regarding the interpretation and enforceability of certain fallback language in LIBOR-based financial instruments. Furthermore, failure to adequately manage this transition process with our customers could adversely impact our reputation.
Although we are currently unable to assess the ultimate impact of the transition from LIBOR, the failure to adequately manage the transition could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in interest rates could increase our operating expenses.
Customer service costs, which are reimbursements of costs incurred by our clients and are related primarily to our noninterest bearing demand deposits, are impacted by changes in interest rates. In a rising interest rate environment, the amounts we make available for reimbursement to our clients increases, resulting in higher costs to us. The amount of the reimbursement and the impact of interest rate increases may vary by client.
We may incur significant losses as a result of ineffective hedging of interest rate risk.
From time to time, we may utilize financial derivative instruments to hedge the value of our multifamily loans held for sale. Hedging is a complex process, requiring sophisticated models, experienced and skilled personnel and continual monitoring. Changes in the value of our hedging instruments may not correlate with changes in the value of our multifamily loans held for sale, and our hedging activities may be impacted by unforeseen or unexpected changes in market conditions. Further, in times of significant financial disruption, as in 2008, hedging counterparties have been known to default on their obligations.
Real estate loans represent a high percentage of the loans we make, making our results of operations vulnerable to downturns in the real estate market.
At December 31, 2020, loans secured by multifamily and commercial real estate represented approximately 62% of our outstanding loans. The repayment of such loans is highly dependent on the ability of the borrowers to meet their loan repayment obligations to us, which can be adversely affected by economic downturns that can lead to (i) declines in the rents and, therefore, in the cash flows generated by those real properties on which the borrowers depend to fund their loan payments to us, and (ii) decreases in the values of those real properties, which make it more difficult for the borrowers to sell those real properties for amounts sufficient to repay their loans in full. As a result, our operating results are more vulnerable to adverse changes in the real estate market than other financial institutions with more diversified loan portfolios and we could incur losses in the event of changes in economic conditions that disproportionately affect the real estate markets.
Liquidity risk could adversely affect our ability to fund operations and hurt our financial condition.
Liquidity is essential to our banking business, as we use cash to make loans and purchase investment securities and other interest-earning assets and to fund deposit withdrawals that occur in the ordinary course of our business. Our principal sources of liquidity include earnings, deposits, FHLB borrowings, sales of loans or investment securities held for sale, repayments by clients of loans we have made to them, and the proceeds from sales by us of our equity securities or from borrowings that we may obtain. If our ability to obtain funds from these sources becomes limited or the costs of those funds increase, whether due to factors that affect us specifically, including our financial performance, or due to factors that affect the financial services industry in general, including weakening economic conditions or negative views and expectations about the prospects for the financial services industry as a whole, then our ability to grow our banking and investment advisory and wealth management businesses would be harmed, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We may not be able to maintain a strong core deposit base or other low-cost funding sources.
We depend on checking, savings and money market deposit account balances and other forms of customer deposits as our primary source of funding for our lending activities. Future growth in our banking business will largely depend on our ability to maintain and grow a strong deposit base. There is no assurance that we will be able to grow and maintain our deposit base. The account and deposit balances can decrease when customers perceive alternative investments, such as the stock market or real estate, as providing a better risk/return tradeoff. If customers move money out of bank deposits and into investments (or similar deposit products at other institutions that may provide a higher rate of return), we could lose a relatively low cost source of funds, increasing our funding costs and reducing our net interest income and net income. Additionally, any such loss of funds could result in lower loan originations, which could materially negatively impact our growth strategy.
Our high concentration of large depositors may increase our liquidity risk, and the loss of any large depositor may negatively impact our net interest margin.
As of December 31, 2020, our nine largest bank depositors accounted for, in the aggregate, 31% of our total deposits. As a result, a material decrease in the volume of those deposits by a relatively small number of our depositors could reduce our liquidity, in which event it could become necessary for us to replace those deposits with higher-cost deposits, the sale of securities or FHLB borrowings, which would adversely affect our net interest income and, therefore, our results of operations.
Although we plan to grow by acquiring other banks, there is no assurance that we will succeed in doing so.
One of the key elements of our business plan is to grow our banking franchise and increase our market share, and for that reason, we intend to take advantage of opportunities to acquire other banks or branches. However, there is no assurance that we will succeed in doing so. Our ability to execute on our strategy to acquire other banks may require us to raise additional capital and to increase FFB’s capital position to support the growth of our banking franchise, and will also depend on market conditions, over which we have no control. Moreover, any bank acquisitions will require the approval of our bank regulators and there can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain such approvals on acceptable terms, if at all.
Our acquisition strategy subjects us to risks.
Certain events may arise after our acquisition of a financial institution or business, or we may learn of certain facts, events or circumstances after the completion of an acquisition, that may affect our financial condition or performance or subject us to risk of loss. These events include, but are not limited to: our success in integrating the operations, retaining key employees and customers, achieving anticipated synergies, meeting expectations and otherwise realizing the anticipated benefits of the acquisition; litigation resulting from circumstances occurring at the acquired entity prior to the date of acquisition; loan downgrades and credit loss provisions resulting from underwriting of certain acquired loans determined not to meet our credit standards; personnel changes that cause instability within a department; delays in implementing new policies or procedures or the failure to apply new policies or procedures; and other events relating to
the performance of our business. In addition, if we determine that the value of an acquired business had decreased and that the related goodwill was impaired, an impairment of goodwill charge to earnings would be recognized. Acquisitions involve inherent uncertainty and we cannot determine all potential events, facts and circumstances that could result in loss or increased costs or give assurances that our due diligence or mitigation efforts will be sufficient to protect against any such loss or increased costs.
Acquiring other banks, businesses, or branches involves various other risks commonly associated with acquisitions, including, among other things, potential disruptions to our business, potential diversion of our management’s time and attention, difficulty in estimating the value of the target company and potential changes in banking or tax laws or regulations that may affect the target company.
Acquisitions typically involve the payment of a premium over book and market values, and, therefore, some dilution of our tangible book value and net income per common share may occur in connection with any future transaction. Furthermore, failure to realize the expected revenue increases, cost savings, increases in geographic or product presence, and/or other projected benefits from an acquisition could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Growing our banking business may not increase our profitability and may adversely affect our future operating results.
Since we commenced our banking business in October 2007, we have grown our banking franchise and now have 20 branch offices and 3 loan production offices in California, Nevada and Hawaii. We plan to continue to grow our banking business both organically and through acquisitions of other banks or branches. However, the implementation of our growth strategy poses a number of risks for us, including:
|●||the risk that any bank or branch acquisitions we might consummate in the future will prove not to be accretive to or may reduce our earnings if we do not realize anticipated cost savings or if we incur unanticipated costs in integrating the acquired banks into our operations or if a substantial number of the clients of any of the acquired banks move their banking business to our competitors;|
|●||the risk that any newly established offices will not generate revenues in amounts sufficient to cover the start-up costs of those offices, which would reduce our earnings;|
|●||the risk that such expansion efforts will divert management time and effort from our existing banking operations, which could adversely affect our future financial performance; and|
|●||the risk that the additional capital which we may need to support our growth or the issuance of shares in any bank acquisitions will be dilutive of the investments that our existing stockholders have in the shares of our common stock that they own and in their respective percentage ownership interests they have in the Company.|
We may not have the ability to attract capital necessary to maintain regulatory ratios and fund growth.
