SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
☒ Annual report pursuant to section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
Commission file number 1-10312
SYNOVUS FINANCIAL CORP.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
|1111 Bay Avenue|
|(Address of principal executive offices)||(Zip Code)|
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (706) 644-2738
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common Stock, $1.00 Par Value||SNV||New York Stock Exchange|
|Fixed-to-Floating Rate Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series D||SNV - PrD||New York Stock Exchange|
|Fixed-Rate Reset Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series E||SNV - PrE||New York Stock Exchange|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: NONE
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check One):
|Large accelerated filer||☒||Accelerated filer|
|Non-accelerated filer||☐||Smaller reporting company||☐|
|Emerging growth company||☐|
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management's assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. Yes ☒ No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No x
As of June 30, 2020, the aggregate market value of the registrant’s Common Stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $2,871,889,841 based on the closing sale price of $20.53 reported on the New York Stock Exchange on June 30, 2020.
As of February 24, 2021, there were 148,644,483 shares of the registrant’s Common Stock outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
|Incorporated Documents||Form 10-K Reference Locations|
|Portions of the Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held April 21, 2021 (“Proxy Statement”)||Part III|
Table of Contents
SYNOVUS FINANCIAL CORP.
INDEX OF DEFINED TERMS
Throughout this discussion, references to "Synovus", "we", "our", "us", "the Company" and similar terms refer to the consolidated entity consisting of Synovus Financial Corp. and its subsidiaries unless the context indicates that we refer only to the Parent Company, Synovus Financial Corp. When we refer to the "Bank" or "Synovus Bank" we mean our only bank subsidiary, Synovus Bank.
ACL – Allowance for credit losses (applies to debt securities, loans, and unfunded loan commitments)
Acquisition Date – Effective January 1, 2019, Synovus completed its acquisition of FCB Financial Holdings, Inc.
ALCO – Synovus' Asset Liability Management Committee
ALL – Allowance for loan losses
AML – Anti-Money Laundering
AOCI – Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)
ARRC – Alternative Reference Rates Committee
ASC – Accounting Standards Codification
ASC 310-30 loans – Loans accounted for in accordance with ASC 310-30, Loans and Debt Securities Acquired with Deteriorated Credit Quality
ASU – Accounting Standards Update
ATM – Automatic teller machine
Azalea Merger Sub – Azalea Merger Sub Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Synovus which was formed for the express and limited purpose of the Merger
Basel III – The third Basel Accord developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to strengthen existing regulatory capital requirements
BHC Act – Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended
BOLI – Bank-owned life insurance policies
bp(s) – Basis point(s)
BOV – Broker’s opinion of value
C&I – Commercial and industrial
CARES Act – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
CDI – Core Deposit Intangible
CECL – Current expected credit losses
CET1 – Common Equity Tier 1 Capital defined by Basel III capital rules
CFPB – Consumer Finance Protection Bureau
CMO – Collateralized Mortgage Obligation
Code – Internal Revenue Code
Company – Synovus Financial Corp. and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, except where the context requires otherwise
Covered Litigation – Certain Visa litigation for which Visa is indemnified by Visa USA members
COVID-19 – Coronavirus disease 2019
CRA – Community Reinvestment Act
CRE – Commercial real estate
DCF – Discounted cash flow
DIF – Deposit Insurance Fund
Dodd-Frank Act – The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
DRR – Dual Risk Rating
EFFR – Effective Federal Funds Rate
EL – Expected loss
EVE – Economic value of equity
Exchange Act – Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended
FASB – Financial Accounting Standards Board
FCB – FCB Financial Holdings, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, except where the context requires otherwise
FDIC – Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
FDICIA – Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991
Federal Reserve Bank – The 12 banks that are the operating arms of the U.S. central bank. They implement the policies of the Federal Reserve Board and also conduct economic research
Federal Reserve Board – The 7-member Board of Governors that oversees the Federal Reserve System, establishes monetary policy (interest rates, credit, etc.), and monitors the economic health of the country. Its members are appointed by the President subject to Senate confirmation, and serve 14-year terms
Federal Reserve System – The 12 Federal Reserve Banks, with each one serving member banks in its own district. This system, supervised by the Federal Reserve Board, has broad regulatory powers over the money supply and the credit structure
Federal Tax Reform – H.R. 1, formerly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, legislation in which a number of changes were made under the Internal Revenue Code to corporate tax liabilities
FFIEC – Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council
FFIEC Retail Credit Classification Policy – FFIEC Uniform Retail Credit Classification and Account Management Policy
FHLB – Federal Home Loan Bank
FICO – Fair Isaac Corporation
FinCEN – The Treasury's financial crimes enforcement network
FINRA – Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
FMS – Financial Management Services, a division of Synovus Bank
FOMC – Federal Open Market Committee
FRB – Federal Reserve Bank
FTE – Fully taxable-equivalent
FTP – Funds transfer pricing
GA DBF – Georgia Department of Banking and Finance
GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States of America
GGL – Government guaranteed loans
GLB – Gramm-Leach-Biley Act
Global One – Entaire Global Companies, Inc., the parent company of Global One Financial, Inc., as acquired by Synovus in 2016
GSE – Government sponsored enterprise
HELOC – Home equity line of credit
Interagency Supervisory Guidance – Interagency Supervisory Guidance on Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses Estimation Practices for Loans and Lines of Credit Secured by Junior Liens on 1-4 Family Residential Properties
IPRE – Income-producing real estate
IRS – Internal Revenue Service
ISO – Independent sales organization
LGD – Loss given default
LIBOR – London Interbank Offered Rate
LIHTC – Low Income Housing Tax Credit
LTV – Loan-to-collateral value ratio
MBS – Mortgage-backed securities
Merger – The January 1, 2019 merger of Azalea Merger Sub with and into FCB and immediately thereafter, the merger of FCB with and into Synovus, with Synovus as the surviving entity pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Merger Agreement
Merger Agreement – Agreement and Plan of Merger by and among Synovus, FCB and Azalea Merger Sub dated as of July 23, 2018
MPS – Merchant processing servicer(s)
NAICS – North American Industry Classification System
nm – Not meaningful
NOL – Net operating loss
NPA – Non-performing assets
NPL – Non-performing loans
NSF – Non-sufficient funds
NYSE – New York Stock Exchange
OCI – Other comprehensive income
OCC – Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
OFAC – Office of Foreign Assets Control
ORE – Other real estate
P&I – Principal and interest
PAA – Purchase accounting adjustments
Parent Company – Synovus Financial Corp.
PCAOB – Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
PCD – Purchased Credit Deteriorated
PCI – Purchased Credit Impaired
PD – Probability of Default
PPP – Paycheck Protection Program established as part of the CARES Act and launched on April 3, 2020 by the SBA and Treasury
ROAA – Return on average assets
ROATCE – Return on average tangible common equity
ROU – Right-of-use
RSU – Restricted share unit
SBA – Small Business Administration
SBIC – Small Business Investment Company
SEC – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Securities Act – Securities Act of 1933, as amended
Series C Preferred Stock – Synovus' Fixed-to-Floating Rate Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series C, $25 liquidation preference
Series D Preferred Stock – Synovus' Fixed-to-Floating Rate Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series D, $25 liquidation preference
Series E Preferred Stock – Synovus' Fixed-Rate Reset Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series E, $25 liquidation preference
SOFR – Secured Overnight Financing Rate
SRR – Single Risk Rating
Synovus – Synovus Financial Corp.
Synovus Bank – A Georgia state-chartered bank and wholly-owned subsidiary of Synovus, through which Synovus conducts its banking operations
Synovus' 2020 Form 10-K – Synovus' Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020
Synovus Forward – Synovus' revenue growth and expense efficiency initiatives announced in January of 2020
Synovus Securities – Synovus Securities, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Synovus
Synovus Trust – Synovus Trust Company, N.A., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Synovus Bank
TDR – Troubled debt restructuring (as defined in ASC 310-40)
Treasury – United States Department of the Treasury
TSR – Total shareholder return
UPB – Unpaid principal balance
VIE – Variable interest entity (as defined in ASC 810-10)
Visa – The Visa U.S.A. Inc. card association or its affiliates, collectively
Visa Class A shares – Class A shares of common stock issued by Visa are publicly traded shares which are not subject to restrictions on sale
Visa Class B shares – Class B shares of common stock issued by Visa which are subject to restrictions with respect to sale until all of the Covered Litigation has been settled. Class B shares will be convertible into Visa Class A shares using a then current conversion ratio upon the lifting of restrictions with respect to sale of Visa Class B shares
Visa Derivative – A derivative contract with the purchaser of Visa Class B shares which provides for settlements between the purchaser and Synovus based upon a change in the ratio for conversion of Visa Class B shares into Visa Class A shares
In this Report, the words “Synovus,” “the Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to Synovus Financial Corp. together with Synovus Bank and Synovus' other wholly-owned subsidiaries, except where the context requires otherwise.
Certain statements made or incorporated by reference in this Report which are not statements of historical fact, including those under “Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and elsewhere in this Report, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of, and subject to the protections of, Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Exchange Act. Forward-looking statements include statements with respect to Synovus' beliefs, plans, objectives, goals, targets, expectations, anticipations, assumptions, estimates, intentions and future performance and involve known and unknown risks, many of which are beyond Synovus' control and which may cause Synovus' actual results, performance or achievements or the financial services industry or economy generally, to be materially different from future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.
All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. You can identify these forward-looking statements through Synovus' use of words such as “believes,” “anticipates,” “expects,” “may,” “will,” “assumes,” “predicts,” “could,” “should,” “would,” “intends,” “targets,” “estimates,” “projects,” “plans,” “potential” and other similar words and expressions of the future or otherwise regarding the outlook for Synovus' future business and financial performance and/or the performance of the financial services industry and economy in general. Forward-looking statements are based on the current beliefs and expectations of Synovus' management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those contemplated by such forward-looking statements. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements in this document. Many of these factors are beyond Synovus' ability to control or predict. These factors include, but are not limited to:
(1)the risks and uncertainties related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our assets, business, capital and liquidity, financial condition, prospects and results of operations;
(2)the risk that we may not realize the expected benefits from our efficiency and growth initiatives or that we may not be able to realize these cost savings or revenue benefits in the time period expected, which could negatively affect our future profitability;
(3)the risk that the current and any further economic downturn and contraction could have a material adverse effect on our capital, financial condition, credit quality, results of operations and future growth, including the risk that the current economic contraction could last much longer and be more severe if efforts to contain the pandemic are unsuccessful;
(4)the risk that competition in the financial services industry may adversely affect our future earnings and growth;
(5)our ability to attract and retain employees and the impact of executive management transitions that are key to our growth and efficiency strategies;
(6)risks that our asset quality may deteriorate, our allowance for credit losses may prove to be inadequate or may be negatively affected by credit risk exposures, and the risk that we may be unable to obtain full payment in respect of any loan or other receivables;
(7)the impact of recent and proposed changes in governmental policy, laws and regulations, including recently enacted laws, regulations and guidance related to government stimulus programs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, proposed and recently enacted changes in monetary policy and in the regulation and taxation of banks and financial institutions, or the interpretation or application thereof and the uncertainty of future implementation and enforcement of these regulations;
(8)changes in the interest rate environment, including changes to the federal funds rate to include a negative interest rate environment, and competition in our primary market area may result in increased funding costs or reduced earning assets yields, thus reducing margins and net interest income;
(9)the risk that our current and future information technology system enhancements and operational initiatives may not be successfully implemented, which could negatively impact our operations;
(10)risks related to our implementation of new lines of business, new products and services or new technologies;
(11)risks related to our business relationships with, and reliance upon, third parties that have strategic partnerships with us or that provide key components of our business infrastructure, including the costs of services and products provided to us by third parties, and risks related to disruptions in service or financial difficulties with a third-party vendor or business relationship;
(12)the risk that our enterprise risk management framework, our compliance program, or our corporate governance and supervisory oversight functions may not identify or address risks adequately, which may result in unexpected losses;
(13)the risk that we may be required to make substantial expenditures to keep pace with regulatory initiatives and the rapid technological changes in the financial services market;
(14)changes in the cost and availability of funding due to changes in the deposit market and credit market;
(15)risks related to the ability of our operational framework to identify and manage risks associated with our business such as credit risk, compliance risk, reputational risk, and operational risk, including by virtue of our relationships with third-party business partners, as well as our relationship with third-party vendors and other service providers;
(16)our ability to identify and address cyber-security risks such as data security breaches, malware, "denial of service" attacks, "hacking" and identity theft, a failure of which could disrupt our business and result in the disclosure of and/or misuse or misappropriation of confidential or proprietary information, disruption or damage of our systems, increased costs, significant losses, or adverse effects to our reputation;
(17)the risk that we may be exposed to potential losses in the event of fraud and/or theft, or in the event that a third-party vendor, obligor, or business partner fails to pay amounts due to us under that relationship or under any arrangement that we enter into with them;
(18)the impact on our financial results, reputation, and business if we are unable to comply with all applicable federal and state regulations or other supervisory actions or directives and any necessary capital initiatives;
(19)the risks that if economic conditions worsen further or regulatory capital rules are modified, we may be required to undertake initiatives to improve or conserve our capital position;
(20)risks related to the continued use, availability and reliability of LIBOR and the risks related to the transition from LIBOR to other benchmark rates;
(21)restrictions or limitations on access to funds from historical and alternative sources of liquidity could adversely affect our overall liquidity, which could restrict our ability to make payments on our obligations and our ability to support asset growth and sustain our operations and the operations of Synovus Bank;
(22)our ability to receive dividends from our subsidiaries could affect our liquidity, including our ability to pay dividends or take other capital actions;
(23)the risk that we may not be able to identify suitable bank and non-bank acquisition opportunities as part of our growth strategy and even if we are able to identify attractive acquisition opportunities, we may not be able to complete such transactions on favorable terms or realize the anticipated benefits from such acquisitions;
(24)the risk that we could realize losses if we sell non-performing assets and the proceeds we receive are lower than the carrying value of such assets;
(25)risks related to regulatory approval to take certain actions, including any dividends on our common stock or preferred stock, any repurchases of common stock or any other issuance or redemption of any other regulatory capital instruments;
(26)the risk that our concentrated operations in the Southeastern U.S. make us vulnerable to local economic conditions, local weather catastrophes, public health issues, and other external events;
(27)the costs and effects of litigation, investigations or similar matters, or adverse facts and developments related thereto, including the costs and effects of litigation related to our participation in government stimulus programs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic;
(28)risks related to the fluctuation in our stock price and general volatility in the stock market;
(29)the effects of any damages to our reputation resulting from developments related to any of the items identified above; and
(30)other factors and other information contained in this Report and in other reports and filings that we make with the SEC under the Exchange Act, including, without limitation, those found in "Part I - Item 1A. Risk Factors" of this Report.
