ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
December 31, 2019
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number: 001-31343
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
433 Main Street
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (920) 491-7500
SECURITIES REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OF THE ACT:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common stock, par value $0.01 per share
The New York Stock Exchange
Depositary Shrs, each representing 1/40th intrst in a shr of 6.125% Non-Cum. Perp Pref Stock, Srs C
The New York Stock Exchange
Depositary Shrs, each representing 1/40th intrst in a shr of 5.375% Non-Cum. Perp Pref Stock, Srs D
The New York Stock Exchange
Depositary Shrs, each representing 1/40th intrst in a shr of 5.875% Non-Cum. Perp Pref Stock, Srs E
The New York Stock Exchange
SECURITIES REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(g) OF THE ACT:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Yesþ No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.
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.
Yesþ 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).
Yesþ No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).
Yes ☐ No þ
As of June 30, 2019, (the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter) the aggregate market value of the voting stock held by nonaffiliates of the registrant was approximately $3,375,478,000. This excludes approximately $63,196,000 of market value representing the outstanding shares of the registrant owned by all directors and officers who may be deemed affiliates. This includes approximately $59,863,000 of market value representing 1.74% of the outstanding shares of the registrant held in a fiduciary capacity by the trust company subsidiary of the registrant.
As of February 6, 2020, 156,455,138 shares of common stock were outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant's Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting of Shareholders to held on April 28, 2020 are incorporated by reference in this Form 10-K into Part III.
The following listing provides a reference of common acronyms and abbreviations used throughout the document:
2017 Incentive Compensation Plan
Associated Benefits and Risk Consulting
Allowance for Credit Losses
Acquisition, Development, or Construction
Asset / Liability Committee
Anderson Insurance and Investment Agency, Inc.
Accounting Standards Codification
Associated / Corporation / our / us / we
Associated Banc-Corp collectively with all of its subsidiaries and affiliates
Associated Bank / the Bank
Associated Bank, National Association
Accounting Standards Update
Bank Mutual Corporation
International framework established by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for the regulation of capital and liquidity
Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended
Bank Secrecy Act
Certificates of Deposit
Core Deposit Intangibles
Current Expected Credit Losses
Common Equity Tier 1
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities
Collateralized Mortgage Obligations
Community Reinvestment Act
Deposit Insurance Fund
Diversified Insurance Solutions
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
Department of Labor
Deferred Tax Assets
Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation
Earnings at Risk
Economic Growth Act
Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act
Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended
Financial Accounting Standards Board
United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act
Federal Reserve Board / Federal Reserve / FRB
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Federal Family Education Loan Program
Federal Home Loan Bank
Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation
Fixed Income Clearing Corporation
Financing Corporation, established by the Competitive Equality Banking Act of 1987
Fair Isaac Corporation score, a broad-based risk score to aid in credit decisions
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
First Staunton Bancshares, Incorporated
Federal National Mortgage Association
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Funds Transfer Pricing
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles
Government National Mortgage Association
The Huntington National Bank, a subsidiary of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated
High Volatility Commercial Real Estate
Insured Depository Institutions
London Interbank Offered Rate
Mortgage Servicing Asset
Mortgage Servicing Rights
Market Value of Equity
Net Free Funds
Noninterest-bearing sources of funds
Net Interest Income
New York Stock Exchange
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Other Comprehensive Income
Other Real Estate Owned
Associated Banc-Corp individually
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001
Retirement Account Plan - the Corporation's noncontributory defined benefit retirement plan
Securities sold under agreements to repurchase
Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
Restricted Stock Awards
Restricted common stock and restricted common stock units to certain key employees
Retirement Eligible Colleagues
Colleagues whose retirement meets the early retirement or normal retirement definitions under the 2017 Plan
Standard & Poor's
Suspicious Activity Reports
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Securities Act of 1933, as amended
Series C Preferred Stock
The Corporation's 6.125% Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series C, liquidation preference $1,000 per share
Series D Preferred Stock
The Corporation's 5.375% Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series D, liquidation preference $1,000 per share
Series E Preferred Stock
The Corporation's 5.875% Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series E, liquidation preference $1,000 per share
Secured Overnight Finance Rate
U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
Truth in Lending Act
Troubled Asset Relief Program ("TARP") warrants
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This document, including the documents that are incorporated by reference, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21E of the Exchange Act. You can identify forward-looking statements by words such as "may," "should," "expect," "plan," "anticipate," "intend," "believe," "estimate," "predict," "potential," "continue," "could," "future," "outlook," or the negative of those terms or other words of similar meaning. You should read statements that contain these words carefully because they discuss our future expectations or state other "forward-looking" information. Such forward-looking statements may relate to our financial condition, results of operations, plans, objectives, future performance, or business and are based upon the beliefs and assumptions of our management and the information available to our management at the time these disclosures are prepared. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that we may not be able to accurately predict or control and our actual results may differ materially from those we described in our forward-looking statements. Shareholders should be aware that the occurrence of the events discussed under the heading Risk Factors in this document, and in the information incorporated by reference herein, could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition. These factors, many of which are beyond our control, include the following.
•Credit risks, including changes in economic conditions and risk relating to our allowance for credit losses.
•Liquidity and interest rate risks, including the impact of capital market conditions and changes in monetary policy on our borrowings and net interest income.
•Operational risks, including processing, information systems, cybersecurity, vendor problems, business interruption, and fraud risks.
•Strategic and external risks, including economic, political, and competitive forces impacting our business.
•Legal, compliance, and reputational risks, including regulatory and litigation risks.
•The risk that our analyses of these risks and forces could be incorrect and / or that the strategies developed to address them could be unsuccessful.
For a discussion of these and other risks that may cause actual results to differ from expectations, please refer to the Risk Factors section of this document. The forward-looking statements contained or incorporated by reference in this document relate only to circumstances as of the date on which the statements are made. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.
Associated Banc-Corp is a bank holding company registered pursuant to the BHC Act. Our bank subsidiary, Associated Bank traces its history back to the founding of the Bank of Neenah in 1861. We were incorporated in Wisconsin in 1964 and were inactive until 1969 when permission was received from the Federal Reserve Board to acquire three banks. At December 31, 2019, we owned one nationally chartered commercial bank headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which serves local communities across the upper Midwest, one nationally chartered trust company headquartered in Wisconsin, and 12 limited purpose banking and nonbanking subsidiaries either located in or conducting business primarily in our three-state footprint (Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota) that are closely related or incidental to the business of banking or financial in nature. Measured by total assets reported at December 31, 2019, we are the largest commercial bank holding company headquartered in Wisconsin and one of the top 50, publicly traded, bank holding companies headquartered in the U.S.
Through Associated Bank and various nonbanking subsidiaries, we provide a broad array of banking and nonbanking products and services to individuals and businesses through 248 banking branches at December 31, 2019 serving more than 120 communities, primarily within our three state branch footprint. Our business is primarily relationship-driven and is organized into three reportable segments: Corporate and Commercial Specialty; Community, Consumer, and Business; and Risk Management and Shared Services.
See Note 21 Segment Reporting of the notes to consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, for additional information concerning our reportable segments.
We are not dependent upon a single or a few customers, the loss of which would have a material adverse effect on us.
At December 31, 2019, we had 4,669 full-time equivalent employees. None of our employees are represented by unions.
The financial services industry is highly competitive. We compete for loans, deposits, and financial services in all of our principal markets. We compete directly with other bank and nonbank institutions located within our markets, internet-based banks, out-of-market banks and bank holding companies that advertise or otherwise serve our markets, money market funds and other mutual funds, brokerage houses, and various other financial institutions. Additionally, we compete with insurance companies, leasing companies, regulated small loan companies, credit unions, governmental agencies and commercial entities offering financial services products, including nonbank lenders and so-called financial technology companies. Competition involves, among other things, efforts to retain current customers and to obtain new loans and deposits, the scope and types of services offered, interest rates paid on deposits and charged on loans, as well as other aspects of banking. We also face direct competition from subsidiaries of bank holding companies that have far greater assets and resources than ours.
Supervision and Regulation
The Corporation and its banking and nonbanking subsidiaries are subject to extensive regulation and oversight both at the federal and state levels. The following is an overview of the statutory and regulatory framework that affects the business of the Corporation and our subsidiaries.
Bank Holding Company Act Requirements
As a registered bank holding company under the BHC Act, we are regulated, supervised, and examined by the Federal Reserve. In connection with applicable requirements, bank holding companies file periodic reports and other information with the Federal Reserve. The BHC Act also governs the activities that are permissible for bank holding companies and their affiliates and permits the Federal Reserve, in certain circumstances, to issue cease and desist orders and other enforcement actions against bank holding companies and their nonbanking affiliates to correct and curtail unsafe or unsound banking practices. Under the Dodd-Frank Act and longstanding Federal Reserve policy, bank holding companies are required to act as a source of financial strength to each of their banking subsidiaries pursuant to which such holding company may be required to commit financial resources to support such subsidiaries in circumstances when, absent such requirements, they might not otherwise do so. The BHC Act further regulates holding company activities, including requirements and limitations relating to capital, transactions with officers, directors and affiliates, securities issuances, dividend payments, inter-affiliate liabilities, extensions of credit, and expansion through mergers and acquisitions.
The BHC Act allows certain qualifying bank holding companies that elect treatment as “financial holding companies” to engage in activities that are financial in nature and that explicitly include the underwriting and sale of insurance. The Parent Company thus far has not elected to be treated as a financial holding company. Bank holding companies that have not elected such treatment generally must limit their activities to banking activities and activities that are closely related to banking.
Regulation of Associated Bank and Trust Company Subsidiaries
Associated Bank and our nationally chartered trust company subsidiary are regulated, supervised and examined by the OCC. The OCC has primary supervisory and regulatory authority over the operations of Associated Bank and the Corporation's trust company subsidiaries. As part of this authority, Associated Bank and our trust company subsidiaries are required to file periodic reports with the OCC and are subject to regulation, supervision and examination by the OCC. To support its supervisory function, the OCC has the authority to assess and charge fees on all national banks according to a set fee schedule. On November 25, 2019, the OCC announced that it will reduce the rates in all fee schedules by 10 percent for the 2020 calendar year, thus reducing the assessment fees that Associated Bank will pay in 2020.