We may need to raise additional capital in the future to provide us with sufficient capital resources and liquidity to meet our commitments and business needs, particularly if our asset quality or earnings were to deteriorate. Our ability to raise additional capital, if needed, will depend on several things, especially conditions in the capital markets at that time, that are outside of our control, as well as our own financial performance. Economic conditions and the loss of confidence in financial institutions may increase our cost of funds and limit our access to some customary sources of capital. We cannot provide assurances that such capital will be available on acceptable terms or at all. Any occurrence that may limit our access to the capital markets, such as a decline in the confidence of debt purchasers, our depositors, or counterparties participating in the capital markets may adversely affect our capital costs, ability to raise capital, and liquidity. Moreover, if we need to raise capital in the future, we may have to do so when many other financial institutions are also seeking to raise capital which, in turn, would require that we compete with those other institutions for investors. An inability to raise additional capital on acceptable terms when needed could have a materially adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity.
New lines of business or new products and services may subject us to additional risks.
From time to time, we may implement new lines of business or offer new products and services within existing lines of business. There are substantial risks and uncertainties associated with these efforts. We may invest significant time and resources in developing and marketing new lines of business and/or new products and services. Initial timetables for the introduction and development of new lines of business and/or new products or services may not be achieved and price and profitability targets may not prove feasible or may be dependent on identifying and hiring a qualified person to lead the division. In addition, existing management personnel may not have the experience or capacity to provide effective oversight of new lines of business and/or new products and services.
External factors, such as compliance with regulations, competitive alternatives, and shifting market preferences, may also impact the successful implementation of a new line of business or a new product or service. Furthermore, any new line of business and/or new product or service could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of our system of internal controls. Failure to successfully manage these risks in the development and implementation of new lines of business or new products or services could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
A reduction in demand for our products and our failure to adapt to such a reduction could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The demand for the products that we offer may be reduced due to a variety of factors, such as demographic patterns, changes in customer preferences or financial conditions, regulatory restrictions that decrease customer access to particular products, or the availability of competing products. Should we fail to adapt to significant changes in our customers’ demand for, or access to, our products, our revenues could decrease significantly and our operations could be harmed. Even if we do make changes to existing products or introduce new products to fulfill customer demand, customers may resist such changes or may reject such products. Moreover, the effect of any product change on the results of our business may not be fully ascertainable until the change has been in effect for some time, and, by that time, it may be too late to make further modifications to such product without causing further harm to our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
We face intense competition from other banks and financial institutions and other wealth and investment management firms that could hurt our business.
We conduct our business operations in markets where the banking business is highly competitive and is dominated by large multi-state and in-state banks with operations and offices covering wide geographic areas. We also compete with other financial service businesses, including investment advisory and wealth management firms, mutual fund companies, financial technology companies, and securities brokerage and investment banking firms that offer competitive banking and financial products and services as well as products and services that we do not offer. Larger banks and many of those other financial service organizations have greater financial and marketing resources than we do that enable them to make significant investments in technology, to conduct extensive marketing campaigns and to shift resources to regions or activities of greater potential profitability. They also have substantially more capital and higher lending limits than we do, which enable them to attract larger clients and offer financial products and services that we are unable to offer, putting us at a disadvantage in competing with them for loans and deposits and investment management clients. If we are unable to compete effectively with those banking or other financial services businesses, we could find it more difficult to attract new and retain existing clients and our net interest margins, net interest income and investment management advisory fees could decline, which would materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and prospects, and could cause us to incur losses in the future.
In addition, our ability to successfully attract and retain investment advisory and wealth management clients is dependent on our ability to compete with competitors’ investment products, level of investment performance, client services and marketing and distribution capabilities. If we are not successful in retaining existing and attracting new investment management clients, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
Our loss of key personnel or inability to attract additional personnel could hurt our future financial performance.
We currently depend heavily on the contributions and services provided by Rick Keller, our Executive Chairman, Scott Kavanaugh, Chief Executive Officer of FFI and FFB, David DePillo, President of FFI and FFB, John Hakopian, President of FFA, and Kevin Thompson, Chief Financial Officer of FFI, FFB and FFA, as well as a number of other key management personnel. Our future success also will depend, in part, on our ability to retain our existing, and attract additional, qualified bankers, relationship managers and investment advisory personnel. Competition for such personnel is intense. If we are not successful in retaining and attracting key personnel, our ability to retain existing clients or attract new clients could be adversely affected and our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects could be significantly harmed.
We are required to make significant estimates and assumptions in the preparation of our financial statements and our estimates and assumptions may not be accurate.
The preparation of our consolidated financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States of America requires our management to make significant estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the consolidated financial statements, and the reported amounts of income and expense during the reporting periods. Critical estimates are made by management in determining, among other things, the allowance for credit losses, amounts of impairment of assets, and valuation of income taxes. If our underlying estimates and assumptions prove to be incorrect, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected. Additionally, the adoption of CECL methodology for determining our allowance for credit losses in 2020 is expected to increase the complexity, and associated risk, of the analysis and processes relying on management judgment.
The fair value of our investment securities can fluctuate due to factors outside of our control.
Factors beyond our control can significantly influence and cause adverse changes to occur in the fair values of securities in our investment securities portfolio. These factors include, but are not limited to, rating agency actions in respect of the investment securities in our portfolio, defaults by the issuers of such securities, concerns with respect to the enforceability of the payment or other key terms of such securities, changes in market interest rates and continued instability in the capital markets. Any of these factors, as well as others, could cause other-than-temporary impairments and realized and/or unrealized losses in future periods and declines in other comprehensive income, which could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. In addition, the process for determining whether an impairment of a security is other-than-temporary usually requires complex, subjective judgments, which could subsequently prove to have been wrong, regarding the future financial performance and liquidity of the issuer of the security, the fair value of any collateral underlying the security and whether and the extent to which the principal of and interest on the security will ultimately be paid in accordance with its payment terms.
A loss or material reduction of access to securitization markets for multifamily loans may adversely impact our business model, profitability and growth.
We have sold multifamily loans through the securitization market from time to time and may seek to do so in the future. The securitization market, along with credit markets in general, experienced unprecedented disruptions during the economic downturn from 2008 to 2010. Although market conditions have since improved for a number of years following the economic downturn, certain issuers experienced increased risk premiums while there was a relatively lower level of investor demand for certain asset-backed securities (particularly those securities backed by nonprime collateral). In addition, the risk of volatility surrounding the global economic system and uncertainty surrounding regulatory reforms such as the Dodd-Frank Act continue to create uncertainty around access to the capital markets. As a result, there can be no assurance that we will continue to be successful in selling multifamily loans through the securitization market. Adverse changes in the securitization market generally could materially adversely affect our ability to securitize loans on a timely basis or upon terms acceptable to us. This could increase our cost of funding, reduce our margins or cause us to hold assets until investor demand improves.
Technology and marketing costs may negatively impact our future operating results.
The financial services industry is constantly undergoing technological changes in the types of products and services provided to clients to enhance client convenience. Our future success will depend upon our ability to address the changing technological needs of our clients and to compete with other financial services organizations which have successfully implemented new technologies. The costs of implementing technological changes, new product development and marketing costs may increase our operating expenses without a commensurate increase in our business or revenues, in which event our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Fraudulent activity, breaches of our information security systems, and cybersecurity attacks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or future prospects.