For a discussion of these and other risks that may cause actual results to differ from expectations, refer to “Part I - Item 1A. Risk Factors” and other information contained in this Report and our other periodic filings, including quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K, that we file from time to time with the SEC. All written or oral forward-looking statements that are made by or are attributable to Synovus are expressly qualified by this cautionary notice. You should not place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements since those statements speak only as of the date on which the statements are made. Synovus undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which the statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of new information or unanticipated events, except as may otherwise be required by law.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Synovus Financial Corp. is a financial services company and a registered bank holding company headquartered in Columbus, Georgia. We provide commercial and retail banking in addition to a full suite of specialized products and services including private banking, treasury management, wealth management, mortgage services, premium finance and international banking to our customers through our wholly-owned subsidiary bank, Synovus Bank, and other offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.
We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Georgia in 1972. Our principal executive offices are located at 1111 Bay Avenue, Suite 500, Columbus, Georgia 31901 and our telephone number at that address is (706) 641-6500. Our common stock is traded on the NYSE under the symbol “SNV.” At December 31, 2020, we had total consolidated assets of $54.39 billion and total consolidated deposits of $46.69 billion.
Additional information relating to our business and our subsidiaries, including a detailed description of our operating results and financial condition for 2020, 2019 and 2018, is contained in "Part II - Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" in this Report.
Synovus conducts its banking operations through Synovus Bank. Synovus Bank is a Georgia state-chartered bank and operates throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Synovus Bank offers commercial and retail banking services. Our commercial banking services include treasury management, asset management, capital markets services, institutional trust services and commercial, financial and real estate loans. Our retail banking services include accepting customary types of demand and savings deposits accounts; mortgage, installment and other consumer loans; investment and brokerage services; safe deposit services; automated banking services; automated fund transfers; Internet-based banking services; and bank credit and debit card services, including Visa and MasterCard services. At December 31, 2020, Synovus Bank operated 289 branches and 389 ATMs across our footprint.
In addition to our banking operations, we also provide various other financial services to our customers through the following direct and indirect wholly-owned non-bank subsidiaries:
•Synovus Securities, headquartered in Columbus, Georgia, which specializes in professional portfolio management for fixed-income securities, investment banking, the execution of securities transactions as a broker/dealer, asset management and financial planning services, and the provision of individual investment advice on equity and other securities; and
•Synovus Trust, headquartered in Columbus, Georgia, which provides trust, asset management, and financial planning services.
Synovus' strategic focus includes expanding and diversifying our franchise in terms of revenues, profitability and asset size while maintaining a community banking, relationship-based approach to banking. This strategy has encompassed both organic growth as well as acquisitions of complementary banks and financial services businesses.
In the first quarter of 2020, we announced our transformational Synovus Forward initiative involving cost savings and revenue-generating initiatives that we expect to achieve by the end of 2021 and 2022. These initiatives include cost reductions around Synovus’ third party spend program, branch optimization, back-office staff optimization and early retirement and revenue-based initiatives around market-based repricing of certain product offerings, deposit repricing, commercial analytics and digital enhancements.
In 2019, Synovus reorganized its operating model by more closely aligning our lines of business and key support teams to better serve our customers and to expand and diversify our sources of growth, including growth in our treasury and payments solutions business and in our wholesale banking group which includes corporate, asset-based and structured lending capabilities. With this change in organizational structure, we segmented our business into three major reportable business segments: Community Banking, Wholesale Banking, and Financial Management Services, with functional activities such as treasury, technology, operations, marketing, finance, enterprise risk, legal, human resources, corporate communications, executive management, among others, included in Treasury and Corporate Other. Monitoring and assessment of segment performance became effective in the fourth quarter of 2019. For more information on segment reporting, see "Part II - Item 8. Financial
Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 19 - Segment Reporting" of this Report. On January 1, 2019, we acquired FCB, the parent company of Florida Community Bank, and integrated it into our business.
The financial services industry is highly competitive and could become more competitive as a result of recent and ongoing legislative, regulatory and technological changes, and continued consolidation within the financial services industry. Synovus Bank and our wholly-owned non-bank subsidiaries compete actively with national and state banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions and other nonbank financial intermediaries, including securities brokers and dealers, investment advisory firms, mortgage companies, insurance companies, trust companies, finance companies, leasing companies and certain governmental agencies, all of which actively engage in marketing various types of loans, deposit accounts and other financial services. In addition, competition from nontraditional banking institutions, often known as FinTech, continues to increase, with consumers having the opportunity to select from a growing variety of traditional and nontraditional alternatives. The ability of such non-banking financial institutions to provide services previously limited to commercial banks has intensified competition. Because non-banking financial institutions are not subject to many of the same regulatory restrictions as banks and bank holding companies, they can often operate with greater flexibility and lower cost structures. These competitors have been successful in developing products that are in direct competition with or are alternatives to the banking services offered by traditional banking institutions. Our ability to deliver strong financial performance will depend in part on our ability to expand the scope of, and effectively deliver, products and services, which will allow us to meet the changing needs of our customers. However, we often compete with much larger national and regional banks that have more resources than we do to deliver new products and services and introduce new technology to enhance the customer experience. See "Part I - Item 1A. Risk Factors - Strategic Risk - Competition in the financial services industry may adversely affect our future earnings and growth."
As of December 31, 2020, we were the largest bank holding company headquartered in Georgia based on assets. Financial services customers are generally influenced by convenience, quality of service, personal contacts, price of services and availability of products. We continue to gain traction in most of our key markets, as well as overall markets, as shown in the most recent market share deposit data for FDIC-insured institutions as of June 30, 2020. Additionally, over the last year, we have continued to rationalize our branch network and focused on improving the mix of our deposits, while maintaining and growing market share throughout our footprint.
Human Capital Resources
Synovus’ financial performance and strategy rely heavily on our value proposition of relationship-banking delivered through experts committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience and to providing value-added advice and financial solutions. As such, Synovus’ ability to identify, attract, develop and retain a qualified and skilled workforce across our segments in multiple banking specialties and other areas is central to our growth and delivering long-term shareholder value. In managing our business, management focuses on a number of human capital measures and objectives, including: workforce demographics; compensation and benefits; talent acquisition, development and retention; diversity, equity and inclusion; and employee health and safety. Synovus’ Interim Chief Human Resources Officer, reporting to the President and Chief Operating Officer, manages all aspects of the employee experience, including talent acquisition and management, learning and development, and compensation and benefits. From a board oversight perspective, the Compensation Committee has primary oversight responsibility for Synovus’ talent development and human capital management strategies.
In 2020, the Company’s human capital strategy focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique circumstances of our employees. In addition to the various initiatives described below, Synovus focused on responding to our workforce’s changing needs and accelerating the transformation of our technology for the management of our workforce through investments in upgraded systems and processes.
As of December 31, 2020, Synovus had 5,247 employees, including both full-time and part-time employees, all predominately located in our core markets of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee, compared to 5,389 employees at December 31, 2019. By segment, Community Banking employed 2,291 employees, Wholesale Banking employed 286 employees, Financial Management Services employed 838 employees and Treasury and Corporate Other employed 1,832 employees as of December 31, 2020.
Compensation and Benefits
Synovus strives to provide competitive compensation and benefits that meet the varying needs of employees, including market-competitive pay, healthcare benefits, short and long term incentive packages, an employee stock purchase plan, tuition assistance, and wellness and employee assistance programs. The Company’s short and long term incentive programs are aligned with our strategy and key business objectives and are intended to motivate strong performance. Synovus engages in nationally recognized outside compensation salary surveys and utilizes the expertise of a nationally recognized outside executive
compensation firm to objectively evaluate our compensation and benefits and benchmark them against industry peers and similarly situated organizations. For the year ended December 31, 2020, total salaries and other personnel expense, which includes all compensation and benefits to our employees, totaled $618.2 million. See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis for further discussion of salaries and other personnel expense.
Talent Acquisition, Development and Retention
Synovus is committed to attracting and retaining the brightest and best talent. Of the approximately 1,200 open positions filled in 2020, 43% were filled by internal hires, with the average time to fill all positions being 55 days. In addition, employee turnover for 2020 was 15.5%, 4% lower than in 2019. Approximately 10% of our workforce received a promotion in 2020, consisting of 67% females and 30% people of color. Our commitment to our employees has resulted in a long-term workforce, with an average tenure of 8 years of service. We attribute our ability to attract and retain talent to several factors, including impactful work that affects the communities in which our employees live, strong leadership, availability of career advancement opportunities and competitive and equitable total rewards.
Synovus has created internal programs to support the development and retention of our employees, including internal development programs designed to train our leaders. In 2020, over 200 courses were offered to employees on such topics as leadership, compliance and professional development and an average of approximately 27 hours of training per employee was completed. During 2020, we also communicated new leadership expectations and training development tools for our employees and launched a new leadership development program. Synovus supports our employees’ involvement in external development programs, such as specialty banking schools and other technical training. As a part of our learning and development program, Synovus offers a tuition assistance program for employees seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees and other continuing educational programs.
In addition, we regularly conduct employee engagement surveys and touchpoints to gauge employee satisfaction.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DE&I”)
Since launching the CEO-sponsored initiative in 2018, Synovus has continued its work to improve employee diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition to revising job posting guidelines, enhancing leadership training related to unconscious bias and hiring a diversity and inclusion officer who reports directly to the Chief Strategy and Customer Experience Officer, Synovus has continued to make progress toward its DE&I objectives in 2020. As a result, representation of women in senior leadership roles improved from 33% at the launch of the initiative to 37% at the end of 2020, and people of color in senior leadership roles improved from 8% at launch to 14% at the end of 2020. Moreover, we have set targets of 40% female and 15% people of color representation in senior leadership by the end of 2021.
To build and attract a diverse workforce, in 2020, Synovus continued to identify key organizations and partnerships to strengthen our recruiting efforts. We expanded our campus recruiting and scholarship programs, recruiting at Latinx organizations and additional historically black colleges and universities and funding a $1.0 million contribution to the United Negro College Fund for the establishment of a scholarship for African American students in our footprint. We continued to partner with diverse external professional organizations such as the Latin American Association Unidos in Finance program and leveraged our employee resource groups for internal referrals. We also revitalized our internship and accelerated banker recruiting and selection process in 2020, having an intern class that was 26% people of color and 26% female and an accelerated banker class that was 30% people of color and 40% female.
As to the existing workforce, in 2020, Synovus continued to focus on foundational progress toward increasing DE&I, launching five employee resource groups to assist with talent acquisition, development and community outreach, increasing the internal dialogue through fireside chats and listen and learn events, enhancing unconscious bias training across the organization and developing robust DE&I strategies across each business unit. In 2020, we established an internal advisory council to the CEO, comprised of certain senior African American leaders, to assist and advise executive management on these critical issues. Executive management was also required to submit DE&I self-assessments for the year 2020.
In 2020, Synovus launched an initiative to analyze ethnicity pay, and we are in the process of completing that analysis. In 2021, we will refresh our gender pay analysis to augment our pay equity work of 2018 and 2019. In August 2020, Synovus was named by Forbes as one of America’s best employers for women.
Employee Health and Safety
Synovus is committed to operating in a safe, secure and responsible manner for the benefit of our employees, customers and communities. Synovus provides a range of programs to improve the physical, financial and emotional well-being of our employees, including a range of health and wellness benefits, and strives to create a safe and healthy workplace for all employees.
Synovus responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by taking measures beginning in March 2020 to improve the health and safety of our employees including remote work capabilities, bonus payments to hourly employees required to work on-site,
expanded medical benefits and additional time paid-off for those employees who were sick, quarantining or contending with childcare or other COVID-19 related hardships. Synovus implemented aggressive cleaning, sanitizing and hygiene protocols at all company facilities and provided personal protective equipment, masks and related supplies to employees across the footprint. In addition, the Company implemented CDC safety guidelines and office design enhancements, including plexiglass barriers, directional signage, mask requirements and social distancing protocols as Synovus’ employees re-entered the work place in a phased-in approach throughout 2020 and 2021. This re-entry was carefully designed by employees themselves and carefully monitored through re-entry surveys and touchpoints. We remain committed to employee safety and well-being as we continue to manage through the ongoing pandemic.
Supervision, Regulation and Other Factors
We are extensively regulated under federal and state law. The following is a brief summary that does not purport to be a complete description of all regulations that affect us or all aspects of those regulations. This discussion is qualified in its entirety by reference to the particular statutory and regulatory provisions described below and is not intended to be an exhaustive description of the statutes or regulations applicable to the Company’s and Synovus Bank’s business. In addition, proposals to change the laws and regulations governing the banking industry are frequently raised at both the state and federal levels. The likelihood and timing of any changes in these laws and regulations, and the impact such changes may have on us and Synovus Bank, are difficult to predict. In addition, bank regulatory agencies may issue enforcement actions, policy statements, interpretive letters and similar written guidance applicable to us or to Synovus Bank. Changes in applicable laws, regulations or regulatory guidance, or their interpretation by regulatory agencies or courts may have a material adverse effect on our and Synovus Bank’s business, operations, and earnings.
Synovus Bank, Synovus Trust, and in some cases, we and our nonbank affiliates, must undergo regular examinations by the appropriate regulatory agency, which will examine for adherence to a range of legal and regulatory compliance responsibilities. A bank regulator conducting an examination has complete access to the books and records of the examined institution. The results of the examination are confidential. Supervision and regulation of banks, their holding companies and affiliates is intended primarily for the protection of depositors and customers, the DIF of the FDIC, and the U.S. banking and financial system rather than holders of our capital.
Regulation of the Company
We are registered as a bank holding company with the Federal Reserve under the BHC Act and have elected to be treated as a financial holding company. As such, we are subject to comprehensive supervision and regulation by the Federal Reserve and are subject to its regulatory reporting requirements. Federal law subjects bank holding companies, such as the Company, to restrictions on the types of activities in which they may engage, and to a range of supervisory requirements and activities, including regulatory enforcement actions for violations of laws and regulations. In addition, the GA DBF regulates bank holding companies that own Georgia-chartered banks, such as us, under the bank holding company laws of the State of Georgia. Various federal and state bodies regulate and supervise our non-bank activities including our brokerage, investment advisory, insurance agency and processing operations. These include, but are not limited to, the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, federal and state banking regulators and various state regulators of insurance and brokerage activities.
Violations of laws and regulations, or other unsafe and unsound practices, may result in regulatory agencies imposing fines or penalties, cease and desist orders, or taking other enforcement actions. Under certain circumstances, these agencies may enforce these remedies directly against officers, directors, employees and other parties participating in the affairs of a bank or bank holding company. Like all bank holding companies, we are regulated extensively under federal and state law. Under federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the safety and soundness of insured depository institutions, state banking regulators, the Federal Reserve Board, and separately the FDIC as the insurer of bank deposits, have the authority to compel or restrict certain actions on our part if they determine that we have insufficient capital or other resources, or are otherwise operating in a manner that may be deemed to be inconsistent with safe and sound banking practices. Under this authority, our regulators can require us or our subsidiaries to enter into informal or formal supervisory agreements, including board resolutions, memoranda of understanding, written agreements and consent or cease and desist orders, pursuant to which we would be required to take identified corrective actions to address cited concerns and to refrain from taking certain actions.