Associated Bank, our only subsidiary that accepts insured deposits, is also subject to examination by the FDIC. We are subject to the enforcement and rule-making authority of the CFPB regarding consumer financial products. The CFPB has the authority to create and enforce consumer protection rules and regulations and has the power to examine us for compliance with such rules and regulations. The CFPB also has the authority to prohibit “unfair, deceptive or abusive” acts and practices. The CFPB has examination and enforcement authority over all banks with more than $10 billion in assets, such as Associated Bank. The Dodd-Frank Act weakens the federal preemption available for national banks and gives broader rights to state attorneys general to enforce certain federal consumer protection laws. On May 24, 2018, the President signed into law the Economic Growth Act, which repealed or modified several important provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. Among other things, the Economic Growth Act raises the total asset thresholds to $250 billion for Dodd-Frank Act annual company-run stress testing, leverage limits, liquidity requirements, and resolution planning requirements for bank holding companies, subject to the ability of the Federal Reserve to apply such requirements to institutions with assets of $100 billion or more to address financial stability risks or safety and soundness concerns. On October 10, 2019, the OCC adopted a final rule implementing portions of the Economic Growth Act, which, among other things, raises the minimum threshold for national banks to conduct stress tests from $10 billion to $250 billion. As a result of the final rule, which was effective as of November 24, 2019, the Bank is no longer subject to Dodd-Frank Act stress testing requirements.
The Economic Growth Act also enacted several important changes in some technical compliance areas, for which the banking agencies have now issued certain corresponding guidance documents and/or proposed or final rules, including:
•Prohibiting federal banking regulators from imposing higher capital standards on HVCRE exposures unless they are for ADC, and clarifying ADC status;
•Requiring the federal banking agencies to amend the Liquidity Coverage Ratio Rule such that all qualifying investment-grade, liquid and readily-marketable municipal securities are treated as level 2B liquid assets, making them more attractive investment alternatives;
•Exempting from appraisal requirements certain transactions involving real property in rural areas and valued at less than $400,000; and
•Directing the CFPB to provide guidance on the applicability of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule to mortgage assumption transactions and construction-to-permanent home loans, as well the extent to which lenders can rely on model disclosures that do not reflect recent regulatory changes.
We are required to obtain prior Federal Reserve approval before acquiring more than 5% of the voting shares, or substantially all of the assets, of a bank holding company, bank or savings association. In addition, the prior approval of the OCC is required for a national bank to merge with another bank or purchase the assets or assume the deposits of another bank. In determining whether to approve a proposed bank acquisition, federal bank regulators will consider, among other factors, the effect of the acquisition on competition, the public benefits expected to be received from the acquisition, the projected capital ratios and levels on a post-acquisition basis, and the acquiring institution’s record of addressing the credit needs of the communities it serves, including the needs of low and moderate income neighborhoods, consistent with the safe and sound operation of the bank, under the CRA. See the Risk Factors section for a more extensive discussion of this topic.
Banking Subsidiary Dividends
The Parent Company is a legal entity separate and distinct from the Bank and other nonbanking subsidiaries. A substantial portion of our cash flow comes from dividends paid to us by Associated Bank. The OCC’s prior approval of the payment of dividends by Associated Bank to the Parent Company is required only if the total of all dividends declared by the Bank in any calendar year exceeds the sum of the Bank’s retained net income for that year and its retained net income for the preceding two calendar years, less any required transfers to surplus. Federal law also prohibits national banks from paying dividends that would be greater than the bank’s undivided profits after deducting statutory bad debt in excess of the bank’s allowance for loan losses. In addition, under the FDICIA, an insured depository institution, such as the Bank, is prohibited from making capital distributions, including the payment of dividends, if, after making such distribution, the institution would become “undercapitalized” (as such term is used in the FDICIA).
Holding Company Dividends
In addition, we and the 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 appropriate federal regulatory authority is authorized to determine under certain circumstances relating to the financial condition of a bank or bank holding
company that the payment of dividends would be an unsafe or unsound practice and to prohibit payment thereof. Under the Dodd-Frank Act and the requirements of the FRB, the Parent Company, as a bank holding company, is required to serve as a source of financial strength to the Bank and to commit resources to support the Bank. In addition, consistent with its “source of strength” policy, the FRB has stated that, as a matter of prudent banking, a bank holding company should not maintain a level of cash dividends to its shareholders that places undue pressure on the capital of its bank subsidiaries, or that can be funded only through additional borrowings or other arrangements that may undermine the bank holding company’s ability to serve as a source of strength. The appropriate federal regulatory authorities have indicated that paying dividends that deplete a bank’s capital base to an inadequate level would be an unsafe and unsound banking practice and that banking organizations should generally pay dividends only out of current operating earnings.
We are subject to various regulatory capital requirements both at the Parent Company and at the Bank level administered by the Federal Reserve and the OCC, respectively. Failure 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 financial condition and results of operations. Under capital adequacy guidelines and the regulatory framework for prompt corrective action (described below), we must meet specific capital guidelines that involve quantitative measures of our assets, liabilities, and certain off-balance sheet items as calculated under regulatory accounting policies. Our capital amounts and classification are also subject to judgments by the regulators regarding qualitative components, risk weightings, and other factors. We have consistently maintained regulatory capital ratios at or above the well capitalized standards.
In July 2013, the Federal Reserve and the OCC issued final rules establishing a new comprehensive capital framework for U.S. banking organizations. These rules implemented certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act and Basel III. The final rules seek to strengthen the components of regulatory capital, increase risk-based capital requirements, and make selected changes to the calculation of risk-weighted assets. The final rules, among other things:
•revise minimum capital requirements and adjust prompt corrective action thresholds;
•revise the components of regulatory capital and create a new capital measure called “Common Equity Tier 1,” which must constitute at least 4.5% of risk-weighted assets;
•specify that Tier 1 capital consists only of Common Equity Tier 1 and certain “Additional Tier 1 Capital” instruments meeting specified requirements;
•apply most deductions / adjustments to regulatory capital measures to Common Equity Tier 1 and not to other components of capital, potentially requiring higher levels of Common Equity Tier 1 in order to meet minimum ratio requirements;
•increase the minimum Tier 1 capital ratio requirement from 4% to 6%;
•retain the existing risk-based capital treatment for 1-4 family residential mortgage exposures;
•permit most banking organizations, including the Parent Company, to retain, through a one-time permanent election, the existing capital treatment for accumulated other comprehensive income;
•implement a new capital conservation buffer of Common Equity Tier 1 capital equal to 2.5% of risk-weighted assets, which will be in addition to the 4.5% Common Equity Tier 1 capital ratio and be phased in over a three year period beginning January 1, 2016. This buffer is generally required to make capital distributions and pay executive bonuses;
•increase capital requirements for past due loans, high volatility commercial real estate exposures, and certain short-term loan commitments;
•require the deduction of mortgage servicing assets and deferred tax assets that exceed 10% of Common Equity Tier 1 capital in each category and 15% of Common Equity Tier 1 capital in the aggregate; and
•remove references to credit ratings consistent with the Dodd-Frank Act and establish due diligence requirements for securitization exposures.
In November 2017, the federal banking agencies adopted a final rule to extend the regulatory capital treatment applicable during 2017 under the capital rules for certain items, including regulatory capital deductions, risk weights, and certain minority interest limitations. The relief provided under the final rule applies to banking organizations that are not subject to the capital rule's advanced approaches, such as the Corporation. Specifically, the final rule extends the 2017 regulatory capital treatment of MSAs and DTAs arising from temporary differences that could not be realized through net operating loss carrybacks,
significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions in the form of common stock, non-significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions, significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions that are not in the form of common stock, and common equity tier 1 minority interest, tier 1 minority interest, and total capital minority interest exceeding the capital rules’ minority interest limitations.
In July 2019, the federal banking agencies issued a final rule simplifying aspects of the capital rule, the key elements of which apply solely to banking organizations that are not subject to the advanced approaches capital rule. Under the final rule, banking organizations which are not subject to the advanced approaches capital rule, such as the Corporation, will be subject to simpler regulatory capital requirements for MSAs, certain DTAs arising from temporary differences, and investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions, compared to those currently applied. The final rule also simplifies the calculation for the amount of capital issued by a consolidated subsidiary of a banking organization and held by third parties (sometimes referred to as a minority interest) that is includable in regulatory capital.
Specifically, the final rule eliminates: (i) the capital rule’s 10 percent common equity tier 1 capital deduction threshold that applies individually to MSAs, temporary difference DTAs, and significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions in the form of common stock; (ii) the aggregate 15 percent common equity tier 1 capital deduction threshold that subsequently applies on a collective basis across such items; (iii) the 10 percent common equity tier 1 capital deduction threshold for non-significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions; and (iv) the deduction treatment for significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions not in the form of common stock. The capital rule will no longer have distinct treatments for significant and non-significant investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions, but instead will require that banking organizations not subject to the advanced approaches capital rule deduct from common equity tier 1 capital any amount of MSAs, temporary difference DTAs, and investments in the capital of unconsolidated financial institutions that individually exceeds 25 percent of common equity tier 1 capital. The final rule will be effective on April 1, 2020, and supersedes the transition rule the federal banking agencies adopted in 2017 to allow banking organizations not subject to the advanced approaches capital rule to continue to apply the transition treatment in effect in 2017.
In December 2019, the federal banking agencies issued a final rule on the capital treatment of HVCRE exposures which brought the regulatory definition of HVCRE exposure in line with the statutory definition of HVCRE ADC in the Economic Growth Act. The final rule also clarifies the capital treatment for loans that finance the development of land under the revised HVCRE exposure definition and establishes the requirements for certain exclusions from HVCRE exposures capital treatment.