As a financial institution, we are susceptible to fraudulent activity, information security breaches and cybersecurity-related incidents that may be committed against us or our clients and that may result in financial losses or increased costs to us or our clients, disclosure or misuse of confidential information belonging to us or personal or confidential information belonging to our clients, misappropriation of assets, litigation, or damage to our reputation. Fraudulent activity may take many forms, including check “kiting” or fraud, electronic fraud, wire fraud, “phishing” and other dishonest acts. Information security breaches and cybersecurity-related incidents may include fraudulent or unauthorized access to data processing or data storage systems used by us or by our clients, denial or degradation of service attacks, and malware or other cyber-attacks. The financial services industry has experienced increases in electronic fraudulent activity, security breaches and cyber-attacks, including in the commercial banking sector, with cyber-criminals targeting commercial bank and brokerage accounts on an increasing basis. Moreover, in recent periods, several governmental agencies and large corporations, including financial service organizations, credit reporting agencies and retail companies, have suffered major data breaches, in some cases exposing not only their confidential and proprietary corporate information, but also sensitive financial and other personal information of their clients or customers and their employees or other third parties, and subjecting those agencies and corporations to potential fraudulent activity and their clients, customers and other third parties to identity theft and fraudulent activity in their credit card and banking accounts. Therefore, security breaches and cyber-attacks can cause significant increases in operating costs, including the costs of compensating clients and customers for any resulting losses they may incur and the costs and capital expenditures required to correct the deficiencies in and strengthen the security of data processing and storage systems.
Although we invest in systems and processes that are designed to detect and prevent security breaches and cyber-attacks and we conduct periodic tests of our security systems and processes, there is no assurance that we will succeed in anticipating or adequately protecting against or preventing all security breaches and cyber-attacks from occurring due to a number of possible causes, many of which will be outside of our control, including the changing nature and increasing frequency of such attacks, the increasing sophistication of cyber-criminals, and possible weaknesses that go undetected in our data systems notwithstanding the testing we conduct of those systems. If we are unable to detect or prevent a security breach or cyber-attack from occurring, then we and our clients could incur losses or damages; and we could sustain damage to our reputation, lose clients and business, suffer disruptions to our business and incur increased operating costs, and be exposed to additional regulatory scrutiny or penalties and to civil litigation and possible financial liability, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We rely on communications, information, operating and financial control systems technology and related services from third-party service providers and there can be no assurance that we will not suffer an interruption in those systems.
We rely heavily on third-party service providers for much of our communications, information, operating and financial control systems technology, including our internet banking services and data processing systems. Any failure or interruption of, or security breaches in, these systems could result in failures or interruptions in our operations or in the client services we provide. Additionally, interruptions in service and security breaches could damage our reputation, lead existing clients to terminate their business relationships with us, make it more difficult for us to attract new clients and subject us to additional regulatory scrutiny and possibly financial liability, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We could be subject to tax audits, challenges to our tax positions, or adverse changes or interpretations of tax laws.
We are subject to federal and applicable state income tax laws and regulations. Income tax laws and regulations are often complex and require significant judgment in determining our effective tax rate and in evaluating our tax positions. Our determination of our tax liability is subject to review by applicable tax authorities. Any audits or challenges of such determinations may adversely affect our effective tax rate, tax payments or financial condition. Recently enacted U.S. tax legislation made significant changes to federal tax law, including the taxation of corporations, by, among other things, reducing the corporate income tax rate, disallowing certain deductions that had previously been allowed, and altering the expensing of capital expenditures. The implementation and evaluation of these changes may require significant judgment and substantial planning by us. These judgments and plans may require that we take new and different tax positions that if challenged could adversely affect our effective tax rate, tax payments or financial condition. In addition, we may consider the impact of tax laws and regulations when we make decisions about our business and we engage in certain strategies to minimize the impact of taxes. Consequently, any change in tax laws or regulations, or new interpretation of existing laws or regulations, could significantly alter the effectiveness of these decisions and strategies.
Our ability to attract and retain clients and key employees could be adversely affected if our reputation is harmed.
Our ability (and the ability of FFB and FFA) to attract and retain clients and key employees could be adversely affected if our reputation is harmed. Any actual or perceived failure to address various issues could cause reputational harm, including a failure to address any of the following types of issues: legal and regulatory requirements; cybersecurity and the proper maintenance or protection of the privacy of client and employee financial or other personal information; record keeping deficiencies or errors; money-laundering; potential conflicts of interest and ethical issues. Moreover, any failure to appropriately address any issues of this nature could give rise to additional regulatory restrictions, and legal risks, which could lead to costly litigation or subject us to enforcement actions, fines, or penalties and cause us to incur related costs and expenses. In addition, our banking, investment advisory and wealth management businesses are dependent on the integrity of our banking personnel and our investment advisory and wealth managers. Lapses in integrity could cause reputational harm to our businesses that could lead to the loss of existing clients and make it more difficult for us to attract new clients and, therefore, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We may incur significant losses due to ineffective risk management processes and strategies.
We seek to monitor and control our risk exposures through a risk and control framework encompassing a variety of separate but complementary financial, credit, operational and compliance systems, and internal control and management review processes. However, those systems and review processes and the judgments that accompany their application may not be effective and, as a result, we may not anticipate every economic and financial outcome in all market environments or the specifics and timing of such outcomes, particularly in the event of the kinds of dislocations in market conditions experienced in recent years, which highlight the limitations inherent in using historical data to manage risk. If those systems and review processes prove to be ineffective in identifying and managing risks, we could be subjected to increased regulatory scrutiny and regulatory restrictions could be imposed on our business, including on our potential future business lines, as a result of which our business and operating results could be adversely affected.
A natural disaster could harm our business.
Historically, California, in which a substantial portion of our business is located, has been susceptible to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, drought, floods and wild fires. The nature and level of natural disasters cannot be predicted. These natural disasters could harm our operations through interference with communications, including the interruption or loss of our computer systems, which could prevent or impede us from gathering deposits, originating loans and processing and controlling our flow of business, as well as through the destruction of facilities and our operational, financial and management information systems. Additionally, natural disasters could negatively impact the values of collateral securing our borrowers’ loans and interrupt our borrowers’ abilities to conduct their business in a manner to support their debt obligations, either of which could result in losses and increased provisions for loan losses for us.
We are exposed to risk of environmental liabilities with respect to real properties that we may acquire.
From time to time, in the ordinary course of our business, we acquire, by or in lieu of foreclosure, real properties which collateralize nonperforming loans. As an owner of such properties, we could become subject to environmental liabilities and incur substantial costs for any property damage, personal injury, investigation and clean-up that may be required due to any environmental contamination that may be found to exist at any of those properties, even if we did not engage in the activities that led to such contamination and those activities took place prior to our ownership of the properties. In addition, if we are the owner or former owner of a contaminated site, we may be subject to common law claims by third parties seeking damages for environmental contamination emanating from the site. If we were to become subject to significant environmental liabilities or costs, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Our investment advisory and wealth management business may be negatively impacted by changes in economic and market conditions.
Our investment advisory and wealth management business may be negatively impacted by changes in general economic and market conditions because the performance of that business is directly affected by conditions in the financial and securities markets. The performance of the financial markets and the businesses operating in the securities industry can be highly volatile within relatively short periods of time and is directly affected by, among other factors, domestic and foreign economic conditions and general trends in business and finance, and by the threat, as well as the occurrence, of global conflicts, all of which are beyond our ability to control. We cannot assure you that broad market performance will be favorable in the future. Declines or a lack of sustained growth in the financial markets may adversely affect the market value and performance of the investment securities that we manage, which could lead to reductions in our investment management and advisory fees and, therefore, may result in a decline in the performance of our investment advisory and wealth management business. Additionally, if FFA’s performance were to decline, that could lead some of our clients to reduce their assets under management by us and make it more difficult for us to retain existing clients and attract new clients. If any of these events or circumstances were to occur, the operating results of our investment advisory and wealth management business and, therefore, our earnings could be materially and adversely affected.