If we become subject to and are unable to comply with the terms of any future regulatory actions or directives, supervisory agreements, or orders, then we could become subject to additional, heightened supervisory actions and orders, possibly including consent orders, prompt corrective action restrictions and/or other regulatory actions, including prohibitions on the payment of dividends on our common stock and preferred stock. If our regulators were to take such additional supervisory actions, then we could, among other things, become subject to significant restrictions on our ability to develop any new business, as well as restrictions on our existing business, and we could be required to raise additional capital, dispose of certain assets and liabilities within a prescribed period of time, or both. The terms of any such supervisory action could have a material negative effect on our business, reputation, operating flexibility, financial condition, and the value of our common stock and preferred stock. See “Part
I - Item 1A. Risk Factors - Compliance and Regulatory Risk - We may become subject to supervisory actions and enhanced regulation that could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, operating flexibility, financial condition and the value of our common stock and preferred stock” of this Report.
As a financial holding company, we are permitted to engage directly or indirectly in a broader range of activities than those permitted for a bank holding company that has not elected to be a financial holding company. Bank holding companies are generally restricted to engaging in the business of banking, managing or controlling banks and certain other activities determined by the Federal Reserve to be closely related to banking. Financial holding companies may also engage in activities that are considered to be financial in nature, as well as those incidental or, if determined by the Federal Reserve, complementary to financial activities. If Synovus Bank ceases to be “well capitalized” or “well managed” under applicable regulatory standards, or if Synovus Bank receives a rating of less than satisfactory under the CRA, the Federal Reserve Board may, among other things, place limitations on our ability to conduct these broader financial activities or, if the deficiencies persist, require us to divest the banking subsidiary or the businesses engaged in activities permissible only for financial holding companies.
In addition, the Federal Reserve has the power to order a bank holding company or its subsidiaries to terminate any nonbanking activity or terminate its ownership or control of any nonbank subsidiary, when it has reasonable cause to believe that continuation of such activity or such ownership or control constitutes a serious risk to the financial safety, soundness, or stability of any bank subsidiary of that bank holding company. As further described below, each of the Company and Synovus Bank is well-capitalized under applicable regulatory standards as of December 31, 2020, and Synovus Bank has an overall rating of “Satisfactory” in its most recent CRA evaluation.
Source of Strength Obligations
A bank holding company, such as us, is required to act as a source of financial and managerial strength to its subsidiary bank. The term “source of financial strength” means the ability of a company, such as us, that directly or indirectly owns or controls an insured depository institution, such as Synovus Bank, to provide financial assistance to such insured depository institution in the event of financial distress. The appropriate federal banking agency for the depository institution (in the case of Synovus Bank, this agency is the Federal Reserve) may require reports from us to assess our ability to serve as a source of strength and to enforce compliance with the source of strength requirements by requiring us to provide financial assistance to Synovus Bank in the event of financial distress. If we were to enter bankruptcy or become subject to the orderly liquidation process established by the Dodd-Frank Act, any commitment by us to a federal bank regulatory agency to maintain the capital of Synovus Bank would be assumed by the bankruptcy trustee or the FDIC, as appropriate, and entitled to a priority of payment. In addition, the FDIC provides that any insured depository institution generally will be liable for any loss incurred by the FDIC in connection with the default of, or any assistance provided by the FDIC to, a commonly controlled insured depository institution. Synovus Bank is an FDIC-insured depository institution and thus subject to these requirements.
The BHC Act permits acquisitions of banks by bank holding companies, such that we and any other bank holding company, whether located in Georgia or elsewhere, may acquire a bank located in any other state, subject to certain deposit-percentage, age of bank charter requirements, and other restrictions. The BHC Act requires that a bank holding company obtain the prior approval of the Federal Reserve before (i) acquiring direct or indirect ownership or control of more than 5% of the voting shares of any additional bank or bank holding company, (ii) taking any action that causes an additional bank or bank holding company to become a subsidiary of the bank holding company, or (iii) merging or consolidating with any other bank holding company. The Federal Reserve may not approve any such transaction that would result in a monopoly or would be in furtherance of any combination or conspiracy to monopolize or attempt to monopolize the business of banking in any section of the United States, or the effect of which may be substantially to lessen competition or to tend to create a monopoly in any section of the country, or that in any other manner would be in restraint of trade, unless the anticompetitive effects of the proposed transaction are clearly outweighed in the public interest by the probable effect of the transaction in meeting the convenience and needs of the community to be served. The Federal Reserve is also required to consider: (1) the financial and managerial resources of the companies involved, including pro forma capital ratios; (2) the risk to the stability of the United States banking or financial system; (3) the convenience and needs of the communities to be served, including performance under the CRA; and (4) the effectiveness of the company in combatting money laundering.
Change in Control
Federal law restricts the amount of voting stock of a bank holding company or a bank that a person may acquire without the prior approval of banking regulators. Under the Change in Bank Control Act and the regulations thereunder, a person or group must give advance notice to the Federal Reserve before acquiring control of any bank holding company, such as the Company, or before acquiring control of any state member bank, such as Synovus Bank. Upon receipt of such notice, the Federal Reserve
may approve or disapprove the acquisition. The Change in Bank Control Act creates a rebuttable presumption of control if a person or group acquires the power to vote 10% or more of our outstanding common stock. The overall effect of such laws is to make it more difficult to acquire a bank holding company and a bank by tender offer or similar means than it might be to acquire control of another type of corporation. Consequently, shareholders of the Company may be less likely to benefit from the rapid increases in stock prices that may result from tender offers or similar efforts to acquire control of other companies. Investors should be aware of these requirements when acquiring shares of our stock.
Governance and Financial Reporting Obligations
We are required to comply with various corporate governance and financial reporting requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as rules and regulations adopted by the SEC, the PCAOB, and the NYSE. In particular, we are required to include management and independent registered public accounting firm reports on internal controls as part of our Annual Report on Form 10-K in order to comply with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. We have evaluated our controls, including compliance with the SEC rules on internal controls, and have and expect to continue to spend significant amounts of time and money on compliance with these rules. Our failure to comply with these internal control rules may materially adversely affect our reputation, ability to obtain the necessary certifications to financial statements, and the values of our securities. The assessments of our financial reporting controls as of December 31, 2020 are included in this report under “Item 9A. Controls and Procedures.”
The Federal Reserve also requires bank holding companies meeting certain asset size thresholds, such as us, to establish and maintain a risk committee of its board of directors and appoint a chief risk officer, each meeting certain requirements.
Section 13 to the BHC Act, commonly referred to as the “Volcker Rule,” generally prohibits us and our subsidiaries from (i) engaging in certain proprietary trading, and (ii) acquiring or retaining an ownership interest in or sponsoring a “covered fund,” all subject to certain exceptions. The Volcker Rule also specifies certain limited activities in which we and our subsidiaries may continue to engage and required us to implement a compliance program. The Federal Reserve permits limited exemptions, upon application, for divestiture of certain “illiquid” covered funds, for an additional period of up to 5 years beyond that date. In the first quarter of 2017, we obtained a five-year extension from the Federal Reserve to the divestiture requirement of certain funds held by us and covered by this rule. In 2020, amendments to the proprietary trading and covered funds regulations issued by the federal banking agencies, the SEC, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission took effect, simplifying compliance and providing additional exclusions and exemptions.
The Dodd-Frank Act required the banking agencies and the SEC to establish joint rules or guidelines for financial institutions with more than $1 billion in assets, such as us and Synovus Bank, which prohibit incentive compensation arrangements that the agencies determine to encourage inappropriate risks by the institution. The federal banking agencies issued proposed rules in 2011 and previously issued guidance on sound incentive compensation policies. In 2016, the federal banking agencies also proposed rules that would, depending upon the assets of the institution, directly regulate incentive compensation arrangements and would require enhanced oversight and recordkeeping. As of December 31, 2020, these rules have not been implemented. We and Synovus Bank have undertaken efforts to ensure that our incentive compensation plans do not encourage inappropriate risks, consistent with three key principles - that incentive compensation arrangements should appropriately balance risk and financial rewards, be compatible with effective controls and risk management, and be supported by strong corporate governance.
Other Regulatory Matters
We and our subsidiaries are subject to oversight by the SEC, the FINRA, the PCAOB, the NYSE and various state securities and insurance regulators. We and our subsidiaries have from time to time received requests for information from regulatory authorities in various states, including state attorneys general, securities regulators and other regulatory authorities, concerning our business practices. Such requests are considered incidental to the normal conduct of business.
We and Synovus Bank are required under federal law to maintain certain minimum capital levels based on ratios of capital to total assets and capital to risk-weighted assets. The required capital ratios are minimums, and the Federal Reserve may determine that a banking organization, based on its size, complexity or risk profile, must maintain a higher level of capital in order to operate in a safe and sound manner. Risks such as concentration of credit risks and the risk arising from non-traditional activities, as well as the institution’s exposure to a decline in the economic value of its capital due to changes in interest rates, and an institution’s ability to manage those risks, are important factors that are to be taken into account in assessing an institution’s overall capital adequacy. The following is a brief description of the relevant provisions of these capital rules and their potential impact on our capital levels.
We and Synovus Bank are subject to the following risk-based capital ratios: a CET1 risk-based capital ratio, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio, which includes CET1 and additional Tier 1 capital, and a total risk-based capital ratio, which includes Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital. CET1 is primarily comprised of the sum of common stock instruments and related surplus net of treasury stock plus retained earnings less certain adjustments and deductions, including with respect to goodwill, intangible assets, mortgage servicing assets and deferred tax assets subject to temporary timing differences. Additional Tier 1 capital is primarily comprised of noncumulative perpetual preferred stock. Tier 2 capital consists of instruments disqualified from Tier 1 capital, including qualifying subordinated debt and a limited amount of loan loss reserves up to a maximum of 1.25% of risk-weighted assets, subject to certain eligibility criteria. The capital rules also define the risk-weights assigned to assets and off-balance sheet items to determine the risk-weighted asset components of the risk-based capital rules, including, for example, certain “high volatility” commercial real estate, past due assets, structured securities and equity holdings.
The leverage capital ratio, which serves as a minimum capital standard, is the ratio of Tier 1 capital to quarterly average total consolidated assets net of goodwill, certain other intangible assets, and certain required deduction items. The required minimum leverage ratio for all banks and bank holding companies is 4%.
In addition, effective January 1, 2019, the capital rules required a capital conservation buffer of 2.5% above each of the minimum risk-based capital ratio requirements (CET1, Tier 1, and total capital), which is designed to absorb losses during periods of economic stress. These buffer requirements must be met for a bank or bank holding company to be able to pay dividends, engage in share buybacks or make discretionary bonus payments to executive management without restriction.
The FDICIA, among other things, requires the federal bank regulatory agencies to take “prompt corrective action” regarding depository institutions that do not meet minimum capital requirements. FDICIA establishes five regulatory capital tiers: “well capitalized”, “adequately capitalized”, “undercapitalized”, “significantly undercapitalized”, and “critically undercapitalized”. A depository institution’s capital tier will depend upon how its capital levels compare to various relevant capital measures and certain other factors, as established by regulation. FDICIA generally prohibits a depository institution from making any capital distribution (including payment of a dividend) or paying any management fee to its holding company if the depository institution would thereafter be undercapitalized. The FDICIA imposes progressively more restrictive restraints on operations, management and capital distributions, depending on the category in which an institution is classified. Undercapitalized depository institutions are subject to restrictions on borrowing from the Federal Reserve System. In addition, undercapitalized depository institutions may not accept brokered deposits absent a waiver from the FDIC, are subject to growth limitations and are required to submit capital restoration plans for regulatory approval. A depository institution's holding company must guarantee any required capital restoration plan, up to an amount equal to the lesser of 5% of the depository institution's assets at the time it becomes undercapitalized or the amount of the capital deficiency when the institution fails to comply with the plan. Federal banking agencies may not accept a capital plan without determining, among other things, that the plan is based on realistic assumptions and is likely to succeed in restoring the depository institution's capital. If a depository institution fails to submit an acceptable plan, it is treated as if it is significantly undercapitalized.
To be well-capitalized, Synovus Bank must maintain at least the following capital ratios:
•6.5% CET1 to risk-weighted assets;
•8.0% Tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets;
•10.0% Total capital to risk-weighted assets; and
•5.0% leverage ratio.
The Federal Reserve has not yet revised the well-capitalized standard for bank holding companies to reflect the higher capital requirements imposed under the current capital rules applicable to banks. For purposes of the Federal Reserve’s Regulation Y, including determining whether a bank holding company meets the requirements to be a financial holding company, bank holding companies, such as the Company, must maintain a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 6.0% or greater and a total risk-based capital ratio of 10.0% or greater to be well-capitalized. If the Federal Reserve were to apply the same or a very similar well-capitalized standard to bank holding companies as that applicable to Synovus Bank, the Company’s capital ratios as of December 31, 2020 would exceed such revised well-capitalized standard. Also, the Federal Reserve may require bank holding companies, including the Company, to maintain capital ratios substantially in excess of mandated minimum levels, depending upon general economic conditions and a bank holding company’s particular condition, risk profile and growth plans.
Failure to be well-capitalized or to meet minimum capital requirements could result in certain mandatory and possible additional discretionary actions by regulators that, if undertaken, could have an adverse material effect on our operations or financial condition. Failure to meet minimum capital requirements could also result in restrictions on the Company’s or Synovus Bank’s ability to pay dividends or otherwise distribute capital or to receive regulatory approval of applications or other restrictions on its growth.
In 2020, the Company’s and Synovus Bank’s regulatory capital ratios were above the applicable well-capitalized standards and met the capital conservation buffer. Based on current estimates, we believe that the Company and Synovus Bank will
continue to exceed all applicable well-capitalized regulatory capital requirements and the capital conservation buffer in 2021. As of December 31, 2020, the consolidated capital ratios of Synovus and Synovus Bank were as follows:
|Table 1 – Capital Ratios as of December 31, 2020|
|(dollars in thousands)||Synovus||Synovus Bank|
|CET1 capital ratio||9.66 ||%||11.11 ||%|
|Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio ||10.95 ||11.11 |
|Total risk-based capital ratio||13.42 ||12.83 |
|Leverage ratio||8.50 ||8.73 |
See "Part II - Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Capital Resources" and "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 12 - Regulatory Capital" of this Report for further information.
In June 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-13, which introduced CECL as the methodology to replace the current “incurred loss” methodology for financial assets measured at amortized cost, and changed the approaches for recognizing and recording credit losses on available-for-sale debt securities and purchased credit impaired financial assets. Under the incurred loss methodology, credit losses are recognized only when the losses are probable or have been incurred; under CECL, companies are required to recognize the full amount of expected credit losses for the lifetime of the financial assets, based on historical experience, current conditions and reasonable and supportable forecasts. This change results in earlier recognition of credit losses that the Company deems expected but not yet probable. The Company began its compliance beginning with the first fiscal quarter of 2020. On August 26, 2020, the federal banking regulators issued a final rule (following an interim final rule issued on March 27, 2020) that allowed electing banking organizations that adopted CECL during 2020 to mitigate the estimated effects of CECL on regulatory capital for two years, followed by a three-year phase-in transition period. Synovus' December 31, 2020 regulatory capital ratios reflect Synovus' election of the five-year transition provision. See "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 1 - Summary of Significant Accounting Policies" of this Report for additional information on Synovus' adoption of CECL.