We believe we will continue to exceed all capital requirements necessary to be deemed “well-capitalized” for all regulatory purposes under these new rules on a fully phased-in basis. For further detail on capital and capital ratios see discussion under the Liquidity and Capital sections under Part II, Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and under Part II, Item 8, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, Note 19 Regulatory Matters of the notes to consolidated financial statements.
In December 2017, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision published the last version of the Basel III accord, generally referred to as “Basel IV.” The Basel Committee stated that a key objective of the revisions incorporated into the framework is to reduce excessive variability of risk-weighted assets, which will be accomplished by enhancing the robustness and risk sensitivity of the standardized approaches for credit risk and operational risk. This will facilitate the comparability of banks’ capital ratios, constraining the use of internally modeled approaches, and complementing the risk-weighted capital ratio with a finalized leverage ratio and a revised and robust capital floor. Leadership of the Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC, who are tasked with implementing Basel IV, supported the revisions. Under the current U.S. capital rules, operational risk capital requirements and a capital floor apply only to advanced approaches institutions, and not to the Corporation. The impact of Basel IV on us will depend on the manner in which it is implemented by the federal bank regulators.
Current Expected Credit Loss Treatment
In June 2016, the FASB issued an accounting standard update, “Financial Instruments-Credit Losses (Topic 326), Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments,” which replaces the current “incurred loss” model for recognizing credit losses with an “expected loss” model referred to as the CECL model. Under the CECL model, we will be required to present certain financial assets carried at amortized cost, such as loans held for investment and held-to-maturity debt securities, at the net amount expected to be collected. The measurement of expected credit losses is to be based on information about past events, including historical experience, current conditions, and reasonable and supportable forecasts that affect the collectability of the reported amount. On December 21, 2018, the federal banking agencies approved a final rule modifying their regulatory capital rules and providing an option to phase in over a period of three years the day-one regulatory capital effects of the CECL model. The final rule also revises the agencies’ other rules to reflect the update to the accounting standards. The final rule took effect April 1, 2019.
The new CECL standard will become effective for us for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019 and for interim periods within those fiscal years. We expect to recognize a one-time cumulative-effect adjustment to retained earnings as of the beginning of the first reporting period in which we adopt the new standard, consistent with regulatory expectations set forth in interagency guidance issued at the end of 2016. We incurred transition costs and also expect to incur ongoing costs in maintaining the additional CECL models and methodology along with acquiring forecasts used within the models, and that the methodology will result in increased capital costs upon initial adoption as well as over time.
In October 2019, four federal banking agencies issued a request for comment on a proposed interagency policy statement on the new CECL methodology. The policy statement proposes to harmonize the agencies' policies on allowance for credit losses with the FASB's new accounting standards. Specifically, the statement (1) updates concepts and practices from prior policy statements issued in December 2006 and July 2001 and specifies which prior guidance documents are no longer relevant; (2) describes the appropriate CECL methodology, in light of Topic 326, for determining ACLs on financial assets measured at amortized cost, net investments in leases, and certain off-balance sheet credit exposures; and (3) describes how to estimate an ACL for an impaired available-for-sale debt security in line with Topic 326. The proposed policy statement would be effective at the time that each institution adopts the new standards required by the FASB. The impact at adoption is expected to have an after tax impact of a $70 million to $80 million decrease in the opening stockholders' equity balance and a corresponding 21bps to 24bps decrease to the tangible common equity ratio. See Note 1 Summary of Significant Accounting Policies of the notes to consolidated financial statements for additional information on the Corporation's impact of adoption.
Capital Planning and Stress Testing Requirements
As part of the regulatory relief provided by the Economic Growth Act, the asset threshold requiring insured depository institutions to conduct and report to their primary federal bank regulators annual company-run stress tests was raised from $10 billion to $250 billion in total consolidated assets and the requirement was made “periodic” rather than annual. Upon enactment, the Economic Growth Act also provided that bank holding companies under $100 billion in assets were no longer subject to stress testing requirements. The amended regulations also provide the Federal Reserve with discretion to subject bank holding companies with more than $100 billion in total assets to enhanced supervision. In addition, Section 214 of the Economic Growth Act and its implementing regulation prohibit the federal banking agencies from requiring the Bank to assign a heightened risk weight to certain HVCRE ADC loans as previously required under the Basel III Capital Rules. Notwithstanding these regulatory amendments, the federal banking agencies indicated through interagency guidance that the capital planning and risk management practices of institutions with total assets less than $100 billion would continue to be reviewed through the regular supervisory process. Although the Corporation will continue to monitor and stress test its capital consistent with the safety and soundness expectations of the federal regulators, the Corporation will no longer publish stress testing results as a result of the legislative and regulatory amendments.
Enforcement Powers of the Federal Banking Agencies; Prompt Corrective Action
The Federal Reserve, the OCC, and the CFPB have extensive supervisory authority over their regulated institutions, including, among other things, the power to compel higher reserves, the ability to assess civil money penalties, the ability to issue cease-and-desist or removal orders and the ability to initiate injunctive actions. In general, these enforcement actions may be initiated for violations of laws and regulations or for unsafe or unsound banking practices. Other actions or inactions by the Parent Company may provide the basis for enforcement action, including misleading or untimely reports.
Federal banking regulators are authorized and, under certain circumstances, required to take certain actions against banks that fail to meet their capital requirements. The federal banking agencies have additional enforcement authority with respect to undercapitalized depository institutions.
“Well capitalized” institutions may generally operate without supervisory restriction. “Adequately capitalized” institutions cannot normally pay dividends or make any capital contributions that would leave them undercapitalized; they cannot pay a management fee to a controlling person if, after paying the fee, they would be undercapitalized; and they cannot accept, renew or roll over any brokered deposit unless the bank has applied for and been granted a waiver by the FDIC.
We note that the Economic Growth Act provides that reciprocal deposits are not treated as brokered deposits in the case of a “well capitalized” institution that received an “outstanding” or a “good” rating on its most recent examination to the extent the amount of such deposits does not exceed the lesser of $5 billion or 20% of the bank’s total liabilities.
The federal banking agencies are required to take action to restrict the activities of an “undercapitalized,” “significantly undercapitalized,” or “critically undercapitalized” insured depository institution. Any such bank must submit a capital restoration plan that is guaranteed by the parent holding company. Until such plan is approved, it may not increase its assets, acquire another institution, establish a branch or engage in any new activities, and generally may not make capital distributions.
In certain situations, a federal banking agency may reclassify a well-capitalized institution as adequately capitalized and may require an adequately capitalized or undercapitalized institution to comply with supervisory actions as if the institution were in the next lower category.
Institutions must file a capital restoration plan with the OCC within 45 days of the date it receives a notice from the OCC that it is “undercapitalized,” “significantly undercapitalized,” or “critically undercapitalized.” Compliance with a capital restoration plan must be guaranteed by a parent holding company. In addition, the OCC is permitted to take any one of a number of discretionary supervisory actions, including but not limited to the issuance of a capital directive and the replacement of senior executive officers and directors.
Finally, bank regulatory agencies have the ability to impose higher than normal capital requirements known as individual minimum capital requirements for institutions with a high-risk profile.
At December 31, 2019, the Bank satisfied the capital requirements necessary to be deemed “well capitalized.” In the event of a change to this status, the imposition of any of the measures described above could have a material adverse effect on the Corporation and on its profitability and operations. The Corporation’s shareholders do not have preemptive rights and, therefore, if the Corporation is directed by the OCC or the FDIC to issue additional shares of common stock, such issuance may result in dilution in shareholders’ percentage of ownership of the Corporation.
Deposit Insurance Premiums
Associated Bank is a member of the FDIC and pays an insurance premium to the FDIC based upon its assessment rates on a quarterly basis. Deposits are insured up to applicable limits by the FDIC and such insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.
Under the Dodd-Frank Act, a permanent increase in deposit insurance was authorized to $250,000 per depositor, per insured depository institution for each account ownership category.
The Dodd-Frank Act also set the minimum DIF reserve ratio at 1.35% of estimated insured deposits. The FDIC is required to attain this ratio by September 30, 2020. The Dodd-Frank Act also required the FDIC to define the deposit insurance assessment base for an insured depository institution as an amount equal to the institution’s average consolidated total assets during the assessment period minus average tangible equity. The assessment rate schedule for larger institutions like Associated Bank (i.e., institutions with at least $10 billion in assets) differentiates between such large institutions by use of a “scorecard” that combines an institution’s CAMELS ratings with certain forward-looking financial information to measure the risk to the DIF. Pursuant to this “scorecard” method, two scores (a performance score and a loss severity score) will be combined and converted to an initial base assessment rate. The performance score measures an institution’s financial performance and ability to withstand stress. The loss severity score measures the relative magnitude of potential losses to the DIF in the event of the institution’s failure. Total scores are converted pursuant to a predetermined formula into an initial base assessment rate. Assessment rates range from 2.5 bp to 45 bp for large institutions. Premiums for Associated Bank are now calculated based upon the average balance of total assets minus average tangible equity as of the close of business for each day during the calendar quarter.
The FDIC has the flexibility to adopt actual rates that are higher or lower than the total base assessment rates adopted without notice and comment, if certain conditions are met.
On September 30, 2018, the DIF reserve ratio reached 1.36 percent, exceeding the statutorily required minimum reserve ratio of 1.35 percent ahead of the September 30, 2020, deadline required under the Dodd-Frank Act. FDIC regulations provide that, upon reaching the minimum, surcharges on insured depository institutions with total consolidated assets of $10 billion or more will cease. The last quarterly surcharge was reflected in the Bank’s December 2018 assessment invoice, which covered the assessment period from July 1, 2018 through September 30, 2018. The Bank's assessment invoices have not included a quarterly surcharge since that time.
Assessment rates, which declined for all banks when the reserve ratio first surpassed 1.15 percent in the third quarter of 2016, are expected to remain unchanged. Assessment rates are scheduled to decrease when the reserve ratio exceeds 2 percent.