The investment management contracts we have with our clients are terminable without cause and on relatively short notice by our clients, which makes us vulnerable to short term declines in the performance of the securities under our management.
Like most investment advisory and wealth management businesses, the investment advisory contracts we have with our clients are typically terminable by the client without cause upon less than 30 days’ notice. As a result, even short term declines in the performance of the securities we manage, which can result from factors outside our control, such as adverse changes in market or economic condition or the poor performance of some of the investments we have recommended to our clients, could lead some of our clients to move assets under our management to other asset classes such as broad index funds or treasury securities, or to investment advisors which have investment product offerings or investment strategies different than ours. Therefore, our operating results are heavily dependent on the financial performance of our investment portfolios and the investment strategies we employ in our investment advisory businesses and even short-term declines in the performance of the investment portfolios we manage for our clients, whatever the cause, could result in a decline in assets under management and a corresponding decline in investment management fees, which would adversely affect our results of operations.
The market for investment managers is extremely competitive and the loss of a key investment manager to a competitor could adversely affect our investment advisory and wealth management business.
We believe that investment performance is one of the most important factors that affect the amount of assets under our management and, for that reason, the success of FFA’s business is heavily dependent on the quality and experience of our investment managers and their track records in terms of making investment decisions that result in attractive investment returns for our clients. However, the market for such investment managers is extremely competitive and is increasingly characterized by frequent movement of investment managers among different firms. In addition, our individual investment managers often have direct contact with particular clients, which can lead to a strong client
relationship based on the client’s trust in that individual manager. As a result, the loss of a key investment manager to a competitor could jeopardize our relationships with some of our clients and lead to the loss of client accounts, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We may be adversely affected by the soundness of certain securities brokerage firms.
FFA does not provide custodial services for its clients. Instead, client investment accounts are maintained under custodial arrangements with large, well established securities brokerage firms, either directly or through arrangements made by FFA with those firms. As a result, the performance of, or even rumors or questions about the integrity or performance of, any of those brokerage firms could adversely affect the confidence of FFA’s clients in the services provided by those firms or otherwise adversely impact their custodial holdings. Such an occurrence could negatively impact the ability of FFA to retain existing or attract new clients and, as a result, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to Our Regulatory Environment
The banking industry is highly regulated, and legislative or regulatory actions taken now or in the future may have a significant adverse effect on our operations.
The banking industry is extensively regulated and supervised under both federal and state laws and regulations that are intended primarily to protect customers, depositors, the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund, and the banking system as a whole, not our stockholders. We are subject to the regulation and supervision of the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC and the DFPI. The banking laws, regulations and policies applicable to us govern matters ranging from the maintenance of adequate capital, safety and soundness, mergers and changes in control to the general business operations conducted by us, including permissible types, amounts and terms of loans and investments, the amount of reserves held against deposits, restrictions on dividends, imposition of specific accounting requirements, establishment of new offices and the maximum interest rate that may be charged on loans.
We are subject to changes in federal and state banking statutes, regulations and governmental policies, or the interpretation or implementation of them, including regulations to be implemented as a result of the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act. Any changes in any federal or state banking statute, regulation or governmental policy, or the interpretation or implementation of any of them, could affect us in substantial and unpredictable ways, including ways that may adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition or prospects. Compliance with laws and regulations can be difficult and costly, and changes to laws and regulations often impose additional compliance costs. In addition, federal and state banking regulators have broad authority to supervise our banking business and that of our subsidiaries, including the authority to prohibit activities that represent unsafe or unsound banking practices or constitute violations of statute, rule, regulation, or administrative order. Failure to comply with any such laws, regulations or regulatory policies could result in sanctions by regulatory agencies, restrictions on our business activities, civil money penalties or damage to our reputation, all of which could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition or prospects.
Federal and state banking agencies periodically conduct examinations of our business, including compliance with laws and regulations, and our failure to comply with any supervisory actions which we are, or may become, subject to as a result of such examinations may adversely affect us.
The Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the DFPI may conduct examinations of our business, including for compliance with applicable laws and regulations. As a result of an examination, regulatory agencies may determine that the financial condition, capital resources, asset quality, asset concentrations, earnings prospects, management, liquidity, sensitivity to market risk, or other aspects of any of our operations are unsatisfactory, or that we or our management are in violation of any law, regulation or guideline in effect from time to time. Regulatory agencies may take a number of different remedial actions, including the power to enjoin “unsafe or unsound” practices, to require affirmative actions to correct any conditions resulting from any violation or practice, to issue an administrative order that can be judicially enforced, to direct an increase in our capital, to restrict our growth, to change the composition of our concentrations in portfolio or balance sheet assets, to assess civil monetary penalties against officers or directors, to remove officers and directors and, if such
conditions cannot be corrected or there is an imminent risk of loss to depositors, the FDIC may terminate our deposit insurance. A regulatory action against us could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We are subject to stringent capital requirements.
The federal banking agencies’ Capital Rules require that we meet minimum leverage and risk-based capital requirements applicable to bank holding companies and insured banks. These capital requirements are based on quantitative measures of our assets, liabilities and certain off-balance sheet items. Our satisfaction of these requirements is subject to qualitative judgments by regulators that may differ materially from our management’s and that are subject to being determined retroactively for prior periods. Additionally, regulators can make subjective assessments about the adequacy of capital levels, even if our capital exceeds the minimums necessary to be considered “well-capitalized.” Our failure to meet regulatory capital standards could have a material adverse effect on our business, including damaging the confidence of customers in us, adversely impacting our reputation and competitive position and retention of key personnel. Our failure to meet capital requirements could also limit or suspend our ability to grow or expand our business, pay dividends, accept brokered deposits, access the Federal Reserve’s discount window, and obtain advances from the FHLB. A failure to meet regulatory capital standards may also result in higher FDIC assessments. The capital requirements applicable to us may continue to evolve in connection with actions of the Basel Committee, our regulators and the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. Maintaining adequate capital levels could require that we raise additional capital, which could reduce our earnings and/or dilute our existing stockholders.
New and future rulemaking by the CFPB and other regulators, as well as enforcement of existing consumer protection laws, may have a material and adverse effect on our operations and operating costs.
The CFPB has the authority to implement and enforce a variety of existing federal consumer protection statutes and to issue new regulations but, with respect to institutions of our size, does not have primary examination and enforcement authority with respect to such laws and regulations. The authority to examine depository institutions with $10.0 billion or less in assets, like us, for compliance with federal consumer laws remains largely with our primary federal regulator, the FDIC. However, the CFPB may participate in examinations of smaller institutions on a “sampling basis” and may refer potential enforcement actions against such institutions to their primary regulators. In some cases, regulators such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice also retain certain rulemaking or enforcement authority, and we also remain subject to certain state consumer protection laws. As an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve Board, the CFPB may impose requirements more severe than the previous bank regulatory agencies. The CFPB has placed significant emphasis on consumer complaint management and has established a public consumer complaint database to encourage consumers to file complaints they may have against financial institutions. We are expected to monitor and respond to these complaints, including those that we deem frivolous, and doing so may require management to reallocate resources away from more profitable endeavors.
We are subject to numerous laws designed to protect consumers, including the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws, and failure to comply with these laws could lead to a wide variety of sanctions.