Payment of Dividends
We are a legal entity separate and distinct from Synovus Bank and our other subsidiaries. Under the laws of the State of Georgia, we, as a business corporation, may declare and pay dividends in cash or property unless the payment or declaration would be contrary to restrictions contained in our Articles of Incorporation, or unless, after payment of the dividend, we would not be able to pay our debts when they become due in the usual course of our business or our total assets would be less than the sum of our total liabilities. In addition, we are also subject to federal regulatory capital requirements that effectively limit the amount of cash dividends that we may pay.
The primary sources of funds for our payment of dividends to our shareholders are cash on hand and dividends from Synovus Bank and our non-bank subsidiaries. Various federal and state statutory provisions and regulations limit the amount of dividends that Synovus Bank may pay. Synovus Bank is a Georgia bank. Under the regulations of the GA DBF, a Georgia bank must have approval of the GA DBF to pay cash dividends if, at the time of such payment:
•the ratio of Tier 1 capital to adjusted total assets is less than 6%;
•the aggregate amount of dividends to be declared or anticipated to be declared during the current calendar year exceeds 50% of its net income for the previous calendar year; or
•its total classified assets in its most recent regulatory examination exceeded 80% of its Tier 1 capital plus its allowance for loan and lease losses.
The Georgia Financial Institutions Code also contains restrictions on the ability of a Georgia bank to pay dividends other than from retained earnings without the approval of the GA DBF. As a result of the foregoing restrictions, Synovus Bank may be required to seek approval from the GA DBF to pay dividends.
In addition, we and Synovus Bank are subject to various general regulatory policies and requirements relating to the payment of dividends, including requirements to maintain adequate capital above regulatory minimums. The Federal Reserve has indicated that paying dividends that deplete a bank’s capital base to an inadequate level would be an unsound and unsafe banking practice. The Federal Reserve has indicated that depository institutions and their holding companies should generally pay dividends only out of current operating earnings.
Under a Federal Reserve policy adopted in 2009, the board of directors of a bank holding company must consider different factors to ensure that its dividend level is prudent relative to maintaining a strong financial position, and is not based on overly optimistic earnings scenarios, such as potential events that could affect its ability to pay, while still maintaining a strong financial
position. As a general matter, the Federal Reserve has indicated that the board of directors of a bank holding company should consult with the Federal Reserve and eliminate, defer or significantly reduce the bank holding company’s dividends if:
•its net income available to shareholders for the past four quarters, net of dividends previously paid during that period, is not sufficient to fully fund the dividends;
•its prospective rate of earnings retention is not consistent with its capital needs and overall current and prospective financial condition; or
•it will not meet, or is in danger of not meeting, its minimum regulatory capital adequacy ratios.
Regulation of the Bank
Synovus Bank, which is a member of the Federal Reserve System, is subject to comprehensive supervision and regulation by the Federal Reserve Board, and is subject to its regulatory reporting requirements, as well as supervision and regulation by the GA DBF. As a member bank of the Federal Reserve System, Synovus Bank is required to hold stock in its district Federal Reserve Bank in an amount equal to 6% of its capital stock and surplus (half paid to acquire stock with the remainder held as a cash reserve). Member banks do not have any control over the Federal Reserve System as a result of owning the stock and the stock cannot be sold or traded. The annual dividend rate for member banks with total assets in excess of $10 billion, including Synovus Bank, is based on a floating dividend rate tied to10-year U.S. Treasuries with the maximum dividend rate capped at 6%.
The deposits of Synovus Bank are insured by the FDIC up to applicable limits, and, accordingly, Synovus Bank is also subject to certain FDIC regulations and the FDIC has backup examination authority and some enforcement powers over Synovus Bank. Synovus Trust, a subsidiary of Synovus Bank that provides trust services, is organized as a national trust bank and thus is subject to supervision and regulation by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
In addition, as discussed in more detail below, Synovus Bank and any other of our subsidiaries that offer consumer financial products and services are subject to regulation and supervision by the CFPB. In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act permits states to adopt consumer protection laws and regulations that are stricter than those regulations promulgated by the CFPB, and state attorneys general are permitted to enforce certain federal consumer financial protection law.
Broadly, regulations applicable to Synovus Bank include limitations on loans to a single borrower and to its directors, officers and employees; restrictions on the opening and closing of branch offices; the maintenance of required capital ratios; the granting of credit under equal and fair conditions; the disclosure of the costs and terms of such credit; requirements to maintain reserves against deposits and loans; limitations on the types of investment that may be made by Synovus Bank; and requirements governing risk management practices. Synovus Bank is permitted under federal law to branch on a de novo basis across state lines where the laws of that state would permit a bank chartered by that state to open a de novo branch.
Transactions with Affiliates and Insiders
Synovus Bank is subject to restrictions on extensions of credit and certain other transactions between Synovus Bank and the Company or any nonbank affiliate. Generally, these covered transactions with either the Company or any affiliate are limited to 10% of Synovus Bank’s capital and surplus, and all such transactions between Synovus Bank and the Company and all of its nonbank affiliates combined are limited to 20% of Synovus Bank’s capital and surplus. Loans and other extensions of credit from Synovus Bank to the Company or any affiliate generally are required to be secured by eligible collateral in specified amounts. In addition, any transaction between Synovus Bank and the Company or any affiliate are required to be on an arm’s length basis. Federal banking laws also place similar restrictions on certain extensions of credit by insured banks, such as Synovus Bank, to their directors, executive officers and principal shareholders.
Federal Reserve rules require depository institutions, such as Synovus Bank, to maintain reserves against their transaction accounts, primarily NOW and regular checking accounts. Effective March 26, 2020, reserve requirement ratios were reduced to zero percent. These reserve requirements are subject to annual adjustment by the Federal Reserve.
FDIC Insurance Assessments and Depositor Preference
Synovus Bank’s deposits are insured by the FDIC’s DIF up to the limits under applicable law, which currently are set at $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category. Synovus Bank is subject to FDIC assessments for its deposit insurance. The FDIC calculates quarterly deposit insurance assessments based on an institution’s average total consolidated assets less its average tangible equity, and applies one of four risk categories determined by reference to its capital levels, supervisory ratings, and certain other factors. The assessment rate schedule can change from time to time, at the discretion of the FDIC, subject to certain limits.
Insurance of deposits may be terminated by the FDIC 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 a bank’s federal regulatory agency. In addition, the Federal Deposit Insurance Act provides that, in the event of the liquidation or other resolution of an insured depository institution, the claims of depositors of the institution, including the claims of the FDIC as subrogee of insured depositors, and certain claims for administrative expenses of the FDIC as a receiver, will have priority over other general unsecured claims against the institution, including those of the parent bank holding company. See “Part II - Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Deposits” of this Report for further information.
Standards for Safety and Soundness
The Federal Deposit Insurance Act requires the federal bank regulatory agencies to prescribe, by regulation or guideline, operational and managerial standards for all insured depository institutions relating to: (1) internal controls; (2) information systems and audit systems; (3) loan documentation; (4) credit underwriting; (5) interest rate risk exposure; and (6) asset quality. The federal banking agencies have adopted regulations and Interagency Guidelines Establishing Standards for Safety and Soundness to implement these required standards. These guidelines set forth the safety and soundness standards used to identify and address problems at insured depository institutions before capital becomes impaired. Under the regulations, if a regulator determines that a bank fails to meet any standards prescribed by the guidelines, the regulator may require the bank to submit an acceptable plan to achieve compliance, consistent with deadlines for the submission and review of such safety and soundness compliance plans.
A continued focus of governmental policy relating to financial institutions in recent years has been combating money laundering and terrorist financing. The USA PATRIOT Act broadened the application of anti-money laundering regulations to apply to additional types of financial institutions such as broker-dealers, investment advisors and insurance companies, and strengthened the ability of the U.S. Government to help prevent, detect and prosecute international money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The principal provisions of Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act require that regulated financial institutions, including state member banks: (i) establish an anti-money laundering program that includes training and audit components; (ii) comply with regulations regarding the verification of the identity of any person seeking to open an account; (iii) take additional required precautions with non-U.S. owned accounts; and (iv) perform certain verification and certification of money laundering risk for their foreign correspondent banking relationships. Failure of a financial institution to comply with the USA PATRIOT Act’s requirements could have serious legal and reputational consequences for the institution. Synovus Bank has augmented its systems and procedures to meet the requirements of these regulations and will continue to revise and update its policies, procedures and controls to reflect changes required by law.
FinCEN has adopted rules that require financial institutions to obtain beneficial ownership information with respect to legal entities with which such institutions conduct business, subject to certain exclusions and exemptions. Bank regulators are focusing their examinations on anti-money laundering compliance, and we continue to monitor and augment, where necessary, our anti-money laundering compliance programs. Banking regulators will consider compliance with the Act’s money laundering provisions in acting upon merger and acquisition proposals. Bank regulators routinely examine institutions for compliance with these obligations and have been active in imposing cease and desist and other regulatory orders and money penalty sanctions against institutions found to be violating these obligations. Sanctions for violations of the Act can be imposed in an amount equal to twice the sum involved in the violating transaction, up to $1 million. On January 1, 2021, Congress passed federal legislation that made sweeping changes to federal anti-money laundering laws, including changes that will be implemented in 2021 and subsequent years.
The OFAC is responsible for helping to ensure that U.S. entities do not engage in transactions with certain prohibited parties, as defined by various Executive Orders and acts of Congress. OFAC publishes, and routinely updates, lists of names of persons and organizations suspected of aiding, harboring or engaging in terrorist acts, including the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. If we find a name on any transaction, account or wire transfer that is on an OFAC list, we must undertake certain specified activities, which could include blocking or freezing the account or transaction requested, and we must notify the appropriate authorities.
Concentrations in Lending
During 2006, the federal bank regulatory agencies released guidance on “Concentrations in Commercial Real Estate Lending” (the “Guidance”) and advised financial institutions of the risks posed by CRE lending concentrations. The Guidance requires that appropriate processes be in place to identify, monitor and control risks associated with real estate lending concentrations. Higher allowances for loan losses and capital levels may also be required. The Guidance is triggered when CRE loan concentrations exceed either:
•Total reported loans for construction, land development, and other land of 100% or more of a bank’s total risk-based capital; or
•Total reported loans secured by multifamily and nonfarm nonresidential properties and loans for construction, land development, and other land of 300% or more of a bank’s total risk-based capital.
The Guidance also applies when a bank has a sharp increase in CRE loans or has significant concentrations of CRE secured by a particular property type. We have always had exposures to loans secured by CRE due to the nature of our markets and the loan needs of both retail and commercial customers. We believe our long-term experience in CRE lending, underwriting policies, internal controls, and other policies currently in place, as well as our loan and credit monitoring and administration procedures, are generally appropriate to managing our concentrations as required under the Guidance.
Debit Interchange Fees
Interchange fees, or "swipe" fees, are fees that merchants pay to credit card companies and card-issuing banks such as Synovus Bank for processing electronic payment transactions on their behalf. The maximum permissible interchange fee that a non-exempt issuer such as Synovus Bank may receive for an electronic debit transaction is the sum of 21 cents per transaction and 5 basis points multiplied by the value of the transaction, subject to an upward adjustment of 1 cent if an issuer certifies that it has implemented policies and procedures reasonably designed to achieve the fraud-prevention standards set forth by the Federal Reserve. In addition, card issuers and networks are prohibited from entering into arrangements requiring that debit card transactions be processed on a single network or only two affiliated networks, and allows merchants to determine transaction routing.
Community Reinvestment Act
Synovus Bank is subject to the provisions of the CRA, which imposes a continuing and affirmative obligation, consistent with safe and sound operation, to help meet the credit needs of entire communities where the bank accepts deposits, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The Federal Reserve’s assessment of Synovus Bank’s CRA record is made available to the public. Following the enactment of the GLB, CRA agreements with private parties must be disclosed and annual CRA reports must be made to a bank’s primary federal regulator. A bank holding company will not be permitted to become or remain a financial holding company and no new activities authorized under GLB may be commenced by a holding company or by a bank financial subsidiary if any of its bank subsidiaries received less than a “satisfactory” CRA rating in its latest CRA examination. Federal CRA regulations require, among other things, that evidence of discrimination against applicants on a prohibited basis, and illegal or abusive lending practices be considered in the CRA evaluation. Synovus Bank has a rating of “Satisfactory” in its most recent CRA evaluation. On September 21, 2020, the Federal Reserve issued a proposed rule that would modernize and substantially revise the regulations implementing the CRA.
Privacy, Credit Reporting, and Data Security
The GLB generally prohibits disclosure of consumer information to non-affiliated third parties unless the consumer has been given the opportunity to object and has not objected to such disclosure. Financial institutions are further required to disclose their privacy policies to customers annually. Financial institutions, however, will be required to comply with state law if it is more protective of consumer privacy than the GLB. The GLB also directed federal regulators to prescribe standards for the security of consumer information. Synovus Bank is subject to such standards, as well as standards for notifying customers in the event of a security breach. Synovus Bank utilizes credit bureau data in underwriting activities. Use of such data is regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V on a uniform, nationwide basis, including credit reporting, prescreening, and sharing of information between affiliates and the use of credit data. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act, permits states to enact identity theft laws that are not inconsistent with the conduct required by the provisions of that Act. Customers must be notified when unauthorized disclosure involves sensitive customer information that may be misused. On December 18, 2020, the federal banking agencies proposed a new rule that would require banks to notify their regulators within 36 hours of a “computer-security incident” that rises to the level of a “notification incident.”
The federal banking regulators regularly issue guidance regarding cybersecurity intended to enhance cyber risk management standards among financial institutions. As a result, financial institutions, like Synovus and Synovus Bank, are expected to establish multiple lines of defense and to ensure their risk management processes address the risk posed by potential threats to the institution. A financial institution’s management is expected to maintain sufficient processes to effectively respond and recover the institution’s operations after a cyber-attack. A financial institution is also expected to develop appropriate processes to enable recovery of data and business operations if a critical service provider of the institution falls victim to this type of cyber-attack. Our information security protocols are designed in part to adhere the requirements of this guidance.
State regulators have also been increasingly active in implementing privacy and cybersecurity standards and regulations. Recently, several states have adopted regulations requiring certain financial institutions to implement cybersecurity programs and providing detailed requirements with respect to these programs, including data encryption requirements. Many states have
also recently implemented or modified their data breach notification and data privacy requirements. We expect this trend of state-level activity in those areas to continue and are continually monitoring developments in the states in which our customers are located.