DIF-insured institutions pay a FICO assessment in order to fund the interest on bonds issued in the 1980s in connection with the failures in the thrift industry. The FICO assessment was computed on assets as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. These assessments continued until the bonds matured in September 2019. The Corporation’s combined assessment rate for FDIC and FICO assessments was approximately 6 bps for 2019.
The FDIC is authorized to conduct examinations of and require reporting by FDIC-insured institutions. It is also authorized to terminate a depository bank’s deposit insurance upon a finding by the FDIC that the bank’s financial condition is unsafe or unsound or that the institution has engaged in unsafe or unsound practices or has violated any applicable rule, regulation, order or condition enacted or imposed by the bank’s regulatory agency. The termination of deposit insurance for our national bank subsidiary would have a material adverse effect on our earnings, operations and financial condition.
Historically, deposit insurance premiums we have paid to the FDIC have been deductible for federal income tax purposes; however, the Tax Act disallows the deduction of such premium payments for banking organizations with total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more. For banks with less than $50 billion in total consolidated assets, such as ours, the premium deduction is phased out based on the proportion of a bank’s assets exceeding $10 billion.
On December 12, 2019, the FDIC issued a proposed rule on brokered deposits. The proposed rule aims to clarify and modernize the FDIC's existing regulatory framework for brokered deposits. Notable aspects of the proposed rule include language (1) defining the operative prongs of the definition of a "deposit broker"; (2) creating three general tests to determine the applicability of the "primary purpose" exception; (3) establishing an application process for entities that wish to make use of the primary purpose exception; and (4) allowing wholly-owned subsidiaries of IDIs to make use of the "IDI" (or the "own bank") exception.
Standards for Safety and Soundness
The federal banking agencies have adopted the Interagency Guidelines for Establishing Standards for Safety and Soundness (the “Guidelines”). The Guidelines establish certain safety and soundness standards for all depository institutions. The operational and managerial standards in the Guidelines relate to the following: (1) internal controls and information systems; (2) internal audit systems; (3) loan documentation; (4) credit underwriting; (5) interest rate exposure; (6) asset growth; (7) compensation, fees and benefits; (8) asset quality; and (9) earnings. Rather than providing specific rules, the Guidelines set forth basic compliance considerations and guidance with respect to a depository institution. Failure to meet the standards in the Guidelines, however, could result in a request by the OCC to one of the nationally chartered banks to provide a written compliance plan to demonstrate its efforts to come into compliance with such Guidelines. Failure to provide a plan or to implement a provided plan requires the appropriate federal banking agency to issue an order to the institution requiring compliance.
Transactions with Affiliates and Insiders
Transactions between our national banking subsidiary and its related parties or any affiliate are governed by Sections 23A and 23B of the Federal Reserve Act. An affiliate is any company or entity, which controls, is controlled by or is under common control with the bank. In a holding company context, at a minimum, the parent holding company of a national bank, and any companies that are controlled by such parent holding company, are affiliates of the bank. Generally, Sections 23A and 23B (i) limit the extent to which an institution or its subsidiaries may engage in “covered transactions” with any one affiliate to an amount equal to 10% of such institution’s capital stock and surplus, and contain an aggregate limit on all such transactions with all affiliates to an amount equal to 20% of such capital stock and surplus, and (ii) require that all such transactions be on terms substantially the same, or at least as favorable, to the institution or subsidiary as those provided to a nonaffiliate. The term “covered transaction” includes the making of loans, purchase of assets, issuance of a guarantee and similar types of transactions. Certain types of covered transactions must be collateralized according to a schedule set forth in the statute based on the type of collateral.
Certain transactions with our directors, officers or controlling persons are also subject to conflicts of interest regulations. Among other things, these regulations require that loans to such persons and their related interests be made on terms substantially the same as for loans to unaffiliated individuals and must not create an abnormal risk of repayment or other unfavorable features for the financial institution. See Note 4 Loans of the notes to consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, for additional information on loans to related parties.
Community Reinvestment Act Requirements
Associated Bank is subject to periodic CRA reviews by the OCC. The CRA does not establish specific lending requirements or programs for financial institutions and does not limit the ability of such institutions to develop products and services believed best-suited for a particular community. An institution’s CRA assessment may be used by its regulators in their evaluation of certain applications, including a merger, acquisition or the establishment of a branch office. An unsatisfactory rating may be used as the basis for denial of such an application. The Bank received a “Satisfactory” CRA rating in its most recent evaluation.
On December 12, 2019, the FDIC and the OCC issued a proposed rule to modernize their respective agencies' regulations under the CRA. The proposed rule would (1) clarify which activities qualify for CRA credit and (2) require banks to identify an additional assessment area based on where they receive a significant portion of their domestic retail products, thus creating two assessment areas: a deposit-based assessment area and a facility-based assessment area. The Federal Reserve chose not to participate in the current proposed rulemaking which causes uncertainty as to the content and timing of any final rule.
Privacy, Data Protection, and Cybersecurity
We are subject to a number of U.S. federal, state, local and foreign laws and regulations relating to consumer privacy and data protection. Under privacy protection provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and its implementing regulations and guidance, we are limited in our ability to disclose non-public information about consumers to nonaffiliated third parties. Financial institutions, such as the Bank, are required by statute and regulation to disclose their privacy policies to consumers and, in some circumstances, allow consumers to prevent disclosure of certain personal information to a nonaffiliated third party. In addition, such financial institutions must appropriately safeguard its customers’ nonpublic, personal information.
In many jurisdictions, including every U.S. state, consumers must be notified in the event of a data breach. The changing privacy laws in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, including the California Consumer Privacy Act, which became effective in January 2020, create new individual privacy rights and impose increased obligations on companies handling personal data. In addition, multiple states, Congress and regulators outside the United States are considering similar laws or regulations which could create new individual privacy rights and impose increased obligations on companies handling personal data.
Federal banking agencies, including the OCC, have adopted guidelines for establishing information security standards and cybersecurity programs for implementing safeguards under the supervision of the board of directors. These guidelines, along with related regulatory materials, increasingly focus on risk management and processes related to information technology and the use of third parties in the provision of financial services. In October 2016, the federal banking agencies issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on enhanced cybersecurity risk-management and resilience standards that would apply to large and interconnected banking organizations and to services provided by third parties to these firms. These enhanced standards would apply only to depository institutions and depository institution holding companies with total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more, which would not currently include the Corporation.
Recent cyberattacks against banks and other financial institutions that resulted in unauthorized access to confidential customer information have prompted the federal banking regulators to issue extensive guidance on cybersecurity. Among other things, financial institutions are expected to design multiple layers of security controls to establish lines of defense and ensure that their risk management processes address the risks posed by compromised customer credentials, including security measures to authenticate customers accessing internet-based services. A financial institution also should have a robust business continuity program to recover from a cyberattack and procedures for monitoring the security of third-party service providers that may have access to nonpublic data at the institution. During 2019, the Corporation did not discover any material cybersecurity incidents.
Bank Secrecy Act / Anti-Money Laundering
The BSA, which is intended to require financial institutions to develop policies, procedures, and practices to prevent and deter money laundering, mandates that every national bank have a written, board-approved program that is reasonably designed to assure and monitor compliance with the BSA. The program must, at a minimum: (1) provide for a system of internal controls to assure ongoing compliance; (2) provide for independent testing for compliance; (3) designate an individual responsible for coordinating and monitoring day-to-day compliance; and (4) provide training for appropriate personnel. In addition, national banks are required to adopt a customer identification program as part of its BSA compliance program. National banks are also required to file SARs when they detect certain known or suspected violations of federal law or suspicious transactions related to a money laundering activity or a violation of the BSA. In May 2016, the regulations implementing the BSA were amended, effective May 2018, to explicitly include risk-based procedures for conducting ongoing customer due diligence and procedures for understanding the nature and purpose of customer relationships for the purpose of developing a customer risk profile. In addition, FinCEN recently promulgated new customer due diligence and customer identification rules that require banks to identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owners of all legal entity customers (other than those that are excluded) at the time a new account is opened (other than accounts that are exempted), which rules became effective on May 11, 2018.
In addition to complying with the BSA, the Bank is subject to the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is designed to deny terrorists and criminals the ability to obtain access to the United States’ financial system and has significant implications for depository institutions, brokers, dealers, and other businesses involved in the transfer of money. The Patriot Act mandates that financial service companies implement additional policies and procedures and take heightened measures designed to address any or all of the following matters: customer identification programs, money laundering, terrorist financing, identifying and reporting
suspicious activities and currency transactions, currency crimes, and cooperation between financial institutions and law enforcement authorities.
On December 3, 2019, three federal banking agencies and FinCEN issued a joint statement clarifying the compliance procedures and reporting requirements that banks must file for customers engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp, including a clear statement that banks need not file a SAR on customers engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. This statement does not apply to cannabis-related business; thus, the statement only pertains to customers who are lawfully growing or cultivating hemp and are not otherwise engaged in unlawful or suspicious activity.
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, national and state-chartered banks may open an initial branch in a state other than its home state (e.g., a host state) by establishing a de novo branch at any location in such host state at which a bank chartered in such host state could establish a branch. Applications to establish such branches must still be filed with the appropriate primary federal regulator.
The Dodd-Frank Act prohibits insured depository institutions and their holding companies from engaging in proprietary trading except in limited circumstances, and prohibits them from owning equity interests in excess of three percent of Tier 1 Capital in private equity and hedge funds (known as the “Volcker Rule”). On December 10, 2013, five U.S. financial regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the OCC, adopted regulations implementing the Volcker Rule. Those regulations prohibit banking entities from (1) engaging in short-term proprietary trading for their own accounts, and (2) having certain ownership interests in and relationships with hedge funds or private equity funds, which are referred to as “covered funds.” The regulations also require each regulated entity to establish an internal compliance program that is consistent with the extent to which it engages in activities covered by the Volcker Rule. Historically, this meant that the largest banking entities (i.e., those with $50 billion or more in assets) had higher reporting requirements, but in November 2019, five federal banking agencies issued a final rule revising certain aspects of the Volcker Rule. The final rule simplifies and streamlines compliance requirements for firms that do not have significant trading activities and enhances requirements for firms that do. Under the new rule, compliance requirements will be based on the amount of assets and liabilities that a bank trades. Firms with significant trading activities, i.e., those with $20 billion or more in trading assets and liabilities, will have heightened compliance obligations.