The Community Reinvestment Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and other fair lending laws and regulations impose nondiscriminatory lending requirements on financial institutions. The Department of Justice, the CFPB and other federal agencies are responsible for enforcing these laws and regulations. A successful regulatory challenge to an institution’s performance under the Community Reinvestment Act or fair lending laws and regulations could result in a wide variety of sanctions, including damages and civil money penalties, injunctive relief, restrictions on mergers and acquisitions activity, restrictions on expansion, and restrictions on entering new business lines. Private parties may also have the ability to challenge an institution’s performance under fair lending laws in private class action litigation. Any such actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We face a risk of noncompliance and enforcement action with the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering statutes and regulations.
The federal Bank Secrecy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and other laws and regulations require financial institutions, among other duties, to institute and maintain effective anti-money laundering programs and file suspicious activity and currency transaction reports as appropriate. The federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, established by the Treasury to administer the Bank Secrecy Act, is authorized to impose significant civil money penalties for violations of those requirements and has recently engaged in coordinated enforcement efforts with the individual federal banking regulators, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service. There is also increased scrutiny of compliance with the rules enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If our policies, procedures and systems are deemed deficient or the policies, procedures and systems of any financial institutions that we may acquire in the future are deemed deficient, we would be subject to liability, including fines and regulatory actions such as restrictions on our ability to pay dividends and the necessity to obtain regulatory approvals to proceed with certain aspects of our business plan, which would negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. Failure to maintain and implement adequate programs to combat money laundering and terrorist financing could also have serious reputational consequences for us. Any of these results could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Regulations relating to privacy, information security and data protection could increase our costs, affect or limit how we collect and use personal information and adversely affect our business opportunities.
We are subject to various privacy, information security and data protection laws, including requirements concerning security breach notification, and we could be negatively impacted by these laws. For example, our business is subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which, among other things: (i) imposes certain limitations on our ability to share non-public personal information about our customers with non-affiliated third parties; (ii) requires that we provide certain disclosures to customers about our information collection, sharing and security practices and afford customers the right to “opt out” of any information sharing by us with non-affiliated third parties (with certain exceptions) and (iii) requires that we develop, implement and maintain a written comprehensive information security program containing safeguards appropriate based on our size and complexity, the nature and scope of our activities, and the sensitivity of customer information we process, as well as plans for responding to data security breaches. Various state and federal banking regulators and states and foreign countries have also enacted data security breach notification requirements with varying levels of individual, consumer, regulatory or law enforcement notification in certain circumstances in the event of a security breach. Moreover, legislators and regulators in the United States and other countries are increasingly adopting or revising privacy, information security and data protection laws that potentially could have a significant impact on our current and planned privacy, data protection and information security-related practices, our collection, use, sharing, retention and safeguarding of consumer or employee information, and some of our current or planned business activities. This could also increase our costs of compliance and business operations and could reduce income from certain business initiatives. This includes increased privacy-related enforcement activity at the federal level, by the Federal Trade Commission, as well as at the state level, such as with regard to mobile applications.
Compliance with current or future privacy, data protection and information security laws (including those regarding security breach notification) affecting customer or employee data to which we are subject could result in higher compliance and technology costs and could restrict our ability to provide certain products and services, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions or results of operations. Our failure to comply with privacy, data protection and information security laws could result in potentially significant regulatory or governmental investigations or actions, litigation, fines, sanctions and damage to our reputation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
FFA’s business is highly regulated, and the regulators have the ability to limit or restrict, and impose fines or other sanctions on, FFA’s business.
FFA is registered as an investment adviser with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act and its business is highly regulated. The Investment Advisers Act imposes numerous obligations on registered investment advisers, including fiduciary, record keeping, operational and disclosure obligations. Moreover, the Investment Advisers Act grants broad
administrative powers to regulatory agencies such as the SEC to regulate investment advisory businesses. If the SEC or other government agencies believe that FFA has failed to comply with applicable laws or regulations, these agencies have the power to impose fines, suspensions of individual employees or other sanctions, which could include revocation of FFA’s registration under the Investment Advisers Act. We are also subject to the provisions and regulations of ERISA to the extent that we act as a “fiduciary” under ERISA with respect to certain of our clients. ERISA and the applicable provisions of the federal tax laws, impose a number of duties on persons who are fiduciaries under ERISA and prohibit certain transactions involving the assets of each ERISA plan which is a client, as well as certain transactions by the fiduciaries (and certain other related parties) to such plans. Additionally, like other investment advisory and wealth management companies, FFA also faces the risks of lawsuits by clients. The outcome of regulatory proceedings and lawsuits is uncertain and difficult to predict. An adverse resolution of any regulatory proceeding or lawsuit against FFA could result in substantial costs or reputational harm to FFA and, therefore, could have an adverse effect on the ability of FFA to retain key relationship and wealth managers, and to retain existing clients or attract new clients, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock
We may reduce or discontinue the payment of dividends on common stock.
Our stockholders are only entitled to receive such dividends as our board of directors may declare out of funds legally available for such payments. Although we declared and paid cash dividends on our common stock since the first quarter of 2019, we may reduce or eliminate our common stock dividend in the future. Our ability to pay dividends to our stockholders is restricted by Delaware and federal law and the policies and regulations of the Federal Reserve Board, which is our federal banking regulator. Our ability to pay dividends to stockholders is also dependent on the payment to us of cash dividends by our subsidiaries, FFA and FFB, which are the primary sources of cash for our payment of dividends. FFA and FFB are corporations that are separate and distinct from us and, as a result, they are subject to separate statutory or regulatory dividend restrictions that can affect their ability to pay cash dividends to us. FFA’s ability to pay cash dividends to us is restricted under California corporate law. FFB’s ability to pay dividends to us is limited by various banking statutes and regulations and California law. Moreover, based on their assessment of the financial condition of FFB or other factors, the FDIC or the DFPI could find that payment of cash dividends by FFB to us would constitute an unsafe or unsound banking practice, in which event they could restrict FFB from paying cash dividends, even if FFB meets the statutory requirements to do so. See the section entitled “Dividend Policy and Restrictions on the Payment of Dividends” in Item 5 of this report below for additional information about our dividend policy and the dividend restrictions that apply to us and to FFB and FFA. A reduction or discontinuance of dividends on our common stock could have a material adverse effect on our business, including the market price of our common stock.
Share ownership by our officers and directors and certain agreements may make it more difficult for third parties to acquire us or effectuate a change of control that might be viewed favorably by other stockholders.
As of February 7, 2021, our executive officers and directors owned, in the aggregate, approximately 13% of our outstanding shares. As a result, if our executive officers and directors were to oppose a third party’s acquisition proposal for, or a change in control of, the Company, our executive officers and directors may have sufficient voting power to be able to block or at least delay such an acquisition or change in control from taking place, even if other stockholders would support such a sale or change of control. In addition, a number of our executive officers have change of control agreements which could increase the costs and, therefore, lessen the attractiveness of an acquisition of the Company to a potential acquiring party.
Our corporate governance documents, and certain corporate and banking laws applicable to us, could make a takeover attempt, which may be beneficial to our stockholders, more difficult.