In general, a bank may not extend credit, lease, sell property, or furnish any services or fix or vary the consideration for them on the condition that (1) the customer obtain or provide some additional credit, property, or services from or to the bank or bank holding company or their subsidiaries or (2) the customer not obtain some other credit, property, or services from a competitor, except to the extent reasonable conditions are imposed to assure the soundness of the credit extended. A bank may, however, offer combined-balance products and may otherwise offer more favorable terms if a customer obtains two or more traditional bank products. The law also expressly permits banks to engage in other forms of tying and authorizes the Federal Reserve Board to grant additional exceptions by regulation or order. Also, certain foreign transactions are exempt from the general rule.
Activities of Synovus Bank are subject to a variety of statutes and regulations designed to protect consumers. These laws and regulations include, among numerous other things, provisions that:
•limit the interest and other charges collected or contracted for by Synovus Bank, including rules respecting the terms of credit cards and of debit card overdrafts;
•govern Synovus Bank’s disclosures of credit terms to consumer borrowers;
•require Synovus Bank to provide information to enable the public and public officials to determine whether it is fulfilling its obligation to help meet the housing needs of the communities it serves;
•prohibit Synovus Bank from discriminating on the basis of race, creed or other prohibited factors when it makes decisions to extend credit;
•govern the manner in which Synovus Bank may collect consumer debts; and
•prohibit unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices in the provision of consumer financial products and services.
The CFPB adopted a rule that implements the ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act (the “ATR/QM rule”), which requires lenders to consider, among other things, income, employment status, assets, payment amounts, and credit history before approving a mortgage, and provides a compliance “safe harbor” for lenders that issue certain “qualified mortgages.” The ATR/QM rule defines a “qualified mortgage” to have certain specified characteristics, and generally prohibits loans with negative amortization, interest-only payments, balloon payments, or terms exceeding 30 years from being qualified mortgages. The rule also establishes general underwriting criteria for qualified mortgages, including that monthly payments be calculated based on the highest payment that will apply in the first five years of the loan and that the borrower have a total debt-to-income ratio that is less than or equal to 43%. While “qualified mortgages” will generally be afforded safe harbor status, a rebuttable presumption of compliance with the ability-to-repay requirements will attach to “qualified mortgages” that are “higher priced mortgages” (which are generally subprime loans). In addition, the securitizer of asset-backed securities must retain not less than 5% of the credit risk of the assets collateralizing the asset-backed securities, unless subject to an exemption for asset-backed securities that are collateralized exclusively by residential mortgages that qualify as “qualified residential mortgages.”
The CFPB has also issued rules to implement requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act pertaining to mortgage loan origination (including with respect to loan originator compensation and loan originator qualifications) as well as integrated mortgage disclosure rules. In addition, the CFPB has issued rules that require servicers to comply with certain standards and practices with regard to: error correction; information disclosure; force-placement of insurance; information management policies and procedures; requiring information about mortgage loss mitigation options be provided to delinquent borrowers; providing delinquent borrowers access to servicer personnel with continuity of contact about the borrower’s mortgage loan account; and evaluating borrowers’ applications for available loss mitigation options. These rules also address initial rate adjustment notices for adjustable-rate mortgages, periodic statements for residential mortgage loans, and prompt crediting of mortgage payments and response to requests for payoff amounts.
The CARES Act granted certain forbearance rights and protection against foreclosure to borrowers with a “federally backed mortgage loan,” including certain first or subordinate lien loans designed principally for the occupancy of one to four families. These consumer protections continue during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
Synovus Bank is also subject to, among other things, the provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act, both of which prohibit discrimination based on race or color, religion, national origin, sex, and familial status in any aspect of a consumer or commercial credit or residential real estate transaction. The Department of Justice, and the federal
bank regulatory agencies have issued an Interagency Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending that provides guidance to financial institutions in determining whether discrimination exists, how the agencies will respond to lending discrimination, and what steps lenders might take to prevent discriminatory lending practices. The DOJ has increased its efforts to prosecute what it regards as violations of the ECOA and FHA.
Our website address is www.synovus.com. We file with or furnish to the SEC Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and annual reports to shareholders, and, from time to time, amendments to these documents and other documents called for by the SEC. The reports and other documents filed with or furnished to the SEC are available to investors on or through our website at investor.synovus.com under the heading “Financial Information” and then under “SEC Filings.” These reports are available on our website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file them with the SEC.
In addition, the SEC maintains an Internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers, such as Synovus, that file electronically with the SEC. The address of that website is www.sec.gov.
We have adopted a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics for our directors, officers and employees and have also adopted Corporate Governance Guidelines. Our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, Corporate Governance Guidelines and the charters of our board committees, as well as information on how to contact our Board of Directors, are available in the Corporate Governance Section of our website at investor.synovus.com/governance. We will post any waivers of our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics granted to our directors or executive officers on our website at investor.synovus.com.
We include our website addresses throughout this filing only as textual references. The information contained on our website is not incorporated in this document by reference.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
This section highlights the material risks that we currently face. Please be aware that these risks may change over time and other risks may prove to be important in the future. New risks may emerge at any time, and we cannot predict such risks or estimate the extent to which they may affect our business, financial condition or results of operations or the trading price of our securities.
Competition in the financial services industry may adversely affect our future earnings and growth.
We operate in a highly competitive environment and our profitability and our future growth depends on our ability to compete successfully. We face pricing competition for loans and deposits and, in order for us to compete for borrowers and depositors, we may be required to offer loans and deposits on terms less favorable to us, including lower rates on our loans and higher rates on our deposits. We also compete for customers based on such factors as convenience, product offerings, technology, accessibility of service and service capabilities. Certain of our competitors are larger and have more resources than we do, enabling them to be more aggressive than us in competing for loans and deposits and investing in new products, technology and services. In addition, the ability of non-bank competitors to provide services previously limited to commercial banks has intensified the competition we face. These non-bank competitors are not subject to the same extensive regulations that govern us and, therefore, may be able to operate with greater flexibility and lower cost structures. Non-bank competitors can also operate in areas or offer certain products that are considered speculative or risky, such as cryptocurrencies, that may be attractive to our customers. This significant competition in making loans and attracting and retaining deposits as well as in providing other financial services may impact our future earnings and growth.
Furthermore, the financial services industry could become even more competitive as a result of legislative, regulatory and technological changes and continued consolidation. Technology has lowered barriers to entry and made it possible for non-banks and smaller banks to offer products and services traditionally provided by larger banks. Competitors adopting new technologies could require us to make significant expenditures to modify or make additions to our current products and services. There has also been increasing consolidation among regional banks similar in size or larger than us resulting in even larger banks. The resulting larger banks, as well many other banks that are larger than us, may be able to achieve economies of scale due to their size and, as a result, may be able to operate more efficiently than us and also offer a broader range of products and services than we do, as well as better pricing for those products and services.
We may not realize the expected benefits from our efficiency and growth initiatives, including our Synovus Forward initiative, which could negatively impact our future profitability.
In the current competitive banking environment, operating costs must reduce or grow much slower than overall revenue growth. In addition, we must continue to implement strategies to grow our loan portfolio and increase non-interest income in order to realize continued earnings growth and to remain competitive with the other banks in the markets we serve. We are continuously implementing strategic efficiency and growth initiatives for expense reduction, increased efficiencies and long-term growth, including our current Synovus Forward efficiency and growth initiative. While we have realized cost-savings and growth as a result of these initiatives in the past, there is no guarantee that these initiatives will be successful in controlling expenses, growing revenues or achieving the expected level of future savings and revenue enhancements that we have announced. If we fail to meet these previously disclosed goals, it could result in a negative market reaction and negatively impact the trading price of our stock. Furthermore, cost-savings initiatives may result in an increase in short-term expenses, negatively impact operational effectiveness and impact employee morale. In addition, while expense control continues to be a major focus for us, management also expects to continue to make strategic investments in technology and talent that are expected to improve our customer experience and support future growth which will require an increase in our expenditures. There can be no assurance that we will ultimately realize the anticipated benefits of our expense reduction and growth strategies, which may impair our earnings growth, or that our expense reduction strategies will not negatively impact our organization.
The implementation of new lines of business, new products and services and new technologies may subject us to additional risk.
Over the past few years, we have launched or enhanced a number of lines of business, products and services, and technologies, including, among others, those related to our treasury and payments solutions business and asset-based and structured lending capabilities. An important part of our business strategy is to continue these efforts to implement new
products, services and technologies designed to better serve our customers. There are substantial risks and uncertainties associated with these efforts. Initial timetables for the introduction and development of new lines of business, new products or services and/or new technologies may not be achieved and price and profitability targets may not prove feasible. 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, a new product or service and/or new technologies. Furthermore, any new line of business, new product or service and/or new technology could require the establishment of new key and other controls and have a significant impact on our existing system of internal controls. Failure to successfully manage these risks in the development and implementation could have a material adverse effect on our business and, in turn, our financial condition and results of operations.
We may pursue bank and non-bank acquisition opportunities as they arise. However, even if we identify attractive acquisition opportunities, we may not be able to complete such acquisitions on favorable terms or realize the anticipated benefits from such acquisitions.
While we continue to focus on organic growth opportunities, we may pursue attractive bank or non-bank acquisition and consolidation opportunities that arise in our core markets and beyond. The number of financial institutions headquartered in Georgia, Florida, the Southeastern United States, and across the country continues to decline through merger and other consolidation activity. In the event that attractive acquisition opportunities arise, we would likely face competition for such acquisitions from other banking and financial companies, many of which have significantly greater resources and may have more attractive valuations. This competition could either prevent us from being able to complete attractive acquisition opportunities or increase prices for potential acquisitions which could reduce our potential returns, and reduce the attractiveness of these opportunities to us. Furthermore, even if we are able to identify and complete acquisitions, the terms of such acquisitions may not be favorable to us or we may fail to realize the anticipated benefits from such acquisitions. Also all acquisitions are subject to various regulatory approvals and if we were unable (or there was a perception that we would be unable) to obtain such approvals for any reason, including due to any actual or perceived capital, liquidity, profitability or regulatory compliance issues, it would impair our ability to consummate acquisitions. In addition, any acquisition could be dilutive to our earnings and shareholders’ equity per share of our common stock.
Failure to attract and retain key employees and the impact of executive management transitions may adversely impact our ability to successfully execute our growth and efficiency strategies.
Our financial success depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly motivated, well-qualified personnel that we rely on to execute our strategy and initiatives. We face significant competition in the recruitment of qualified employees from financial institutions and others. Moreover, as the banking industry transforms due to technological innovation, we must continually assess and manage how our talent needs change over time. In addition, our future growth and the continued diversification of our loan portfolio depends, in part, on our ability to attract and retain the right mix of well-qualified employees. If we are unable to attract and retain qualified employees, our ability to execute our business strategies may suffer and we may be required to substantially increase our overall compensation or benefits to attract and retain such employees. Furthermore, we generally do not have employment agreements in place with our management team and key team members and cannot guarantee that our management team and other key team members will remain with us. The unexpected loss of services of one or more of our key personnel, especially members of our senior management team, could have a material adverse impact on the business because we would lose their skills, knowledge of the market, years of industry experience and may have difficulty promptly finding qualified replacement personnel.
Furthermore, we have had recent leadership changes and transitions involving our executive management team and expect to have further changes and transitions in 2021, as previously announced. Any significant leadership changes involve inherent risk and any failure to ensure the effective transfer of knowledge and a smooth transition could hinder our strategic planning, execution and future performance.
The financial services market is undergoing rapid technological changes, and if we are unable to stay current with those changes, we will not be able to effectively compete.
The financial services market, including banking services, is undergoing rapid changes with frequent introductions of new technology-driven products and services, primarily related to increased digitization of banking services and capabilities. These trends were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing demand for mobile banking solutions. Our future success will depend, in part, on our ability to keep pace with these technological changes and to use technology to satisfy and grow customer demand for our products and services and to create additional efficiencies in our operations. We expect that we will
need to make substantial investments in our technology and information systems to compete effectively and to stay current with technological changes. Some of our competitors have substantially greater resources to invest in technological improvements and have invested more heavily than us, and will continue to be able to do so, in developing and adopting new technologies, which may put us at a competitive disadvantage. Some of these competitors consist of financial technology providers, who are beginning to offer more traditional banking products and may either acquire a bank charter or obtain a bank-like charter, such as the fintech charter provided by the OCC. We may not be able to effectively implement new technology-driven products and services or be successful in marketing these products and services to our customers. As a result, our ability to effectively compete to retain or acquire new business may be impaired, and our business, financial condition or results of operations may be adversely affected.
We may not be able to successfully implement current or future information technology system enhancements and operational initiatives, which could adversely affect our business operations and profitability.
We continue to invest significant resources in information technology system enhancements and operational initiatives in order to provide functionality and security at an appropriate level, to improve our operating efficiency and to streamline our customer experience. We may not be able to successfully implement and integrate such system enhancements and initiatives, which could adversely impact the ability to comply with a number of legal and regulatory requirements, which could result in sanctions from regulatory authorities. In addition, these projects could have higher than expected costs and/or result in operating inefficiencies, which could increase the costs associated with the implementation as well as ongoing operations. Failure to properly utilize system enhancements that are implemented in the future could result in impairment charges that adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations, could result in significant costs to remediate or replace the defective components and could impact our ability to compete. In addition, we may incur significant training, licensing, maintenance, consulting and amortization expenses during and after implementation, and any such costs may continue for an extended period of time. As such, we cannot guarantee that the anticipated long-term benefits of these system enhancements and operational initiatives will be realized.
If our enterprise risk management framework is not effective at mitigating risk and loss to us, we could suffer unexpected losses and our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Our enterprise risk management framework seeks to achieve an appropriate balance between risk and return, which is critical to optimizing shareholder value. We have established processes and procedures intended to identify, measure, monitor, report and analyze the types of risk to which we are subject, including strategic, market, credit, liquidity, capital, operational, regulatory compliance, litigation and reputational. However, as with any risk management framework, there are inherent limitations to our risk management strategies as there may exist, or develop in the future, risks that we have not appropriately anticipated or identified. For example, the financial and credit crisis and resulting regulatory reform highlighted both the importance and some of the limitations of managing unanticipated risks. If our risk management framework proves ineffective, we could suffer unexpected losses and our business and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
We rely extensively on information technology systems to operate our business and an interruption or security breach may disrupt our business operations, result in reputational harm and have an adverse effect on our operations.
As a large financial institution, we rely extensively on our information technology systems to operate our business, including to process, record and monitor a large number of customer transactions on a continuous basis. As customer, public and regulatory expectations regarding operational and information security have increased, our operational systems and infrastructure must continue to be safeguarded and monitored for potential failures, disruptions and breakdowns. Our business, financial, accounting, data processing systems or other operating systems and facilities may stop operating properly or become disabled or damaged as a result of a number of factors including events that are wholly or partially beyond our control. For example, there could be sudden increases in customer transaction volume; electrical or telecommunications outages; natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes; disease pandemics; events arising from local or larger scale political or social matters, including terrorist acts; and, as described below, cyber-attacks. While we have policies, procedures and systems designed to prevent or limit the effect of possible failures, interruptions or breaches in security of information systems and business continuity programs designed to provide services in the case of such events, there is no guarantee that these safeguards or programs will address all of the threats that continue to evolve.