The new rule became effective on January 1, 2020, but banking entities will not be required to comply with the new rules until January 1, 2021. Although we will benefit from significantly reduced compliance obligations due to the level of our trading assets being below the $20 billion threshold, we will remain subject to the modified rules and requirements related to covered funds. Accordingly, we expect that the revised rule will reduce some of our compliance costs, but in the short term we may experience some costs in developing and implementing changes in conformance with the new rule.
Incentive Compensation Policies and Restrictions
In July 2010, the federal banking agencies issued guidance on sound incentive compensation policies that applies to all banking organizations supervised by the agencies (thereby including both the Parent Company and the Bank). Pursuant to the guidance, to be consistent with safety and soundness principles, a banking organization’s incentive compensation arrangements should: (1) provide employees with incentives that appropriately balance risk and reward; (2) be compatible with effective controls and risk management; and (3) be supported by strong corporate governance including active and effective oversight by the banking organization’s board of directors. Monitoring methods and processes used by a banking organization should be commensurate with the size and complexity of the organization and its use of incentive compensation.
In accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act, the federal banking agencies prohibit incentive-based compensation arrangements that encourage inappropriate risk taking by covered financial institutions (generally institutions that have over $1 billion in assets) and are deemed to be excessive, or that may lead to material losses.
The Federal Reserve will review, as part of its standard, risk-focused examination process, the incentive compensation arrangements of banking organizations, such as the Corporation, that are not “large, complex banking organizations.” These reviews will be tailored to each organization based on the scope and complexity of the organization’s activities and the prevalence of incentive compensation arrangements. The findings of the supervisory initiatives will be included in reports of examination. Deficiencies will be incorporated into the organization’s supervisory ratings, which can affect the organization’s ability to make acquisitions and take other actions. Enforcement actions may be taken against a banking organization if its
incentive compensation arrangements, or related risk-management control or governance processes, pose a risk to the organization’s safety and soundness and the organization is not taking prompt and effective measures to correct the deficiencies.
The scope and content of the U.S. banking regulators’ policies on executive compensation may continue to evolve in the near future. It cannot be determined at this time whether compliance with such policies will adversely affect the Corporation’s ability to hire, retain and motivate its key employees.
Consumer Financial Services Regulations
Federal and applicable state banking laws also require us to take steps to protect consumers. Bank regulatory agencies are increasingly focusing attention on compliance with consumer protection laws and regulations. These laws include disclosures regarding truth in lending, truth in savings, and funds availability.
To promote fairness and transparency for mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer financial products and services, the Dodd-Frank Act established the CFPB. This agency is responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal consumer financial laws, as defined by the Dodd-Frank Act, that, among other things, govern the provision of deposit accounts along with mortgage origination and servicing. Some federal consumer financial laws enforced by the CFPB include the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, TILA, the Truth in Savings Act, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, RESPA, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The CFPB is also authorized to prevent any institution under its authority from engaging in an unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice in connection with consumer financial products and services.
Under TILA as implemented by Regulation Z, as amended by the CFPB effective January 10, 2014, mortgage lenders are required to make a reasonable and good faith determination based on verified and documented information that a consumer applying for a mortgage loan has a reasonable ability to repay the loan according to its terms. Mortgage lenders are required to determine consumers’ ability to repay in one of two ways. The first alternative requires the mortgage lender to consider the following eight underwriting factors when making the credit decision: (1) current or reasonably expected income or assets; (2) current employment status; (3) the monthly payment on the covered transaction; (4) the monthly payment on any simultaneous loan; (5) the monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations; (6) current debt obligations, alimony, and child support; (7) the monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income; and (8) credit history. Alternatively, the mortgage lender can originate “qualified mortgages,” which are entitled to a presumption that the creditor making the loan satisfied the ability-to-repay requirements. In general, a “qualified mortgage” is a mortgage loan without negative amortization, interest-only payments, balloon payments, or terms exceeding 30 years. In addition, to be a qualified mortgage the points and fees paid by a consumer cannot exceed 3% of the total loan amount. Qualified mortgages that are “higher-priced” (e.g., subprime loans) garner a rebuttable presumption of compliance with the ability-to-repay rules, while qualified mortgages that are not “higher-priced” (e.g., prime loans) are given a safe harbor of compliance. The Corporation is predominantly an originator of compliant qualified mortgages.
Additionally, the CFPB has the authority to take supervisory and enforcement action against banks and other financial services companies under the agency’s jurisdiction that fail to comply with federal consumer financial laws. As an insured depository institution with total assets of more than $10 billion, the Bank is subject to the CFPB’s supervisory and enforcement authorities. The Dodd-Frank Act also permits states to adopt stricter consumer protection laws and state attorneys general to enforce consumer protection rules issued by the CFPB. As a result of these aspects of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bank operates in a stringent consumer compliance environment. Therefore, the Bank is likely to incur additional costs related to consumer protection compliance, including but not limited to potential costs associated with CFPB examinations, regulatory and enforcement actions and consumer-oriented litigation, which is likely to increase as a result of the consumer protection provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB has been active in bringing enforcement actions against banks and other financial institutions to enforce consumer financial laws. The federal financial regulatory agencies, including the OCC and states attorneys general, also have become increasingly active in this area with respect to institutions over which they have jurisdiction. We have incurred and may in the future incur additional costs in complying with these requirements.
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the FDIC has backup enforcement authority over a depository institution holding company, such as the Parent Company, if the conduct or threatened conduct of such holding company poses a risk to the DIF, although such authority may not be used if the holding company is generally in sound condition and does not pose a foreseeable and material risk to the DIF. The Dodd-Frank Act may have a material impact on the Corporation’s and the Bank’s operations, particularly through increased compliance costs resulting from possible future consumer and fair lending regulations. See the Risk Factors section for a more extensive discussion of this topic.
Other Banking Regulations
The Bank is also subject to a variety of other regulations with respect to the operation of its businesses, including but not limited to the Dodd-Frank Act, which among other restrictions placed limitations on the interchange fees charged for debit card transactions, TILA, Truth in Savings Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Electronic Funds Transfer Act, Fair Housing Act, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Expedited Funds Availability (Regulation CC), Reserve Requirements (Regulation D), Insider Transactions (Regulation O), Privacy of Consumer Information (Regulation P), Margin Stock Loans (Regulation U), Right To Financial Privacy Act, Flood Disaster Protection Act, Homeowners Protection Act, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, RESPA, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, CAN-SPAM Act, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act.
The laws and regulations to which we are subject are constantly under review by Congress, the federal regulatory agencies, and the state authorities. These laws and regulations could be changed drastically in the future, which could affect our profitability, our ability to compete effectively, or the composition of the financial services industry in which we compete.
Government Monetary Policies and Economic Controls
Our earnings and growth, as well as the earnings and growth of the banking industry, are affected by the credit policies of monetary authorities, including the Federal Reserve. An important function of the Federal Reserve is to regulate the national supply of bank credit in order to combat recession and curb inflationary pressures. Among the instruments of monetary policy used by the Federal Reserve to implement these objectives are open market operations in U.S. government securities, changes in reserve requirements against member bank deposits, and changes in the Federal Reserve discount rate. These instruments are used in varying combinations to influence overall growth of bank loans, investments, and deposits, and may also affect interest rates charged on loans or paid for deposits. The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve authorities have had a significant effect on the operating results of commercial banks in the past and are expected to continue to have such an effect in the future.
In view of changing conditions in the national economy and in money markets, as well as the effect of credit policies by monetary and fiscal authorities, including the Federal Reserve, it is difficult to predict the impact of possible future changes in interest rates, deposit levels, and loan demand, or their effect on our business and earnings or on the financial condition of our various customers.
Other Regulatory Authorities
In addition to regulation, supervision and examination by federal banking agencies, the Corporation and certain of its subsidiaries, including those that engage in securities brokerage, dealing and investment advisory activities, are subject to other federal and applicable state securities laws and regulations, and to supervision and examination by other regulatory authorities, including the SEC, FINRA, NYSE, DOL and others. Significantly, in June 2018 the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a mandate vacating the DOL’s “fiduciary rule” and related prohibited transaction exemptions. As a result, although the Bank may have taken certain measures to comply with the rule on a transitional basis, the Bank’s securities brokerage and investment advisory services and activities will no longer be affected.
Separately, in June 2019, pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC adopted Regulation Best Interest, which, among other things, establishes a new standard of conduct for a broker-dealer to act in the best interest of a retail customer when making a recommendation of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities to such customer. The new rule requires us to review and possibly modify our compliance activities, which is causing us to incur some additional costs. In addition, state laws that impose a fiduciary duty also may require monitoring, as well as require that we undertake additional compliance measures. In addition, the Bank’s insurance agency subsidiary is also subject to regulation and supervision in the various states in which it operates.
The Tax Act was signed into law in December 2017 and includes a number of provisions that impact us, including the following:
•Tax Rate. The Tax Act replaced the graduated corporate tax rates applicable under prior law, which imposed a maximum tax rate of 35%, with a reduced 21% flat tax rate. Although the reduced tax rate generally should be favorable to us by resulting in increased earnings and capital, it decreased the value of our then-existing deferred tax assets effective in the fourth quarter of 2017. The effect of remeasuring deferred tax assets due to the reduction in the tax rate is a nonrecurring event that generally is not expected to have a substantial adverse impact on the our core earnings or capital over the long term. Tax planning strategies relating to the 2017 tax year were implemented in 2018 which reduced the amount of the deferred tax assets at December 31, 2017, reducing the decrease in value of the deferred tax assets calculated in the fourth quarter of 2017. The Corporation has recorded and reported the effects of these strategies in its financial statements for the period ended December 31, 2018.