Our Board of Directors has the power under our certificate of incorporation to issue additional shares of common stock and create and authorize the sale of one or more series of preferred stock without having to obtain stockholder approval for such action. As a result, our Board could authorize the issuance of shares of a series of preferred stock to implement a stockholders rights plan (often referred to as a “poison pill”) or could sell and issue preferred shares with special voting rights or conversion rights, which could deter or delay attempts by our stockholders to remove or replace
management, and attempts of third parties either to engage in proxy contests or to acquire control of the Company. In addition, our charter documents:
|●||enable our Board to fill any vacancy on the Board;|
|●||enable our Board to amend our bylaws without stockholder approval, subject to certain exceptions; and|
|●||require compliance with an advance notice procedure with regard to any business that is to be brought by a stockholder before an annual or special meeting of stockholders and with regard to the nomination by stockholders of candidates for election as directors.|
These provisions could delay or prevent an acquisition of the Company or other transaction that some of our stockholders may believe is beneficial to them. Furthermore, federal and state banking laws and regulations applicable to us require anyone seeking to acquire more than 10% of our outstanding shares or otherwise effectuate a change of control of the Company or of FFB, to file an application with, and to receive approval from, the Federal Reserve Board, the DFPI, and the FDIC to do so. These laws and regulations may discourage potential acquisition proposals and could delay or prevent a change of control of the Company, including by means of a transaction in which our stockholders might receive a premium over the market price of our common stock.
An investment in our common stock is not an insured deposit and is not guaranteed by the FDIC, so you could lose some or all of your investment.
An investment in our common stock is not a bank deposit and is not insured against loss or guaranteed by the FDIC, any other deposit insurance fund or by any other public or private entity. An investment in our common stock is inherently risky for the reasons described herein. As a result, if you acquire our common stock, you could lose some or all of your investment.
General Risk Factors
The market prices and trading volume of our common stock may be volatile.
We cannot assure you that the market prices and trading volumes of our common stock will not fluctuate or decline significantly in the future. Some of the factors that could negatively affect the prices of our shares or result in fluctuations in those prices or in trading volume of our common stock could include the following, many of which are outside of our control:
|●||quarterly variations in our operating results or in the quality of our earnings or assets;|
|●||operating results that differ from the expectations of management, securities analysts and investors;|
|●||changes in expectations as to our future financial performance;|
|●||the operating and securities price performance of other companies that investors believe are comparable to us;|
|●||the implementation of our growth strategy and performance of acquired businesses that vary from the expectations of securities analysts and investors;|
|●||the actual or anticipated enactment of new more costly government regulations that are applicable to our businesses or the imposition of regulatory restrictions on us;|
|●||our dividend policy and any changes that might occur to that policy in the future;|
|●||future sales by us of our common stock or any other of our equity securities;|
|●||changes in global financial markets and global economies and general market conditions, such as changes in interest rates or fluctuations in stock, commodity or real estate valuations; and|
|●||announcements of strategic developments, material acquisitions and other material events in our business or in the businesses of our competitors.|
These broad market and industry factors may decrease the market price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance. The stock market in general has from time to time experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations, including in recent months. In addition, in the past, following periods of volatility in the overall market and the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against these companies. This litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our management’s attention and resources.
We may issue additional equity securities, or engage in other transactions which could dilute our book value or affect the priority of our common stock, which may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
Our Board of Directors may determine from time to time to raise additional capital by issuing additional shares of our common stock or other securities. In addition, we may issue additional securities in connection with future acquisitions we may make. We are not restricted from issuing additional shares of common stock, including securities that are convertible into or exchangeable for, or that represent the right to receive, common stock. We cannot predict or estimate the amount, timing, or nature of any future offerings or issuances of additional stock in connection with acquisitions, or the prices at which such offerings may be affected. Such offerings could be dilutive to common stockholders. New investors also may have rights, preferences and privileges that are senior to, and that adversely affect, our then-current common stockholders. Additionally, if we raise additional capital by making additional offerings of debt or preferred equity securities, upon liquidation, holders of our debt securities and shares of preferred stock, and lenders with respect to other borrowings, will receive distributions of our available assets prior to the holders of our common stock. Additional equity offerings may dilute the holdings of our existing stockholders or reduce the market price of our common stock, or both. Holders of our common stock are not entitled to preemptive rights or other protections against dilution.
A failure to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting could have a material adverse effect on our business and stock prices.
If we are unable to maintain the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting in the future, we may be unable to report our financial results accurately and on a timely basis. In such an event, investors and clients may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial statements, as a result of which our liquidity, access to capital markets, and perceptions of our creditworthiness could be adversely affected and the market prices of our common stock could decline. In addition, we could become subject to investigations by NASDAQ, the SEC, or the Federal Reserve, or other regulatory authorities, which could require us to expend additional financial and management resources. As a result, an inability to maintain the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting in the future could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our common stock will depend in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our stock or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our stock could decrease, which might cause our stock price and trading volume to decline.
Other Risks and Uncertainties.
Additional risks that we currently do not know about or that we currently believe to be immaterial may also impair our business, financial condition, operating results and future prospects.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.
Item 2. Properties.
The corporate headquarters for FFI and each of its subsidiaries is located in Irvine, California. The Company has offices in California in Irvine, Indian Wells, Pasadena, El Centro, West Los Angeles, El Segundo, Laguna Hills, Seal Beach, Auburn, Oakland, Sacramento, Roseville, Burlingame, Big Bear, Running Springs, Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Lucerne and San Diego and in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Honolulu, Hawaii. All of these offices, except for the office in Auburn, California, Big Bear, California, and Running Springs, California, are leased pursuant to non-cancelable operating leases that will expire between 2021 and 2026. The building for the office in Auburn, California is owned by us and is on land that is leased under a non-cancellable lease that expires in 2028. The building and land for the offices in Big Bear and Running Springs are owned by us.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings.
In the ordinary course of business, we are subject to claims, counter claims, suits and other litigation of the type that generally arise from the conduct of financial services businesses. We are not aware of any threatened or pending litigation that we expect will have a material adverse effect on our business operations, financial condition or results of operations.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.
On November 3, 2014, our common stock became listed and commenced trading on the NASDAQ Global Stock Market under the trading symbol “FFWM”. As of February —, 2021, a total of — shares of our common stock were issued and outstanding which were held of record by approximately — shareholders.
Dividend Policy and Restrictions on the Payment of Dividends
Since the first quarter of 2019, we have paid quarterly dividends and it is the current intention of the Company to continue to pay dividends on an ongoing basis.
Our ability to pay dividends to our stockholders is subject to the restrictions set forth in the Delaware General Corporation Law (the “DGCL”) and the regulatory authority of the Federal Reserve. The DGCL provides that a corporation, unless otherwise restricted by its certificate of incorporation, may declare and pay dividends out of its surplus or, if there is no surplus, out of net profits for the fiscal year in which the dividend is declared and/or for the preceding fiscal year, as long as the amount of capital of the corporation is not less than the aggregate amount of the capital represented by the issued and outstanding stock of all classes having a preference upon the distribution of assets. Surplus is defined as the excess of a corporation’s net assets (i.e., its total assets minus its total liabilities) over the capital associated with issuances of its common stock. Moreover, the DGCL permits a board of directors to reduce its capital and transfer such amount to its surplus. In determining the amount of surplus of a Delaware corporation, the assets of the corporation, including stock of subsidiaries owned by the corporation, must be valued at their fair market value as determined by the board of directors, regardless of their historical book value. In addition, since we are a bank holding company subject to
regulation by the FRB, it may become necessary for us to obtain the approval of the FRB before we can pay cash dividends to our stockholders.
Cash dividends from our two wholly-owned subsidiaries, FFB and FFA, represent the principal source of funds available to us, which we might use to pay cash dividends to our stockholders or for other corporate purposes. Since FFA and FFB are California corporations, they are subject to dividend payment restrictions under the California General Corporation Law (the “CGCL”). The laws of the State of California, as they pertain to the payment of cash dividends by California state chartered banks, limit the amount of funds that FFB would be permitted to dividend to us more strictly than does the CGCL. In particular, under California law, cash dividends by a California state chartered bank may not exceed, the lesser of (i) the sum of its net income for the last three fiscal years (after deducting all dividends paid during the period), or (ii) the amount of its retained earnings.