We face significant cyber and data security risk that could result in the disclosure of confidential information, adversely affect our business or reputation and expose us to significant liabilities.
As a large financial institution, we are under continuous threat of loss due to the velocity and sophistication of cyber-attacks. This risk continues to increase and attack methods continue to evolve in sophistication, velocity, and frequency and can
occur from a variety of sources, such as foreign governments, hacktivists, or other well-financed entities, and may originate from less regulated and remote areas of the world. Furthermore, the recent transition to remote working for both Synovus and many of our customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened these risks. We continually review the security of our IT systems and make the necessary investments to improve the resiliency of our systems and their security from attack. Nonetheless, there remains the risk that we may be materially harmed by a cyber-attack or information security breach. Further, there is no guarantee that our response to any cyber-attack or system interruption, breach or failure will be effective to mitigate and remediate the issues resulting from such an event, including the costs, reputational harm and litigation challenges that we may face as a result.
Data privacy laws also continue to evolve, with states increasingly proposing or enacting legislation that relates to data privacy and data protection. We may be required to incur additional expenses to comply with these evolving regulations and could face penalties for violating any of these regulations.
Two of the most significant cyber-attack risks that we face are e-fraud and loss of sensitive customer data. Loss from e-fraud occurs when cybercriminals breach and extract funds directly from customer or our accounts. Any loss of sensitive customer data that results from attempts to breach our systems, such as account numbers and social security numbers, would present significant reputational, legal and/or regulatory costs to us. Our risk and exposure to these matters remains heightened because of the evolving nature and complexity of these threats from cybercriminals and hackers, our plans to continue to provide internet banking and mobile banking channels, and our plans to develop additional remote connectivity solutions to serve our customers. While we have not experienced any material losses relating to cyber-attacks or other information security breaches to date, we have been the subject of attempted hacking and cyber-attacks and there can be no assurance that we will not suffer such significant losses in the future.
The occurrence of any cyber-attack or information security breach could result in material adverse consequences to us including damage to our reputation, the loss of customers and violations of applicable data privacy laws. We also could face litigation and regulatory action. Litigation or regulatory actions in turn could lead to significant liability or other sanctions, including fines and penalties or reimbursement to customers adversely affected by a security breach. Even if we do not suffer any material adverse consequences as a result of events affecting us directly, successful attacks or systems failures at other large financial institutions could lead to a general loss of customer confidence in financial institutions including us.
Our ability to maintain our reputation is critical to the success of our business, and the failure to do so may materially adversely affect our performance.
Our reputation is one of the most valuable components of our business. As such, we strive to conduct our business in a manner that enhances our reputation. This is done, in part, by recruiting, hiring, and retaining and providing growth opportunities for employees who share our core values of being an integral part of the communities we serve, delivering superior service to our customers, caring about our customers and employees and investing in our information technology and other systems. If our reputation is negatively affected by the actions of our employees or otherwise, including as a result of operational errors, clerical or record-keeping errors or those resulting from faulty or disabled computer or telecommunications systems or a successful cyberattack against us or other unauthorized release or loss of customer information, our reputation, business and our operating results may be materially adversely affected. Damage to our reputation could also negatively impact our credit ratings and impede our access to the capital markets.
We rely on other companies to provide key components of our business infrastructure.
Third parties provide key components of our business operations such as data processing, recording and monitoring transactions, online banking interfaces and services, Internet connections and network access. We have selected these third-party vendors carefully and have conducted the due diligence consistent with regulatory guidance and best practices. While we have ongoing programs to review third party vendors and assess risk, we do not control their actions. Any problems caused by these third parties, including those resulting from disruptions in communication services provided by a vendor, issues at a third-party vendor of a vendor, failure of a vendor to handle current or higher volumes, cyber-attacks and security breaches at a vendor, failure of a vendor to provide services for any reason or poor performance of services, could adversely affect our ability to deliver products and services to our customers and otherwise conduct our business. Financial or operational difficulties of a third-party vendor could also hurt our operations if those difficulties interfere with the vendor's ability to serve us. Furthermore, our vendors could also be sources of operational and information security risk to us, including from breakdowns or failures of their own systems or capacity constraints. Replacing these third-party vendors could also create significant delay and expense. Accordingly, use of such third parties creates an unavoidable inherent risk to our business operations.
As an issuer of credit and debit cards we are exposed to losses in the event that holders of our cards experience fraud on their card accounts.
Our customers regularly use Synovus-issued credit and debit cards to pay for transactions with retailers and other businesses. There is the risk of data security breaches at these retailers and other businesses that could result in the misappropriation of our customers’ credit and debit card information. When our customers use Synovus-issued cards to make purchases from those businesses, card account information is provided to the business. If the business’s systems that process or store card account information are subject to a data security breach, holders of our cards who have made purchases from that business may experience fraud on their card accounts. While the transition to EMV-enabled credit and debit cards reduced the likelihood of fraudulent transactions and the associated costs, we may nonetheless suffer losses associated with reimbursing our customers for fraudulent transactions on customers’ card accounts, as well as for other costs related to data security compromise events, such as replacing cards associated with compromised card accounts. In addition, we provide card transaction processing services to some merchant customers under agreements we have with payment networks such as Visa and MasterCard. Under these agreements, we may be responsible for certain losses and penalties if one of our merchant customers suffers a data security breach.
Many large retailers have suffered substantial data security breaches compromising millions of credit and debit card accounts. To date, our losses and costs related to these breaches have not been material, but other similar events in the future could be more significant to us.
Our independent sales organization relationships are complex and may expose us to losses.
We maintain relationships with a number of ISOs, which are organizations that are not Visa or MasterCard member banks, but which are associated with us as a member bank. These ISOs generally act as intermediaries for third party companies that want to develop the capacity to accept payment cards, and ISO activities include, among other things, acquiring and issuing functions, soliciting merchants and other customers, soliciting cardholders, underwriting and monitoring, arranging for terminal leases or purchases, account and transaction processing, and customer service. Our ISO relationships include (but are not limited to) our relationships with MPS where we process credit and debit card transactions on behalf of various merchants.
Because our ISO program entails a host of complex business relationships with third parties, we face risks related to our oversight and supervision of the program, as well as to the reputation and financial viability of the ISOs with which we do business. Our oversight and supervision responsibilities include, but are not limited to, monitoring of the ISO program and relationships, compliance, portfolio awareness, reputational monitoring, and risk monitoring. Any failure by us to appropriately oversee and supervise our ISO program could damage our reputation, result in regulatory or compliance issues, result in third party litigation, and cause financial losses to us. Further, our ISO program is highly dependent upon the activities and financial viability of our ISO counter-parties, and any negative developments at the ISOs - reputational, compliance-related, financial, or otherwise - may present financial losses and other risk to us.
The costs and effects of litigation, investigations or similar matters involving us or other financial institutions or counterparties, or adverse facts and developments related thereto, could materially affect our business, operating results and financial condition.
We may be involved from time to time in a variety of litigation, investigations, inquiries or similar matters arising out of our business, including those described in “Part I - Item 3. Legal Proceedings” and "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 16 - Commitments and Contingencies" of this Report. Furthermore, litigation against banks tend to increase during economic downturns and periods of credit deterioration which may occur or worsen as a result of the continued COVID-19 pandemic. The transition away from LIBOR also increases our litigation risk.
We manage these risks through internal controls, personnel training, insurance, litigation management, our compliance and ethics processes, and other means. However, the commencement, outcome, and magnitude of litigation cannot be predicted or controlled with any certainty. We establish reserves for legal claims when payments associated with the claims become probable and the losses can be reasonably estimated. We may still incur legal costs for a matter even if we have not established a reserve. In addition, the actual cost of resolving a legal claim may be substantially higher than any amounts reserved for that matter. For those legal matters where the amounts associated with the claims are not probable and the costs cannot be reasonably estimated, Synovus estimates a range of reasonably possible losses. As of December 31, 2020, Synovus' management currently estimates the aggregate range of reasonably possible losses resulting from our outstanding litigation, including, without limitation, the matters described in this Report, is from zero to $5 million in excess of the amounts accrued, if any, related to those matters. This estimated aggregate range is based upon information currently available to us, and the actual losses could prove to be higher. As there are further developments in these legal matters, we will reassess these matters
and the estimated range of reasonably possible losses may change as a result of this assessment. In addition, in the future, we may need to record additional litigation reserves with respect to these matters. Further, regardless of how these matters proceed, it could significantly harm our reputation and divert our management's attention and other resources away from our business.
Our insurance may not cover all claims that may be asserted against it and indemnification rights to which we are entitled may not be honored, and any claims asserted against us, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, may harm our reputation. Should the ultimate judgments or settlements in any litigation or investigation significantly exceed our insurance coverage, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, premiums for insurance covering the financial and banking sectors are rising. We may not be able to obtain appropriate types or levels of insurance in the future, nor may we be able to obtain adequate replacement policies with acceptable terms or at historic rates, if at all.
Credit and Liquidity Risk
Our allowance for credit losses may not cover actual losses, and we may be required to materially increase our allowance, which may adversely affect our capital, financial condition and results of operations.
We derive the most significant portion of our revenues from our lending activities. When we lend money, commit to lend money or enter into a letter of credit or other contract with a counterparty, we incur credit risk, which is the risk of losses if our borrowers do not repay their loans or our counterparties fail to perform according to the terms of their contracts. We estimate and maintain an allowance for credit losses, which is a reserve established through a provision for loan losses charged to expenses, representing management's best estimate of life of loan credit losses within the existing portfolio of loans and related unfunded commitments, as described under "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 1 - Summary of Significant Accounting Policies" and "Part II - Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Critical Accounting Policies - Allowance for Credit Losses" in this Report. The allowance, in the judgment of management, is established to reserve for estimated credit losses and risks inherent in the loan portfolio. The determination of the appropriate level of the allowance for credit losses inherently involves a high degree of subjectivity and requires the use of both qualitative and quantitative information, including estimates, assumptions, and quantitative modeling techniques, all of which may undergo material changes. Changes in economic conditions affecting borrowers, new information regarding existing loans, identification of additional problem loans, changes in assumptions regarding a borrower's ability to pay, changes in collateral values, risk ratings, and other factors, both within and outside of our control, may cause the allowance for credit losses to become inadequate and require an increase in the provision for loan losses.
While we adopted CECL in 2020, we expect that the allowance for credit losses under the new standard will be more volatile in the future and potentially higher and as such, could have an impact on our results of operations. For a discussion of changes in accounting standards and regulatory capital implications, see “Part 1 - Item 1. Business - Supervision, Regulation, and Other Factors - Capital Requirements.”
Various regulatory agencies, as an integral part of their examination procedures, periodically review the allowance as well as the supporting methods and processes. Based on their judgments about information available to them at the time of their examination, such agencies may require us to recognize additions to the allowance or additional loan charge offs. An increase in the allowance for credit losses would result in a decrease in net income and capital, and could have a material adverse effect on our capital, financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in interest rates may have an adverse effect on our net interest income.
Net interest income, which is the difference between the interest income that we earn on interest-earning assets and the interest expense that we pay on interest-bearing liabilities, is a major component of our income and our primary source of revenue from our operations. A further narrowing of interest rate spreads could adversely affect our earnings and financial condition. We cannot control or predict with certainty changes in interest rates. Regional and local economic conditions, competitive pressures and the policies of regulatory authorities, including monetary policies of the FRB, affect interest income and interest expense. Furthermore, such low rates increase the risk of a negative interest rate environment in which interest rates drop below zero, either broadly or for some types of instruments. Such an occurrence would likely further reduce the interest we earn on loans and other earning assets, while also likely requiring us to pay to maintain our deposits with the FRB. Our systems may not be able to adequately handle a negative interest rate environment and not all variable rate instruments are designed for such a circumstance.
Decreasing interest rates reduce our yield on our variable rate loans and on our new loans, which reduces our net interest income. In addition, lower interest rates may reduce our realized yields on investment securities which would reduce our net
interest income and cause downward pressure on net interest margin in future periods. A significant reduction in our net interest income could have a material adverse impact on our capital, financial condition and results of operations.
While we expect the low-interest rate environment to continue, increasing interest rates can have a negative impact on our business by reducing the amount of money our customers borrow or by adversely affecting their ability to repay outstanding loan balances that may increase due to adjustments in their variable rates. In addition, in a rising interest rate environment we may have to offer more attractive interest rates to depositors to compete for deposits, or pursue other sources of liquidity, such as wholesale funds.
We have ongoing policies and procedures designed to manage the risks associated with changes in market interest rates and actively manage these risks through hedging and other risk mitigation strategies. However, if our assumptions are wrong or overall economic conditions are significantly different than anticipated, our risk mitigation techniques may be ineffective or costly.
Changes in the cost and availability of funding due to changes in the deposit market and credit market may adversely affect our capital resources, liquidity and financial results.
In managing our consolidated balance sheet, we depend on access to a variety of sources of funding to provide us with sufficient capital resources and liquidity to meet our commitments and business needs, and to accommodate the transaction and cash management needs of our customers. In addition to core deposits, sources of funding available to us, and upon which we rely as regular components of our liquidity and funding management strategy, include borrowings from the FHLB and brokered deposits. In general, the amount, type and cost of our funding, including from other financial institutions, the capital markets and deposits, directly impacts our costs of operating our business and growing our assets and can therefore positively or negatively affect our financial results. A number of factors could make funding more difficult, more expensive or unavailable on any terms, including, but not limited to, a downgrade in our credit ratings, financial results, changes within our organization, specific events that adversely impact our reputation, disruptions in the capital markets, specific events that adversely impact the financial services industry, counterparty availability, changes affecting our assets, the corporate and regulatory structure, interest rate fluctuations, general economic conditions and the legal, regulatory, accounting and tax environments governing our funding transactions. Also, we compete for funding with other banks and similar companies, many of which are substantially larger, and have more capital and other resources than we do.
In addition to bank level liquidity management, we must manage liquidity at the Parent Company for various needs including potential capital infusions into subsidiaries, the servicing of debt, the payment of dividends on our common stock and preferred stock and share repurchases. The primary source of liquidity for us consists of dividends from Synovus Bank which are governed by certain rules and regulations of our supervising agencies. Synovus' ability to receive dividends from Synovus Bank in future periods will depend on a number of factors, including, without limitation, Synovus Bank's future profits, asset quality, liquidity, and overall condition. In addition, GA DBF rules and related statutes contain additional restrictions on payments of dividends by Synovus Bank. In particular, the Georgia Financial Institutions Code contains restrictions on the ability of a Georgia bank to pay dividends other than from retained earnings and under other circumstances without the approval of the GA DBF. As a result of these restrictions, Synovus Bank may be required to seek approval from the GA DBF to pay dividends. If Synovus does not receive dividends from Synovus Bank as needed, its liquidity could be adversely affected, and it may not be able to continue to execute its current capital plan to return capital to its shareholders. In addition to dividends from Synovus Bank, we have historically had access to a number of alternative sources of liquidity, including the capital markets, but there is no assurance that we will be able to obtain such liquidity on terms that are favorable to us, or at all. If our access to these traditional and alternative sources of liquidity is diminished or only available on unfavorable terms, then our overall liquidity and financial condition will be adversely affected.