•FDIC Insurance Premiums. The Tax Act prohibits taxpayers with consolidated assets over $50 billion from deducting any FDIC insurance premiums and prohibits taxpayers with consolidated assets between $10 and $50 billion, such as the Bank, from deducting the portion of their FDIC premiums equal to the ratio, expressed as a percentage, that (i) the taxpayer’s total consolidated assets over $10 billion, as of the close of the taxable year, bears to (ii) $40 billion. As a result, Associated Bank’s ability to deduct its FDIC premiums is now limited.
•Employee Compensation. A “publicly held corporation” is not permitted to deduct compensation in excess of $1 million per year paid to certain employees. The Tax Act eliminated certain exceptions to the $1 million limit applicable under prior law related to performance-based compensation, such as equity grants and cash bonuses that are paid only on the attainment of performance goals. As a result, our ability to deduct certain compensation paid to our most highly compensated employees is now limited.
•Business Asset Expensing. The Tax Act allows taxpayers immediately to expense the entire cost (instead of only 50%, as under prior law) of certain depreciable tangible property and real property improvements acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before January 1, 2023 (with an additional year for certain property). This 100% “bonus” depreciation is phased out proportionately for property placed in service on or after January 1, 2023 and before January 1, 2027 (with an additional year for certain property).
•Interest Expense. The Tax Act limits a taxpayer’s annual deduction of business interest expense to the sum of (i) business interest income and (ii) 30% of “adjusted taxable income,” defined as a business’s taxable income without taking into account business interest income or expense, net operating losses, and, for 2018 through 2021, depreciation, amortization and depletion. Because we generate significant amounts of net interest income, we do not expect to be impacted by this limitation.
The foregoing description of the impact of the Tax Act on us should be read in conjunction with Note 13 Income Taxes of the notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
We file annual, quarterly, and current reports, proxy statements, and other information with the SEC. These filings are available to the public on the Internet at the SEC’s web site at www.sec.gov.
Our principal internet address is www.associatedbank.com. We make available free of charge on or through our website our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. In addition, shareholders may request a copy of any of our filings (excluding exhibits) at no cost by writing at Associated Banc-Corp, Attn: Investor Relations, 433 Main Street, Green Bay, WI 54301 or e-mailing us at email@example.com.
An investment in our common stock is subject to risks inherent to our business. The material risks and uncertainties that management believes affect us are described below. Before making an investment decision, you should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below, together with all of the other information included or incorporated by reference herein. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones facing us. Additional risks and uncertainties that management is not aware of or focused on or that management currently deems immaterial may also impair our business operations. This report is qualified in its entirety by these risk factors. See also, Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
If any of the events described in the risk factors should actually occur, our financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. If this were to happen, the value of our securities could decline significantly, and you could lose all or part of your investment.
Changes in economic and political conditions could adversely affect our earnings, as our borrowers’ ability to repay loans and the value of the collateral securing our loans decline. Our success depends, to a certain extent, upon local, national and global economic and political conditions, as well as governmental monetary policies. Conditions such as an economic recession, the impact of international trade negotiations on local and national economies, rising unemployment, changes in interest rates, money supply and other factors beyond our control may adversely affect our asset quality, deposit levels and loan demand and, therefore, our earnings. Because we have a significant amount of real estate loans, decreases in real estate values
could adversely affect the value of property used as collateral. The OCC recently reported that headwinds facing the U.S. economy strengthened during 2019, despite the continuation of the current U.S. economic expansion, noting in particular that manufacturing activity slowed more sharply than the rest of the economy. The OCC continued to note that the consensus forecast indicates that the U.S. economy will continue to slow down towards its long-run potential rate of growth, but the risk of a recession is rising. Adverse changes in the economy may have a negative effect on the ability of our borrowers to make timely repayments of their loans, which could have an adverse impact on our earnings. Consequently, declines in the economy could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in U.S. trade policies, including the imposition of tariffs and retaliatory tariffs, may adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. There continues to be discussion and dialogue regarding potential changes to U.S. trade policies, legislation, treaties and tariffs with countries such as China and the European Union. Tariffs and retaliatory tariffs have been imposed, and additional tariffs and retaliatory tariffs have been proposed. Such tariffs, retaliatory tariffs or other trade restrictions on products and materials that our customers import or export could cause the prices of our customers' products to increase, which could reduce demand for such products, or reduce our customers' margins, and adversely impact their revenues, financial results, and ability to service debt. This in turn could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, to the extent changes in the political environment have a negative impact on us or on the markets in which we operate our business, our results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely impacted in the future. It remains unclear what the U.S. government or foreign governments will or will not do with respect to tariffs already imposed, additional tariffs that may be imposed, or international trade agreements and policies.
Our allowance for loan losses may be insufficient. All borrowers have the potential to default, and our remedies in the event of such default (such as seizure and / or sale of collateral, legal actions, and guarantees) may not fully satisfy the debt owed to us. We maintain an allowance for loan losses, which is a reserve established through a provision for loan losses charged to expense, that represents management’s best estimate of probable credit losses that have been incurred within the existing portfolio of loans. The allowance for loan losses, in the judgment of management, is necessary to reserve for estimated loan losses and risks inherent in the loan portfolio. The level of the allowance for loan losses reflects management’s continuing evaluation of industry concentrations; specific credit risks; loan loss experience; current loan portfolio quality; present economic, political, and regulatory conditions; and unidentified losses inherent in the current loan portfolio. The determination of the appropriate level of the allowance for loan losses inherently involves a high degree of subjectivity and requires us to make significant estimates of current credit risks using existing qualitative and quantitative information, all of which may undergo material changes. Changes in economic conditions affecting borrowers, new information regarding existing loans, identification of additional problem loans, and other factors, both within and outside of our control, may require an increase in the allowance for loan losses. In addition, bank regulatory agencies periodically review our allowance for loan losses and may require an increase in the provision for loan losses or the recognition of additional loan charge offs, based on judgments different than those of management. An increase in the allowance for loan losses would result in a decrease in net income, and possibly risk-based capital, and could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The FASB has recently issued an accounting standard update that will result in a significant change in how we recognize credit losses and may have a material impact on our financial condition or results of operations. In June 2016, the FASB issued an accounting standard update, "Financial Instruments-Credit Losses (Topic 326), Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments," which replaces the current "incurred loss" model for recognizing credit losses with an "expected loss" model referred to as the CECL model. Under the CECL model, we will be required to present certain financial assets carried at amortized cost, such as loans held for investment and held-to-maturity debt securities, at the net amount expected to be collected. The measurement of expected credit losses is to be based on information about past events, including historical experience, current conditions, and reasonable and supportable forecasts that affect the collectability of the reported amount. This measurement will take place at the time the financial asset is first added to the balance sheet and periodically thereafter. This differs significantly from the "incurred loss" model required under current GAAP, which delays recognition until it is probable a loss has been incurred. The CECL model may create more volatility in the level of our allowance for loan losses.
On December 21, 2018, the regulatory agencies approved a final rule modifying their regulatory capital rules and providing an option to phase in over a period of three years the day-one regulatory capital effects of the CECL model. The final rule also revises the agencies' other rules to reflect the update to the accounting standards. The final rule became effective on April 1, 2019. Additionally, proposed guidance clarifying the final rule was issued in October 2019. The proposed guidance, when effective, will clarify the state of existing agency guidance and describe the appropriate CECL methodology for determining allowances for credit losses on specific assets, including net investments in leases, impaired available-for-sale debt securities, etc. The proposed guidance will become effective when each institution adopts the new standards required by the FASB.
The new CECL standard will become effective for us for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019 and for interim periods within those fiscal years. We expect to recognize a one-time cumulative-effect adjustment to our allowance for loan
losses as of the beginning of the first reporting period in which we adopt the new standard, consistent with regulatory expectations set forth in interagency guidance issued at the end of 2016. We incurred transition costs and also expect to incur ongoing costs in maintaining the additional CECL models and methodology along with acquiring forecasts used within the models, and that the methodology will result in increased capital costs upon initial adoption as well as over time. The impact at adoption is expected to have an after tax impact of $70 million to $80 million decrease in the opening stockholders' equity balance and a corresponding 21bps to 24bps decrease to the tangible common equity ratio. See Note 1 Summary of Significant Accounting Policies of the notes to consolidated financial statements for additional information on the Corporation's impact of adoption.
We are subject to lending concentration risks. As of December 31, 2019, approximately 59% of our loan portfolio consisted of commercial and industrial, real estate construction, commercial real estate loans, and lease financing (collectively, "commercial loans"). Commercial loans are generally viewed as having more inherent risk of default than residential mortgage loans or other consumer loans. Also, the commercial loan balance per borrower is typically larger than that for residential mortgage loans and other consumer loans, implying higher potential losses on an individual loan basis. Because our loan portfolio contains a number of commercial loans with balances over $25 million, the deterioration of one or a few of these loans could cause a significant increase in nonaccrual loans, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Commercial real estate lending may expose us to increased lending risks. Our policy generally has been to originate commercial real estate loans primarily in the eight states in which the Bank operates. At December 31, 2019, commercial real estate loans, including owner occupied, investor, and real estate construction loans, totaled $6.1 billion, or 27%, of our total loan portfolio. As a result of our growth of this portfolio in the past several years and planned future growth, these loans require more ongoing evaluation and monitoring and we are implementing enhanced risk management policies, procedures and controls. Commercial real estate loans generally involve a greater degree of credit risk than residential mortgage loans because they typically have larger balances and are more affected by adverse conditions in the economy. Because payments on loans secured by commercial real estate often depend upon the successful operation and management of the properties and the businesses which operate from within them, repayment of such loans may be affected by factors outside the borrower’s control, such as adverse conditions in the real estate market or the economy or changes in government regulation. In recent years, commercial real estate markets have been experiencing substantial growth, and increased competitive pressures have contributed significantly to historically low capitalization rates and rising property values. Commercial real estate prices, according to many U.S. commercial real estate indices, are currently above the 2007 peak levels that contributed to the financial crisis. Accordingly, the federal bank regulatory agencies have expressed concerns about weaknesses in the current commercial real estate market. Our failure to adequately implement enhanced risk management policies, procedures and controls could adversely affect our ability to increase this portfolio going forward and could result in an increased rate of delinquencies in, and increased losses from, this portfolio. At December 31, 2019, nonaccrual commercial real estate loans totaled $5 million, or less than 1%, of our total portfolio of commercial real estate loans.