Also, because the payment of cash dividends has the effect of reducing capital, capital requirements imposed on FFB by the DFPI and the FDIC may operate, as a practical matter, to preclude the payment, or limit the amount of, cash dividends that might otherwise be permitted to be made under California law; and the DFPI and the FDIC, as part of their supervisory powers, generally require insured banks to adopt dividend policies which limit the payment of cash dividends much more strictly than do applicable state laws.
Additionally, under the terms of the holding company line of credit agreement, FFI may only declare and pay a dividend if the total amount of dividends and stock repurchases during the current twelve months does not exceed 50% of FFI’s net income for the same twelve month period.
Restrictions on Intercompany Transactions
Sections 23A and 23B of the Federal Reserve Act, and the implementing regulations thereunder, limit transactions between a bank and its affiliates and limit a bank’s ability to transfer to its affiliates the benefits arising from the bank’s access to insured deposits, the payment system and the discount window and other benefits of the Federal Reserve System. Those Sections of the Act and the implementing regulations impose quantitative and qualitative limits on the ability of a bank to extend credit to, or engage in certain other transactions with, an affiliate (and a non-affiliate if an affiliate benefits from the transaction).
Repurchases of Common Stock
The Company adopted a stock repurchase plan on October 30, 2018 for the repurchase of up to 2,200,000 shares of its common stock from time to time as market conditions allow. This plan has no stated expiration date for the repurchases. The Company did not repurchase any shares during the year ended December 31, 2020. As of December 31, 2020, the maximum number of shares that may be purchased under the program was 2,162,900.
Stock Performance Graph
The following graph shows a comparison from December 31, 2016 through December 31, 2020 of the cumulative total return for our common stock, compared against (i) the Russell 2000 Index, which measures the performance of the smallest 2,000 members, by market cap, (ii) the Russell 3000 Index, which measures the performance of the smallest 3,000 members, by market cap, of the Russell Index, and (iii) an index published by SNL Securities L.C. (“SNL”) and known as the SNL Western Bank Index, which is comprised of 52 banks and bank holding companies (including the Company), the shares of which are listed on NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange and most of which are based in California and the remainder of which are based in six other western states.
The stock performance graph assumes that $100 was invested in Company common stock at the close of market on December 31, 2016, and, at that same date, in the Russell 2000 Index, the Russell 3000 Index and the SNL Western Bank Index and that any dividends paid in the indicated periods were reinvested. Shareholder returns shown in the stock performance graph are not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
First Foundation Inc. (FFWM)
Russell 2000 Index
Russell 3000 Index
SNL Western Bank Index
The above performance graph shall not be deemed “filed” for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act or otherwise subject to the liabilities under that section and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any of our filings under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act.
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
With the exception of the certain items included in the selected performance and capital ratios, the following selected consolidated financial information as of and for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and the selected consolidated financial information as of and for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements not appearing in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
You should read the following selected financial and operating data in conjunction with other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the information set forth in the sections entitled “Capitalization” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”, as well as our consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The average balances used in computing certain ratios, have been computed using daily averages, except for average equity, which is computed using the average of beginning and end of month balances.
As of and for the Year Ended December 31,
(In thousands, except share and per share data)
Selected Income Statement Data:
Net interest income
Provision for credit losses
Asset management, consulting and other fees
Income before taxes
Share and Per Share Data: (2)
Net income per share:
Shares used in computation:
Tangible book value per share(3)
Shares outstanding at end of period(4)
Selected Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
Loans, net of deferred fees(5)
Allowance for credit losses (“ACL”) - investments
Allowance for credit losses - loans
Selected Performance and Capital Ratios:
Return on average assets
Return on average equity
Return on average tangible equity(3)
Net interest margin
Noninterest income as a % of total revenues
Tangible common equity to tangible assets(3)
Tier 1 leverage ratio
Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio
Total risk-based capital ratio
Assets under management (end of period)
NPAs to total assets
Charge-offs to average loans
Ratio of ACL to loans(8)
Number of banking offices(9)
|(1)||The 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 amounts include $15.1 million, $4.2 million, $0.4 million, $7.0 million and $7.8 million in gains on sales of loans, respectively.|
|(2)||Share and per share data has been adjusted to reflect the two-for-one stock split effective January 18, 2017.|
|(3)||Tangible common equity, (also referred to as tangible book value) and tangible assets, are equal to common equity and assets, respectively, less $95.3 million of intangible assets as of December 31, 2020, $97.2 million of intangible assets as of December 31, 2019, $99.5 million of intangible assets as of December 31, 2018, $33.6 million of intangible assets as of December 31, 2017, and $2.2 million of intangible assets as of December 31, 2016. Average tangible equity is equal to average common equity less $96.2 million, $98.3 million, $69.2 million, $4.5 million and $2.3 million of average goodwill and intangible assets for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. We believe that this information is consistent with the treatment by|
|bank regulatory agencies, which exclude intangible assets from the calculation of capital ratios. Accordingly, we believe that tangible common equity to tangible assets, tangible book value per share and return on average tangible equity provide information that is important to investors and that is useful in understanding our capital position and ratios. However, these non-generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) financial measures are supplemental and are not a substitute for an analysis based on GAAP measures. As other companies may use different calculations for these measures, this presentation may not be comparable to other similarly titled measures reported by other companies.|
|(4)||As a result of our acquisition of Premier Business Bancorp in 2018, we issued 5,234,593 shares of our common stock valued at $19.39 per share. As a result of our acquisition of Community 1st Bancorp in 2017, we issued 2,955,623 shares of our common stock valued at $17.55 per share. As a part of our at-the-market offering, in 2018 and 2017, we issued 625,730 and 1,382,506 shares of our common stock, respectively, at weighted average prices of $18.46 and $16.83 per share, respectively. As a result of the exercise of stock options: in 2020, we issued 117,500 shares of our common stock at an average exercise price of $7.79 per share; in 2019, we issued 44,000 shares of our common stock at an average exercise price of $7.60 per share; in 2018, we issued 308,334 shares of our common stock at an average exercise price of $7.64 per share; in 2017, we issued 1,072,000 shares of our common stock at an average exercise price of $5.18 per share; and in 2016, we issued 690,592 shares of our common stock at an average exercise price of $6.17 per share. We issued 103,741, 132,536, 154,884, 78,005, and 67,988 shares of common stock upon the vesting of restricted stock units in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016, respectively.|
|(5)||Includes loans classified as loans held for sale.|
|(6)||Borrowings consist primarily of overnight and short-term advances obtained by FFB from the Federal Home Loan Bank. This line also includes outstanding debt of FFI.|
|(7)||The efficiency ratio is the ratio of noninterest expense to the sum of net interest income and noninterest income. The efficiency ratio excludes (i) $1.9 million of intangible asset amortization expense in 2020; (ii) $1.2 million of FDIC insurance expense refunds and $2.3 million of intangible asset amortization expense in 2019; (iii) $3.8 million of costs related to an acquisition in 2018; and (iv) $2.6 million of costs related to an acquisition in 2017.|
|(8)||This ratio excludes loans acquired in our acquisitions as generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or GAAP, requires estimated credit losses for acquired loans to be recorded as discounts to those loans.|
|(9)||Does not include our corporate and administrative office or loan production offices, At December 31, 2020, we had 3 loan production offices.|
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following discussion and analysis is intended to facilitate the understanding and assessment of significant changes and trends in our businesses that accounted for the changes in our results of operations in the year ended December 31, 2020, as compared to our results of operations in the year ended December 31, 2019; in our results of operations in the year ended December 31, 2019, as compared to our results of operations in the year ended December 31, 2018, and our financial condition at December 31, 2020 as compared to our financial condition at December 31, 2019. This discussion and analysis is based on and should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes thereto contained elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. In addition to historical information, this discussion contains forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause results to differ materially from management’s expectations. Some of the factors that could cause results to differ materially from expectations are discussed in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Forward-Looking Statements” contained elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Critical Accounting Policies
Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with GAAP and accounting practices in the banking industry. Certain of those accounting policies are considered critical accounting policies, because they require us to make estimates and assumptions regarding circumstances or trends that could materially affect the value of those assets, such as economic conditions or trends that could impact our ability to fully collect our loans or ultimately realize the carrying value of certain of our other assets. Those estimates and assumptions are made based on current information available to us regarding those economic conditions or trends or other circumstances. If changes were to occur in the events, trends or other circumstances on which our estimates or assumptions were based, or other unanticipated events were to occur that might affect our operations, we may be required under GAAP to adjust our earlier estimates and to reduce the carrying values of the affected assets on our balance sheet, generally by means of charges against income, which could also affect our results of operations in the fiscal periods when those charges are recognized.