Changes in our asset quality could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Asset quality measures the performance of a borrower in repaying a loan, with interest, on time. While we believe that we manage asset quality through prudent underwriting practices and collection operations, it is possible that our asset quality could deteriorate, depending upon economic conditions and other factors. Despite the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our asset quality generally remains strong, but further economic disruption could negatively impact asset quality in future periods, particularly as to those borrowers in certain adversely and disproportionately impacted industries including restaurants, hotels, and commercial retail.
If Synovus Bank loses or is unable to grow its deposits, it may be subject to liquidity risk and higher funding costs.
The total amount that we pay for funding costs is dependent, in part, on Synovus Bank’s ability to grow and retain its deposits. If Synovus Bank is unable to sufficiently grow and retain its deposits at competitive rates to meet liquidity needs, it may be subject to paying higher funding costs to meet these liquidity needs.
Synovus Bank competes with banks and other financial services companies for deposits. If competitors raise the rates they pay on deposits, Synovus Bank’s funding costs may increase, either because Synovus Bank raises rates to avoid losing deposits or because Synovus Bank loses deposits and must rely on more expensive sources of funding. This could result in a failure to maintain adequate liquidity and higher funding costs, reducing our net interest margin and net interest income. In addition, our access to deposits may be affected by the liquidity needs of our depositors. In particular, a substantial majority of our liabilities in 2020 were checking accounts and other liquid deposits, which are payable on demand or upon several days' notice, while by comparison, a substantial majority of our assets were loans, which cannot be called or sold in the same time frame. Moreover, our customers could withdraw their deposits in favor of alternative investments. While we have historically been able to replace maturing deposits and advances as necessary, we may not be able to replace such funds in the future, especially if a large number of our depositors seek to withdraw their accounts, regardless of the reason.
We could realize losses if we determine to sell non-performing assets and the proceeds we receive are lower than the carrying value of such assets.
Distressed asset sales have been a component of our strategy to further strengthen the balance sheet, improve asset quality, and enhance earnings. We could realize future losses if the proceeds we receive upon dispositions of non-performing assets are lower than the recorded carrying value of such assets, which could adversely affect our results of operations in future periods. Accordingly, we could realize an increased level of credit costs in any period during which we determine to dispose of an increased level of distressed assets. Further, if market conditions deteriorate, this could negatively impact our ability to dispose of distressed assets and may result in higher credit losses on sales of distressed assets.
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service all of our debt and repay maturing debt obligations.
As of December 31, 2020, we and our consolidated subsidiaries had $1.2 billion of long-term debt outstanding. Our ability to make scheduled payments of principal and interest or to satisfy our obligations in respect of our debt, to refinance our debt or to fund capital expenditures will depend on our future financial and operating performance and our ability to maintain adequate liquidity. Prevailing economic conditions (including interest rates), and regulatory constraints, including, among other things, distributions to us from our subsidiaries and required capital levels with respect to our subsidiary bank and financial subsidiaries, business and other factors, many of which are beyond our control, may also affect our ability to meet these needs. We may not be able to generate sufficient cash flows from operations, or obtain future borrowings in an amount sufficient to enable us to pay our debt, or to fund our other liquidity needs. We may need to refinance all or a portion of our debt on maturity, and we may not be able to refinance any of our debt when needed on commercially reasonable terms or at all. If our cash flow and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt obligations, we may be forced to reduce or delay investments in our business, sell assets, seek to obtain additional equity or debt financing or restructure our debt on terms that may not be favorable to us.
We may be unable to pay dividends on our common stock and preferred stock.
Holders of our common stock and preferred stock are only entitled to receive such dividends as our Board of Directors may declare out of funds legally available for such payments. Although we have historically paid a quarterly cash dividend to the holders of our common stock and preferred stock, we are not legally required to do so. Further, the Federal Reserve could decide at any time that paying any dividends on our common stock or preferred stock could be an unsafe or unsound banking practice. The reduction or elimination of dividends paid on our common stock or preferred stock could adversely affect the market price of our common stock or preferred stock, as applicable. In addition, if we fail to pay dividends on our preferred stock for six quarters, whether or not consecutive, the holders of such preferred stock shall be entitled to certain rights to elect two directors to our Board of Directors.
For a discussion of current regulatory limits on our ability to pay dividends, see "Part 1 - Item 1. Business - Supervision, Regulation, and Other Factors - Payment of Dividends" and “Part I - Item 1A - Risk Factors - Compliance and Regulatory Risk - We may become subject to supervisory actions and enhanced regulation that could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, operating flexibility, financial condition and the value of our common stock and preferred stock” in this Report for further information.
Compliance and Regulatory Risk
The fiscal and monetary policies of the federal government and its agencies could have a material adverse effect on our earnings.
The Federal Reserve Board regulates the supply of money and credit in the U.S. Its policies determine in large part the cost of funds for lending and investing and the return earned on those loans and investments, both of which affect our net interest margin. They can also materially decrease the value of financial assets we hold. Federal Reserve policies may also adversely affect borrowers, potentially increasing the risk that they may fail to repay their loans, or could adversely create asset bubbles which result from prolonged periods of accommodative policy. This, in turn, may result in volatile markets and rapidly declining collateral values. The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and other governmental policies have had a significant effect on the operating results of commercial banks in the past and are expected to continue to do so in the future. Because of changing conditions in the national and international economies and in the money markets, as well as the result of actions by monetary and fiscal authorities, all of which are beyond our control, it is not possible to predict with certainty future changes in interest rates, deposit levels, loan demand, or the business and results of operations of Synovus and Synovus Bank, or whether changing economic conditions will have a positive or negative effect on operations and earnings. Also, potential new taxes or increased taxes on corporations generally, or on financial institutions specifically, could adversely affect our net income.
The banking industry is highly regulated, and the regulatory framework, together with any future legislative or regulatory changes, may have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
The banking industry is extensively regulated and supervised under both federal and state laws and regulations that are intended primarily for the protection of depositors, customers, federal deposit insurance funds and the banking system as a whole, not for the protection of our shareholders and creditors. We and Synovus Bank are subject to regulation and supervision by the Federal Reserve, the GA DBF, and the CFPB. The laws and regulations applicable to us govern a variety of matters, including permissible types, amounts and terms of loans and investments we may make, the maximum interest rate that may be charged, the amount of reserves Synovus Bank must hold against deposits it takes, the types of deposits Synovus Bank may accept and the rates it may pay on such deposits, maintenance of adequate capital and liquidity, changes in the control of the company and Synovus Bank, restrictions on dividends and establishment of new offices by Synovus Bank. We incur significant, recurring costs to comply with all applicable regulations and there is no guarantee that our compliance programs will ensure compliance with all applicable regulations. We must obtain approval from our regulators before engaging in certain activities, and there can be no assurance that any regulatory approvals we may require will be obtained, either in a timely manner or at all. In addition, new technologies could make regulatory compliance more challenging. Remaining compliant and receiving regulatory approvals is dependent on our ability to improve and develop our technological capabilities. Our regulators also have the ability to compel us to, or restrict us from, taking certain actions entirely, such as actions that our regulators deem to constitute an unsafe or unsound banking practice. Our failure to comply with any applicable laws or regulations, or regulatory policies and interpretations of such laws and regulations, could result in sanctions by regulatory agencies, civil money penalties or damage to our reputation, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We cannot predict whether new legislation will be enacted and, if enacted, the effect that it, or any regulations, would have on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. These changes may result in increased costs of doing business, decreased revenues and net income, may reduce our ability to effectively compete to attract and retain customers, or make it less attractive for us to continue providing certain products and services. In particular, we expect that the Biden administration and newly appointed Congress will seek to implement a reform agenda that is significantly different than that of the Trump administration. This reform agenda could include a heightened focus and scrutiny on Bank Secrecy Act/AML related compliance, the regulation of loan portfolios and credit concentrations to borrowers impacted by climate change, increased capital and liquidity and limitations on share repurchases and dividends, all of which could increase our costs and impact our business. Any future changes in federal and state law and regulations, as well as the interpretations and implementations of such laws and regulations, could affect us in substantial and unpredictable ways, including those listed above, impact the regulatory structure under which we operate, significantly increase our costs, impede the efficiency of our internal business processes, require us to increase our regulatory capital and modify our business strategy, limit our ability to pursue business opportunities in an efficient manner, or other ways that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may become subject to supervisory actions and enhanced regulation that could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, operating flexibility, financial condition and the value of our common stock and preferred stock.
Under federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the safety and soundness of insured depository institutions, state banking regulators, the Federal Reserve, and separately the FDIC as the insurer of bank deposits, each has the authority to compel or restrict certain actions on our part if any of them determine that we have insufficient capital or are otherwise operating in a manner that may be deemed to be inconsistent with safe and sound banking practices. In addition to examinations for safety and soundness, we and our subsidiaries also are subject to continuous examination by state and federal banking regulators, including the CFPB, for compliance with various laws and regulations, as well as consumer compliance initiatives. As a result of this regulatory oversight and examination process, our regulators may require us to enter into informal or formal supervisory agreements, including board resolutions, memoranda of understanding, written agreements and consent or cease and desist orders, pursuant to which we could be required to take identified corrective actions to address cited concerns, or to refrain from taking certain actions.
If we become subject to and are unable to comply with the terms of any future regulatory actions or directives, supervisory agreements, or orders, then we could become subject to additional, heightened supervisory actions and orders, possibly including consent orders, prompt corrective action restrictions and/or other regulatory actions, including prohibitions on the payment of dividends on our common stock and our preferred stock. If our regulators were to take such additional supervisory actions, then we could, among other things, become subject to significant restrictions on our ability to develop any new business, as well as restrictions on our existing business, and we could be required to raise additional capital, discontinue our share repurchase program, dispose of certain assets and liabilities within a prescribed period of time, or all of the above. The terms of any such supervisory action could have a material negative effect on our business, reputation, operating flexibility, financial condition and the value of our common stock.
We may be required to conserve capital or undertake additional strategic initiatives to improve our capital position due to changes in economic conditions or changes in regulatory capital rules.
We and Synovus Bank are required under federal law to maintain certain minimum capital levels based on ratios of capital to total assets and capital to risk-weighted assets. The required capital ratios are minimums, and the Federal Reserve may determine that a banking organization, based on its size, complexity or risk profile, must maintain a higher level of capital in order to operate in a safe and sound manner. Moreover, federal bank regulators have issued a series of guidance and rulemakings applicable to large banks. While many of these do not currently apply to us due to our asset size, these issuances could impact industry capital standards and practices in many potentially unforeseeable ways. While we currently exceed all minimum regulatory capital requirements, are considered well-capitalized under applicable rules, and believe that we maintain an appropriate capital plan, there is no guarantee that we will not need to increase our capital levels in the future.
We actively monitor economic conditions, evolving industry capital standards, and changes in regulatory standards and requirements, and engage in regular discussions with our regulators regarding capital at both Synovus and Synovus Bank. As part of our ongoing management of capital, we identify, consider, and pursue additional strategic initiatives to bolster our capital position as deemed necessary, including strategies that may be required to meet regulatory capital requirements. This includes the evaluation of share repurchase programs and dividends. The need to maintain more capital and greater liquidity than may have previously been warranted or intended could limit our business activities, including lending, and our ability to expand, either organically or through future acquisitions, and invest in technology and other growth strategies. It could also result in our taking steps to increase our capital that may be dilutive to shareholders or limit our ability to pay dividends or otherwise return capital to shareholders.
Market and Other General Risk
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted, and will likely continue to adversely impact, Synovus’ business, financial condition, liquidity, capital and results of operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created economic and financial disruptions that have adversely affected virtually all economic activity in the U.S., which in turn has adversely affected Synovus’ business, financial condition, liquidity, capital and results of operations. While we expect for the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to adversely impact our business in the near term, the extent and duration of the continued adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown and will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and outside our control. These developments include the scope, duration and severity of the pandemic (including the possibility of further surges of COVID-19), the timing and efficacy of the vaccination program in the U.S., further actions taken by governmental authorities, including future stimulus programs, in response to the
pandemic and changing behavior of our customers. It is also possible that the pandemic and its aftermath will lead to a prolonged economic slowdown or recession in the U.S. economy or the world economy in general.
In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to (i) increased unemployment and decreased consumer confidence and business generally, leading to an increased risk of delinquencies, defaults and foreclosures; (ii) sudden and significant declines, and significant increases in volatility, in financial markets; (iii) ratings downgrades, credit deterioration and defaults in many industries, including hospitality and commercial real estate; (iv) significant draws on credit lines as customers seek to increase liquidity; (v) increased spending on our business continuity efforts, which may in turn require that we further cut costs and investments in other areas; and (vi) increased risk of client disputes, litigation and governmental and regulatory scrutiny as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on market and economic conditions and actions governmental authorities take in response to those conditions. Certain industries where Synovus has credit exposure, including restaurants, hotels, and commercial retail, have been more adversely affected from the pandemic than other industries. These adverse impacts have resulted in these clients making higher than usual draws on outstanding lines of credit and, in some instances, being unable to pay their loans as they come due or decrease the value of their collateral. If these trends continue it could result in significant credit losses to Synovus.
Additionally, the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 has resulted in a number of Federal Reserve actions resulting in market interest rates declining significantly. These reductions in interests have adversely affected Synovus’ net interest income, net interest margins and profitability. Furthermore, such low rates increase the risk of a negative interest rate environment in which interest rates drop below zero, either broadly or for some types of instruments. Such an occurrence would likely further reduce the interest Synovus earns on loans and other earning assets, while also likely requiring Synovus to pay to maintain its deposits with the Federal Reserve Bank. Synovus may encounter various issues in the event of a negative interest rate environment, including, but not limited to, legal and operational risks in the implementation of negative rate indexes for certain instruments or products which are contractually bound to such rates. Synovus cannot predict the nature or timing of future changes in monetary policies in response to COVID-19 or the precise effects that they may have on Synovus’ activities and financial results.
Future government actions to mitigate the economic suffering caused by the pandemic, including the recent stimulus plan announced by the Biden administration, may not be successful or may result in increased pressure on the banking sector. Additionally, we are a certified and qualified SBA lender and provided approximately $2.9 billion in PPP loans in 2020, which constituted a significant amount of our loan growth in 2020. We are also participating in the newest round of PPP, totaling $1 billion in new requests as of February 24, 2021. These assistance efforts may adversely affect our revenue and results of operations and may make our results more difficult to forecast as the PPP forgiveness process has just begun and the timing and amount of forgiveness to which our borrowers will be entitled cannot be predicted. The PPP and other government programs in which we may participate are complex and our participation may lead to governmental and regulatory scrutiny, negative publicity and damage to our reputation. Further, Synovus has been named in lawsuits in connection with its participation in the PPP and may be named in additional lawsuits in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes to our operations, which changes may continue in the future.