We may be adversely affected by declines in oil prices. Ongoing volatility in the oil and gas markets has compressed margins for many U.S.-based oil producers and others in the Oil and Gas industry. As of December 31, 2019, our oil and gas loan exposure was $741 million of commitments with $484 million outstanding, representing approximately 2% of our loan portfolio. The Oil and Gas portfolio was comprised of 40 credits made to small and mid-sized companies. These borrowers are likely to be adversely affected by price volatility or downturn in oil and gas prices. The allowance related to this portfolio was 2.6% at December 31, 2019, compared to 1.6% at December 31, 2018. A significant deterioration in our oil and gas loans could cause a significant increase in nonaccrual loans. An increase in nonaccrual loans could result in a loss of interest income from these loans, one or more additional increases in the provision for loan losses, and an increase in loan charge offs, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. A prolonged period of low oil prices could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend on the accuracy and completeness of information about our customers and counterparties. In deciding whether to extend credit or enter into other transactions, we may rely on information furnished by or on behalf of customers and counterparties, including financial statements, credit reports, and other financial information. We may also rely on representations of those customers, counterparties, or other third parties, such as independent auditors, as to the accuracy and completeness of that information. Reliance on inaccurate or misleading financial statements, credit reports, or other financial information could cause us to enter into unfavorable transactions, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Lack of system integrity or credit quality related to funds settlement could result in a financial loss. We settle funds on behalf of financial institutions, other businesses and consumers and receive funds from clients, card issuers, payment networks and consumers on a daily basis for a variety of transaction types. Transactions we facilitate include wire transfers, debit card, credit
card and electronic bill payment transactions, supporting consumers, financial institutions and other businesses. These payment activities rely upon the technology infrastructure that facilitates the verification of activity with counterparties and the facilitation of the payment. If the continuity of operations or integrity of processing were compromised this could result in a financial loss to us due to a failure in payment facilitation. In addition, we may issue credit to consumers, financial institutions or other businesses as part of the funds settlement. A default on this credit by a counterparty could result in a financial loss to us.
We are subject to environmental liability risk associated with lending activities. A significant portion of our loan portfolio is secured by real property. During the ordinary course of business, we may foreclose on and take title to properties securing certain loans. In doing so, there is a risk that hazardous or toxic substances could be found on these properties. If hazardous or toxic substances are found, we may be liable for remediation costs, as well as for personal injury and property damage. Environmental laws may require us to incur substantial expenses which may materially reduce the affected property’s value or limit our ability to use or sell the affected property. In addition, future laws or more stringent interpretations or enforcement policies with respect to existing laws may increase our exposure to environmental liability. Although we have policies and procedures to perform an environmental review before lending against or initiating any foreclosure action on real property, these reviews may not be sufficient to detect all potential environmental hazards. The remediation costs and any other financial liabilities associated with an environmental hazard could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Liquidity and Interest Rate Risks
Liquidity is essential to our businesses. The Corporation requires liquidity to meet its deposit and debt obligations as they come due. Access to liquidity could be impaired by an inability to access the capital markets or unforeseen outflows of deposits. Risk factors that could impair our ability to access capital markets include a downturn in our Midwest markets, difficult credit markets, credit rating downgrades, or regulatory actions against the Corporation. The Corporation’s access to deposits can be impacted by the liquidity needs of our customers as a substantial portion of the Corporation’s liabilities are demand while a substantial portion of the Corporation’s assets are loans that cannot be sold in the same timeframe. Historically, the Corporation has been able to meet its cash flow needs as necessary. If a sufficiently large number of depositors sought to withdraw their deposits for whatever reason, the Corporation may be unable to obtain the necessary funding at favorable terms.
We are subject to interest rate risk. Our earnings and cash flows are largely dependent upon our net interest income. Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors that are beyond our control, including general economic conditions and policies of various governmental and regulatory agencies and, in particular, the Federal Reserve. Changes in monetary policy, including changes in interest rates, could influence not only the interest we receive on loans and investments and the amount of interest we pay on deposits and borrowings, but such changes could also affect (i) our ability to originate loans and obtain deposits; (ii) the fair value of our financial assets and liabilities; and (iii) the average duration of our mortgage portfolio and other interest-earning assets. If the interest rates paid on deposits and other borrowings increase at a faster rate than the interest rates received on loans and other investments, our net interest income, and therefore earnings, could be adversely affected. Earnings could also be adversely affected if the interest rates received on loans and other investments fall more quickly than the interest rates paid on deposits and other borrowings. The Corporation's interest rate risk profile is such that a higher or steeper yield curve adds to income while a flatter yield curve is relatively neutral, and a lower or inverted yield curve, such as experienced during the past year, generally has a negative impact on earnings. Our most significant interest rate risk may be further declines in the absolute level of interest rates or the prolonged continuation of the current low rate environment, as this would generally lead to further compression of our net interest margin, reduced net interest income, and devaluation of our deposit base.
Although management believes it has implemented effective asset and liability management strategies, including the potential use of derivatives as hedging instruments, to reduce the potential effects of changes in interest rates on our results of operations, any substantial, unexpected, prolonged change in market interest rates could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Also, our interest rate risk modeling techniques and assumptions likely may not fully predict or capture the impact of actual interest rate changes on our balance sheet.
The impact of interest rates on our mortgage banking business can have a significant impact on revenues. Changes in interest rates can impact our mortgage-related revenues and net revenues associated with our mortgage activities. A decline in mortgage rates generally increases the demand for mortgage loans as borrowers refinance, but also generally leads to accelerated payoffs. Conversely, in a constant or increasing rate environment, we would expect fewer loans to be refinanced and a decline in payoffs. Although we use models to assess the impact of interest rates on mortgage-related revenues, the estimates of revenues produced by these models are dependent on estimates and assumptions of future loan demand, prepayment speeds and other factors which may differ from actual subsequent experience.
Changes in interest rates could reduce the value of our investment securities holdings. The Corporation maintains an investment portfolio consisting of various high quality liquid fixed-income securities. The total book value of the securities portfolio, which includes Federal Home Loan Bank and Federal Reserve Bank stocks, as of December 31, 2019, was $5.7 billion and the estimated duration of the aggregate portfolio was approximately 5.0 years. The nature of fixed-income securities is such that changes in market interest rates impact the value of these assets. Based on the duration of the Corporation’s investment securities portfolio, a one percent decrease in market rates is projected to increase the market value of the investment securities portfolio by approximately $237 million, while a one percent increase in market rates is projected to decrease the market value of the investment securities portfolio by approximately $252 million.
Changes in interest rates could also reduce the value of our residential mortgage-related securities and mortgage servicing rights, which could negatively affect our earnings. We have a portfolio of MSRs. An MSR is the right to service a mortgage loan (i.e., collect principal, interest, escrow amounts, etc.) for a fee. We recognize MSRs when we originate mortgage loans and keep the servicing rights after we sell or securitize the loans or when we purchase the servicing rights to mortgage loans originated by other lenders. We carry MSRs at the lower of amortized cost or estimated fair value. Fair value is the present value of estimated future net servicing income, calculated based on a number of variables, including assumptions about the likelihood of prepayment by borrowers.
When interest rates fall, borrowers are more likely to prepay their mortgage loans by refinancing them at a lower rate. As the likelihood of prepayment increases, the fair value of our MSRs can decrease. Each quarter we evaluate our residential mortgage-related securities and MSRs for impairment. If temporary impairment exists, we establish a valuation allowance for the MSRs through a charge to earnings for the amount the carrying amount exceeds fair value. We also evaluate our MSRs for other-than-temporary impairment. If we determine that other-than-temporary impairment exists, we will recognize a direct write-down of the carrying value of the MSRs.
The planned phasing out of the LIBOR as a financial benchmark presents risks to the financial instruments originated or held by the Corporation. The LIBOR is the reference rate used for many of our transactions, including our lending and borrowing and our purchase and sale of securities, as well as the derivatives that we use to manage risk related to such transactions. However, a reduced volume of interbank unsecured term borrowing coupled with recent legal and regulatory proceedings related to rate manipulation by certain financial institutions has led to international reconsideration of LIBOR as a financial benchmark. The FCA, which regulates the process for establishing LIBOR, announced in July 2017 that the sustainability of LIBOR cannot be guaranteed. Accordingly, the FCA intends to stop persuading, or compelling, banks to submit to LIBOR after 2021. Until such time, however, FCA panel banks have agreed to continue to support LIBOR.
Associated has not yet determined which alternative rate is most applicable, and there can be no assurances on which benchmark rate(s) may replace LIBOR or how LIBOR will be determined for purposes of financial instruments that are currently referencing LIBOR if and when it ceases to exist. If LIBOR is discontinued after 2021 as expected, there may be uncertainty or differences in the calculation of the applicable interest rate or payment amount depending on the terms of the governing instruments, and such discontinuation may increase operational and other risks to the Corporation and the industry.
While there is no consensus on what rate or rates may become accepted alternatives to LIBOR, a group of large banks, the Alternative Reference Rate Committee, or ARRC, selected the SOFR as an alternative to LIBOR. SOFR has been published by the FRBNY since May 2018, and it is intended to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities. The FRBNY reports that SOFR includes all trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate, plus bilateral U.S. Treasury repurchase agreement transactions cleared through the delivery-versus-payment service offered by the FICC, a subsidiary of DTCC.