Allowance for Credit Losses - Securities Available-for-Sale (“AFS”) - For securities AFS in an unrealized loss position, the Company first evaluates whether it intends to sell, or whether it is more likely than not that it will be required to sell the security before recovery of its amortized cost basis. If either of these criteria regarding intent or requirement to sell is met, the security amortized cost basis is written down to fair value through income. If the criteria is not met, the Company is required to assess whether the decline in fair value has resulted from credit losses or noncredit-related factors. If the present value of expected cash flows to be collected is less than the amortized cost basis, a credit loss exists, and an allowance for credit loss is recorded through income as a component of provision for credit loss expense. If the assessment indicates that a credit loss does not exist, the Company records the decline in fair value through other comprehensive income, net of related income tax effects. The Company has made the election to exclude accrued interest receivable on securities from the estimate of credit losses and report accrued interest separately on the consolidated balance sheets. Changes in the allowance for credit losses are recorded as provision for (or reversal of) credit loss expense. Losses are charged against the allowance when management believes the uncollectibility of a security is confirmed or when either of the criteria regarding intent or requirement to sell is met. See Note 4, Securities, for additional information related to the Company’s allowance for credit losses on securities AFS.
Allowance for Credit Losses - Loans. Our ACL for loans and investments are established through a provision for credit losses charged to expense and may be reduced by a recapture of previously established loss reserves, which are also reflected in the statement of income. Loans and investments are charged against the ACL when management believes that collectability of the principal is unlikely. The ACL for loans is an amount that management believes will be adequate to absorb estimated losses on existing loans that may become uncollectible based on an evaluation of the collectability of loans and prior loan loss experience. This evaluation also takes into consideration such factors as changes in the nature and volume of the loan portfolio, overall portfolio quality, review of specific problem loans, current economic conditions and certain other subjective factors that may affect the borrower’s ability to pay. While we use the best information available to make this evaluation, future adjustments to our ACL may be necessary if there are significant changes in economic or other conditions that can affect the collectability in full of loans and investments in our loan or investment portfolios.
Utilization and Valuation of Deferred Income Tax Benefits. We record as a “deferred tax asset” on our balance sheet an amount equal to the tax credit and tax loss carryforwards and tax deductions (collectively “tax benefits”) that we believe will be available to us to offset or reduce income taxes in future periods. Under applicable federal and state income tax laws and regulations, tax benefits related to tax loss carryforwards will expire if they cannot be used within specified periods of time. Accordingly, the ability to fully use our deferred tax asset related to tax loss carryforwards to reduce income taxes in the future depends on the amount of taxable income that we generate during those time periods. At least once each year, or more frequently, if warranted, we make estimates of future taxable income that we believe we are likely to generate during those future periods. If we conclude, on the basis of those estimates and the amount of the tax benefits available to us, that it is more likely, than not, that we will be able to fully utilize those tax benefits prior to their expiration, we recognize the deferred tax asset in full on our balance sheet. On the other hand, if we conclude on the basis of those estimates and the amount of the tax benefits available to us that it has become more likely, than not, that we will be unable to utilize those tax benefits in full prior to their expiration, then, we would establish a valuation allowance to reduce the deferred tax asset on our balance sheet to the amount with respect to which we believe it is still more likely, than not, that we will be able to use to offset or reduce taxes in the future. The establishment of such a valuation allowance, or any increase in an existing valuation allowance, would be effectuated through a charge to the provision for income taxes or a reduction in any income tax credit for the period in which such valuation allowance is established or increased.
We have two business segments, “Banking” and “Investment Management and Wealth Planning” (“Wealth Management”). Banking includes the operations of FFB, FFIS and Blue Moon Management LLC and Wealth Management includes the operations of FFA. The financial position and operating results of the stand-alone holding company, FFI, are included under the caption “Other” in certain of the tables that follow, along with any consolidation elimination entries.
Overview and Recent Developments
We continued strong growth during 2020 with loan originations of $2.5 billion, and deposit growth of $1.0 billion. Total revenues (net interest income and noninterest income) in 2020 increased by 19% over 2019.
The results of operations for Banking reflect the benefits of this growth. Income before taxes for Banking increased $37.5 million, from $82.2 million in 2019, to $119.6 million in 2020. On a consolidated basis, income before taxes increased $39.3 million, from $79.5 million in 2019, to $118.8 million in 2020.
On January 26, 2021, the Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.09 per common share to be paid on February 15, 2021 to stockholders of record as of the close of business on February 5, 2021.
Results of Operations
Years Ended December 31, 2020 and 2019.
The primary sources of revenue for Banking are net interest income, fees from its deposits and trust services, gains on sales of loans, certain loan fees, and consulting fees. The primary sources of revenue for Wealth Management are asset management fees assessed on the balance of AUM. Compensation and benefit costs, which represent the largest component of noninterest expense, accounted for 55% and 75%, respectively, of the total noninterest expense for Banking and Wealth Management in 2020.
The following tables show key operating results for each of our business segments for the years ended December 31:
(dollars in thousands)
Net interest income
Provision for credit losses
Income (loss) before taxes on income
Net interest income
Provision for credit losses
Income (loss) before taxes on income
General. Our net income and income before taxes in 2020 were $84.4 million and $118.8 million, respectively, as compared to $56.2 million and $79.5 million, respectively, in 2019. The $39.3 million increase in income before taxes was the result of a $37.5 million increase in income before taxes for Banking, a $0.5 million increase in income before taxes for Wealth Management and a $1.3 million decrease in corporate expenses. The increase in Banking was due to higher net interest income, higher noninterest income, and lower noninterest expenses. The increase in Wealth Management was due to higher noninterest income and lower noninterest expenses. The decrease in corporate expenses was due to decreases in interest expense and noninterest expenses.
Our effective tax rate for 2020 was 29.0% as compared to 29.3% for 2019 and as compared to our statutory tax rate of 29.0%.
Net Interest Income. The following tables set forth information regarding (i) the total dollar amount of interest income from interest-earning assets and the resultant average yields on those assets; (ii) the total dollar amount of interest expense and the average rate of interest on our interest-bearing liabilities; (iii) net interest income; (iv) net interest rate spread; and (v) net interest margin for the years ended December 31:
Year Ended December 31:
(dollars in thousands)