Synovus has taken significant precautions to ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers, which included operating over 95% of our branches as drive-thru and appointment only branches and having approximately 90% of our non-retail team members working remotely in the early months of the pandemic. While Synovus re-opened branches for walk-in services during the third quarter of 2020 and began re-entry for non-branch personnel, Synovus continues to keep measures in place to help ensure employee and customer safety. While stay-at-home orders and other similar restrictions were largely eased or lifted in the third quarter in most of our markets, further resurgences of COVID-19 may result in such measures being re-imposed at a later time, which could disrupt our options. The pandemic may permanently alter consumer and customer behavior, including less dependence on in-person banking and increased dependence on electronic banking, all of which could reduce the efficiency of our branch network and require us to increase our investments in electronic banking products and services.
Approximately 37% of team members are also continuing to work remotely. Remote working may heighten cybersecurity, information security and operational risks and affect the productivity of our employees. Also, if a large proportion of Synovus’ key employees contract COVID-19 or are quarantined as a result of the virus, it could adversely impact Synovus’ operations and our business continuity plans may not prove successful in mitigating such impact.
Federal, state and local governments have mandated or encouraged financial services companies to make accommodations to borrowers and other customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Legal and regulatory responses to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic could result in additional regulation or restrictions affecting the conduct of our business in the future. In
addition to the potential affects from negative economic conditions noted above, Synovus instituted a program to help COVID-19 impacted customers. This program included offering payment deferment and other loan relief, as appropriate, for customers impacted by COVID-19. If these deferments and modifications are not effective in mitigating the effect of COVID-19 on Synovus’ customers, it may adversely affect its business and results of operations more substantially over a longer period of time.
Any future economic downturn could have a material adverse effect on our capital, financial condition, results of operations, and future growth.
Management continually monitors market conditions and economic factors throughout our footprint. If conditions were to worsen nationally, regionally or locally, then we could see a sharp increase in our total net charge-offs and also be required to significantly increase our allowance for credit losses. Furthermore, the demand for loans and our other products and services could decline. An increase in our non-performing assets and related increases in our provision for loan losses, coupled with a potential decrease in the demand for loans and our other products and services, could negatively affect our business and could have a material adverse effect on our capital, financial condition, results of operations and future growth. Our customers may also be adversely impacted by changes in regulatory, trade (including tariffs) and tax policies and laws, all of which could reduce demand for loans and adversely impact our borrowers’ ability to repay our loans. In addition, international economic uncertainty could also impact the U.S. financial markets by potentially suppressing stock prices, including ours, and adding to overall market volatility, which could adversely affect our business. The effects of any economic downturn could continue for many years after the downturn is considered to have ended.
Our concentrated operations in the Southeastern U.S. make us vulnerable to local economic conditions, local weather catastrophes, public health issues, and other external events, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our operations are concentrated in the Southeastern U.S. in the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. As a result, local economic conditions significantly affect the demand for loans and other products we offer to our customers (including real estate, commercial and construction loans), the ability of borrowers to repay these loans and the value of the collateral securing these loans. Economic downturns in these regions could adversely affect our currently performing loans, leading to future delinquencies or defaults and increases in our provision for credit losses.
In addition, the occurrence of events such as hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, winter storms, flooding and other large-scale weather catastrophes in and along the Gulf and the Atlantic coasts, as well as other parts of the Southeastern U.S., and further public health issues, such as pandemics or other widespread health emergencies, could adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations. Such areas could be adversely impacted by such events in those regions, the nature and severity of which are difficult to predict. Furthermore, climate change could increase the frequency and severity of these risks. These and other unpredictable external events could have an adverse effect on us in that such events could materially disrupt our operations or the ability or willingness of its customers to access the financial services offered by Synovus. These events could reduce our earnings and cause volatility in our financial results for any fiscal quarter or year and have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and/or results of operations.
Interest rates on our outstanding financial instruments might be subject to change based on developments related to LIBOR, which could adversely affect our revenue, expenses, and the value of our financial instruments.
On July 27, 2017, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates LIBOR, publicly announced that it intends to stop persuading or compelling banks to submit LIBOR rates after 2021. On November 30, 2020, a joint announcement by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and the OCC was released and included a statement that the administrator of LIBOR has announced it will consult on its intention to cease the publication of the one week and two month USD LIBOR settings immediately following the LIBOR publication on December 31, 2021, and the remaining USD LIBOR settings immediately following the LIBOR publications on June 30, 2023. In the U.S., efforts to identify a set of alternative U.S. dollar reference interest rates include proposals by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and SOFR as an alternative to LIBOR. SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash in the overnight U.S. treasury repurchase market. At this time, it is impossible to predict whether SOFR or another reference rate will become an accepted alternative to LIBOR.
The uncertainty regarding the future of LIBOR as well as the transition from LIBOR to another benchmark rate or rates is complex and could have a range of adverse effects on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In particular, any such transition could:
•adversely affect the interest rates paid or received on, and the revenue and expenses associated with, and the value of Synovus’ floating rate obligations, loans, deposits, derivatives and other financial instruments tied to LIBOR rates, or other securities or financial arrangements given LIBOR’s role in determining market interest rates globally;
•prompt inquiries or other actions from regulators in respect of our preparation and readiness for the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative reference rate;
•result in disputes, litigation or other actions with counterparties regarding the interpretation and enforceability of certain fallback language, or the absence of such language, in LIBOR-based instruments, including securities, derivatives, and loans;
•result in customer uncertainty and disputes around how variable rates should be calculated in light of the foregoing, thereby damaging our reputation and resulting in a loss of customers and additional costs to us; and
•require the transition to or development of appropriate systems and analytics to effectively transition Synovus’ risk management processes from LIBOR-based products to those based on the applicable alternative pricing benchmark, such as SOFR.
The manner and impact of this transition, as well as the effect of these developments on Synovus’ funding costs, loan, and investment and trading securities portfolios, asset liability management and business are uncertain.
Changes in tax laws and interpretations and tax challenges may affect our earnings negatively.
The enactment of Federal Tax Reform has had, and is expected to continue to have, far reaching and significant effects on us, our customers and the U.S. economy. Further, U.S. tax authorities may at any time clarify and/or modify by legislation, administration or judicial changes or interpretations the income tax treatment of corporations. Such changes could adversely affect us, either directly or as a result of the effects on our customers.
In the course of our business, we are sometimes subject to challenges from taxing authorities, including the IRS, individual states and municipalities, regarding amounts due. These challenges may result in adjustments to the timing or amount of taxable income or deductions or allocation of income among tax jurisdictions, all of which may require a greater provisioning for taxes or otherwise affect earnings negatively.
The soundness of other financial institutions could adversely affect us.
Our ability to engage in routine funding and other transactions could be adversely affected by the actions and commercial soundness of other financial institutions. Financial services institutions are interrelated as a result of trading, clearing, counterparty or other relationships. Defaults by, or even rumors or questions about, one or more financial services institutions, or the financial services industry generally, have led to market-wide liquidity problems and losses of depositor, creditor and counterparty confidence and could lead to losses or defaults by us or by other institutions. We could experience increases in deposits and assets as a result of other banks’ difficulties or failure, which would increase the capital we need to support our growth.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We and our subsidiaries own or lease all of the real property and/or buildings in which we operate our business. We believe that our properties are suitable for the purposes of our operations.
As of December 31, 2020, we and our subsidiaries owned 186 facilities encompassing 1,881,699 square feet and leased from third parties 125 facilities encompassing 1,188,159 square feet. The owned and leased facilities are primarily comprised of office space from which we conduct our business in our headquarters in Columbus, Georgia and throughout our footprint.
See "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 6 - Premises, Equipment and Software" of this Report for further information.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
See "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Note 16 - Commitments and Contingencies" of this Report.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER REPURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Shares of our common stock are traded on the NYSE under the symbol “SNV.”
As of February 24, 2021, there were 148,644,483 shares of Synovus common stock issued and outstanding and 10,751 shareholders of record of Synovus common stock, some of which are holders in nominee name for the benefit of a number of different shareholders.
Subject to the approval of the Board of Directors and applicable regulatory requirements, Synovus expects to continue its policy of paying regular cash dividends on a quarterly basis. A discussion of certain limitations on the ability of Synovus Bank to pay dividends to Synovus and the ability of Synovus to pay dividends on its common stock is set forth in "Part 1 - Item 1. Business - Supervision, Regulation, and Other Factors - Payment of Dividends" of this Report.
Stock Performance Graph
The following graph compares the yearly percentage change in cumulative shareholder return on Synovus stock with the cumulative total return of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the KBW Regional Bank Index for the last five fiscal years (assuming a $100 investment on December 31, 2015 and reinvestment of all dividends).
|Table 2 - Stock Performance|
|Synovus||$||100 ||$||128.77 ||$||152.30 ||$||103.96 ||$||131.64 ||$||116.02 |
|Standard & Poor's 500 Index||100 ||111.95 ||136.38 ||130.39 ||171.44 ||202.96 |
|KBW Regional Bank Index||100 ||139.12 ||141.63 ||116.86 ||144.76 ||132.18 |
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Synovus did not repurchase any shares of common stock during the fourth quarter of 2020.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
Part II, Item 6 is no longer required as Synovus has adopted certain provisions within the amendments to Regulation S-K that eliminate Item 301.
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following financial review provides a discussion of Synovus' financial condition, changes in financial condition, and results of operations as well as a summary of Synovus' critical accounting policies. This section should be read in conjunction with the audited consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes included in "Part II - Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data" of this Report.
Economic Environment and Recent Events
The U.S. economy contracted in the first half of 2020, ending the longest expansionary period in U.S. history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During March 2020, in an effort to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on consumers and businesses, the Federal Reserve reduced the federal funds rate 1.5 percentage points to 0.00 to 0.25 percent and the U.S. government enacted the CARES Act, the largest economic stimulus package in the nation’s history. The U.S. economy began to recover somewhat during the third quarter of 2020. On December 27, 2020, the U.S government amended the CARES Act through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, to add additional stimulus relief to mitigate the continued impacts of the pandemic. While certain financial and economic metrics suggest improving economic conditions, uncertainty remains regarding the trajectory of the economic recovery, the impact of government stimulus, the success of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the effects of the change in presidential and congressional administrations.
Synovus responded to the pandemic, beginning in March 2020, supporting our customers, team members, and communities with such measures as remote work capabilities and branch service enhancements; COVID-19 related bonus payments and benefits for team members directly impacted by the virus; payment deferments on approximately $6 billion of our loan portfolio during the second quarter; and accelerated investments in several technology initiatives that provided more convenience and a better digital experience as customers adapted to this highly virtual environment. Synovus is participating in the PPP and funded close to 19,000 loans totaling nearly $2.9 billion during the second quarter. Synovus is also participating in the newest round of PPP, with over 8,000 loan applications submitted, totaling $1 billion in new requests as of February 24, 2021. Additionally, although the vast majority of our customers were no longer in a deferment program at the end of the year, we continued to work with our borrowers who have been impacted by the pandemic, largely concentrated in hospitality related segments including hotels and full-service restaurants. In our communities, we responded with financial contributions to more than a dozen organizations for pandemic relief efforts, matching contributions for COVID-19 donations to the American Red Cross, and meal donations for first responders and health care workers.
We announced Synovus Forward in January 2020, a plan to add $100 million pre-tax benefit by the end of 2021 through a combination of revenue and expense initiatives. Our expense initiatives included reductions in third-party spend of $25 million; branch rationalization with 13 branches consolidated during 2020, with $5 million in savings; and organizational staffing efficiencies, with a voluntary early retirement program and back-office staffing optimization, with $13 million in benefit in 2021. Our revenue initiatives included market-based repricing of our treasury and payment solutions offerings, with an anticipated benefit of $9 million in the first half of 2021; aggressive repricing of deposits; a commercial analytics program; and significant improvements in our digital capabilities. In January 2021, we announced an expected additional $75 million benefit to be achieved by year-end 2022, with benefits from both revenue and expense initiatives, with a heavier weight toward revenues.
In December, an executive transition plan was announced, and Kevin Blair was named to Synovus' Board of Directors, effective immediately. In April 2021, Chairman and CEO Kessel Stelling will transition into the role of Executive Chairman and Mr. Blair will succeed Mr. Stelling as CEO.
Overview of 2020 Financial Results
Net income available to common shareholders for 2020 was $340.5 million, a decrease of 37% compared to $540.9 million for 2019. Net income per diluted common share was $2.30 in 2020 and $3.47 in 2019. Adjusted net income available to common shareholders(1) for 2020 was $356.7 million, or $2.41 per diluted common share, a decrease of 41% and 38%, respectively, compared to $608.5 million, or $3.90 per diluted common share, for 2019. The year-over-year decline in adjusted net income per common share was impacted by deterioration in the economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and driven by a significant increase in provision for credit losses following the adoption of CECL on January 1, 2020, significant decline in the federal funds rate, and PAA including loan discount accretion and deposit premium amortization that positively impacted 2019.
Net interest income for 2020 was $1.51 billion, down $83.1 million, or 5%, from $1.60 billion in 2019 due to declines of $87.3 million in PAA (primarily comprised of declines of $43.8 million of deposit premium amortization and $40.5 million of loan accretion) associated with the FCB acquisition and declines in market interest rates, which were somewhat offset by higher
average earning assets including the impact of PPP with recognition of $46.0 million in processing fees. The net interest margin was 3.18% for 2020, a decrease of 52 basis points from 3.70% in 2019, due primarily to the decline in market interest rates in addition to 21 basis points from declines in PAA. Excluding the impact from PPP, we expect modest downward pressure in the net interest margin in the first quarter of 2021, as further reductions in cost of funds are more than offset by continued fixed-rate asset repricing.
Non-interest revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $506.5 million, up $150.6 million, or 42%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. Adjusted non-interest revenue(1), which excludes net investment securities gains (losses) and gain on sale and net changes in fair value of private equity investments, was $422.8 million, up $70.9 million, or 20%, compared to 2019, due primarily to strong growth in mortgage banking income with record production driven by the interest rate environment. We expect more normalized secondary mortgage banking revenue in 2021.
Non-interest expense for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $1.18 billion, an increase of $80.6 million, or 7%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. During 2020, Synovus recognized a $44.9 million non-cash goodwill impairment charge representing the goodwill allocated to the Consumer Mortgage reporting unit. Adjusted non-interest expense(1), which excludes goodwill impairment, restructuring charges, loss on early extinguishment of debt, earnout liability adjustments, merger-related expense and certain other items, for 2020 increased $68.9 million, or 7%, compared to 2019. The increase in adjusted expense was largely driven by mortgage production commissions, expense associated with Synovus' internal revenue growth and efficiency initiatives, PPP and COVID-19 related expenses, and investments in talent and technology. The efficiency ratio-FTE for 2020 was 58.32% compared to 56.22% in 2019, and the adjusted tangible efficiency ratio was 55.74% compared to 51.82% in 2019.