The FRBNY currently publishes SOFR daily on its website at https://apps.newyorkfed.org/markets/autorates/sofr. The FRBNY states on its publication page for SOFR that use of SOFR is subject to important disclaimers, limitations and indemnification obligations, including that the FRBNY may alter the methods of calculation, publication schedule, rate revision practices or availability of SOFR at any time without notice.
Because SOFR is published by the FRBNY based on data received from other sources, the Bank has no control over its determination, calculation or publication. There can be no assurance that SOFR will not be discontinued or fundamentally altered in a manner that is materially adverse to the parties that utilize SOFR as the reference rate for transactions. There is no assurance that SOFR will be widely adopted as the replacement reference rate for LIBOR (or that the Corporation will ultimately decide to adopt SOFR as the reference rate for its lending or borrowing transactions).
The market transition away from LIBOR to an alternative reference rate, including SOFR, is complex and could have a range of adverse effects on the Corporation's 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, the Corporation's 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;
•adversely affect the value of the Corporation's 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 the Corporation's 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 in LIBOR-based securities; and
•require the transition to or development of appropriate systems and analytics to effectively transition our risk management processes from LIBOR-based products to those based on the applicable alternative pricing benchmark.
In addition, the implementation of LIBOR reform proposals may result in increased compliance costs and operational costs, including costs related to continued participation in LIBOR and the transition to a replacement reference rate or rates. We cannot reasonably estimate the expected cost.
We rely on dividends from our subsidiaries for most of our revenue. The Parent Company is a separate and distinct legal entity from its banking and other subsidiaries. A substantial portion of the Parent Company’s revenue comes from dividends from its subsidiaries. These dividends are the principal source of funds to pay dividends on the Parent Company’s common and preferred stock, and to pay interest and principal on the Parent Company’s debt. Various federal and / or applicable state laws and regulations limit the amount of dividends that the Bank and certain of our nonbanking subsidiaries may pay to us. Also, our right to participate in a distribution of assets upon a subsidiary’s liquidation or reorganization is subject to the prior claims of the subsidiary’s creditors. In the event the Bank subsidiary is unable to pay dividends to us, we may not be able to service debt, pay obligations, or pay dividends on our common and preferred stock. The inability to receive dividends from the Bank could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
We face significant operational risks due to the high volume and the high dollar value nature of transactions we process. We operate in many different businesses in diverse markets and rely on the ability of our employees and systems to process transactions. Operational risk is the risk of loss resulting from our operations, including but not limited to, the risk of fraud by employees or persons outside our company, the execution of unauthorized transactions, errors relating to transaction processing and technology, breaches of our internal control systems or failures of those of our suppliers or counterparties, compliance failures, cyber-attacks, technology failures, or unforeseen problems encountered while implementing new computer systems or upgrades to existing systems, business continuation and disaster recovery issues, and other external events. Insurance coverage may not be available for such losses, or where available, such losses may exceed insurance limits. This risk of loss also includes the potential legal actions that could arise as a result of an operational deficiency or as a result of noncompliance with applicable regulatory standards, adverse business decisions or their implementation, and customer attrition due to potential negative publicity. The occurrence of any of these events could cause us to suffer financial loss, face regulatory action and suffer damage to our reputation.
Unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential client or customer information, whether through a cyber-attack, other breach of our computer systems or otherwise, could severely harm our business. In the normal course of our business, we collect, process, and retain sensitive and confidential client and customer information on our behalf and on behalf of other third parties. Despite the security measures we have in place, our facilities and systems may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, security breaches, acts of vandalism, computer viruses, malware, misplaced or lost data, programming and / or human errors, or other similar events.
Information security risks for financial institutions like us continue to increase in part because of new technologies, the increased use of the internet and telecommunications technologies (including mobile devices and cloud computing) to conduct financial and other business transactions, political activism, and the increased sophistication and activities of organized crime, perpetrators of fraud, hackers, terrorists and others. In addition to cyber-attacks or other security breaches
involving the theft of sensitive and confidential information, hackers have engaged in attacks against large financial institutions, particularly denial of service attacks, designed to disrupt key business services, such as customer-facing web sites. Because the methods of cyber-attacks change frequently or, in some cases, are not recognized until launch, we are not able to anticipate or implement effective preventive measures against all possible security breaches and the probability of a successful attack cannot be predicted. Although we employ detection and response mechanisms designed to contain and mitigate security incidents, early detection may be thwarted by persistent sophisticated attacks and malware designed to avoid detection.
We also face risks related to cyber-attacks and other security breaches in connection with card transactions that typically involve the transmission of sensitive information regarding our customers through various third parties. Some of these parties have in the past been the target of security breaches and cyber-attacks, and because the transactions involve third parties and environments that we do not control or secure, future security breaches or cyber-attacks affecting any of these third parties could impact us through no fault of our own, and in some cases we may have exposure and suffer losses for breaches or attacks relating to them. We also rely on numerous other third party service providers to conduct other aspects of our business operations and face similar risks relating to them. While we conduct security assessments on our higher risk third party service providers, we cannot be sure that their information security protocols are sufficient to withstand a cyber-attack or other security breach.
The Corporation regularly evaluates its systems and controls and implements upgrades as necessary. The additional cost to the Corporation of our cyber security monitoring and protection systems and controls includes the cost of hardware and software, third party technology providers, consulting and forensic testing firms, insurance premium costs and legal fees, in addition to the incremental cost of our personnel who focus a substantial portion of their responsibilities on cyber security.
Any successful cyber-attack or other security breach involving the misappropriation, loss or other unauthorized disclosure of confidential customer information or that compromises our ability to function could severely damage our reputation, erode confidence in the security of our systems, products and services, expose us to the risk of litigation and liability, disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our business. Any successful cyber-attack may also subject the Corporation to regulatory investigations, litigation or enforcement, or require the payment of regulatory fines or penalties or undertaking costly remediation efforts with respect to third parties affected by a cyber security incident, all or any of which could adversely affect the Corporation’s business, financial condition or results of operations and damage its reputation.
From time to time, the Corporation engages in acquisitions, including acquisitions of depository institutions such as our recent acquisition of the Huntington branches and the pending First Staunton acquisition. The integration of core systems and processes for such transactions often occur after the closing, which may create elevated risk of cyber incidents. The Corporation may be subject to the data risks and cyber security vulnerabilities of the acquired company until the Corporation has sufficient time to fully integrate the acquiree’s customers and operations. Although the Corporation conducts comprehensive due diligence of cyber-security policies, procedures and controls of our acquisition counterparties, and the Corporation maintains adequate policies, procedures, controls and information security protocols to facilitate a successful integration, there can be no assurance that such measures, controls and protocols are sufficient to withstand a cyber-attack or other security breach with respect to the companies we acquire, particularly during the period of time between closing and final integration.
Our information systems may experience an interruption or breach in security. We rely heavily on communications and information systems to conduct our business. Any failure, interruption, or breach in security or operational integrity of these systems could result in failures or disruptions in our customer relationship management, general ledger, deposit, loan, and other systems. While we have policies and procedures designed to prevent or limit the effect of the failure, interruption, or security breach of our information systems, we cannot completely ensure that any such failures, interruptions, or security breaches will not occur or, if they do occur, that they will be adequately addressed. The occurrence of any failures, interruptions, or security breaches of our information systems could damage our reputation, result in a loss of customer business, subject us to additional regulatory scrutiny, or expose us to civil litigation and possible financial liability, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
We are dependent upon third parties for certain information system, data management and processing services and to provide key components of our business infrastructure. We outsource certain information system and data management and processing functions to third party providers, including, among others, Fiserv, Inc. and its affiliates to compete in a rapidly evolving financial marketplace. These third party service providers are sources of operational and informational security risk to us, including risks associated with operational errors, information system interruptions or breaches, and unauthorized disclosures of sensitive or confidential client or customer information. Concentration among larger third party providers servicing large segments of the banking industry can also potentially affect wide segments of the financial industry. If third party service providers encounter any of these issues, or if we have difficulty communicating with them, we could be exposed
to disruption of operations, loss of service or connectivity to customers, reputational damage, and litigation risk that could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or our business.
Third party vendors provide key components of our business infrastructure, such as internet connections, network access and core application processing. While we have selected these third party vendors carefully, we do not control their actions. Any problems caused by these third parties, including as a result of their not providing us their services for any reason or their performing their services poorly, could adversely affect our ability to deliver products and services to our customers and otherwise to conduct our business. Replacing these third party vendors could also entail significant delay and expense.
The potential for business interruption exists throughout our organization. Integral to our performance is the continued efficacy of our technical systems, operational infrastructure, relationships with third parties and the vast array of associates and key executives in our day-to-day and ongoing operations. Failure by any or all of these resources subjects us to risks that may vary in size, scale and scope. This includes, but is not limited to, operational or technical failures, ineffectiveness or exposure due to interruption in third party support, as well as the loss of key individuals or failure on the part of key individuals to perform properly. Although management has established policies and procedures to address such failures, the occurrence of any such event could have a material adverse effect on our business, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in our accounting policies or in accounting standards could materially affect how we report our financial results. Our accounting policies are fundamental to understanding our financial results and condition. Some of these policies require the use of estimates and assumptions that may affect the value of our assets or liabilities and financial results. Some of our accounting policies are critical because they require management to make difficult, subjective and complex judgments about matters that are inherently uncertain and because it is likely that materially different amounts would be reported under different conditions or using different assumptions. If such estimates or assumptions underlying our financial statements are incorrect, we may experience material losses.
From time to time the FASB and the SEC change the financial accounting and reporting standards or the interpretation of those standards that govern the preparation of our external financial statements. These changes are beyond our control, can be hard to predict and could materially impact how we report our results of operations and financial condition. We could be required to apply a new or revised standard retroactively, resulting in our restating prior period financial statements in material amounts.
Changes in the federal, state or local tax laws may negatively impact our financial performance. We are subject to changes in tax law that could increase our effective tax rates. These law changes may be retroactive to previous periods and as a result could negatively affect our current and future financial performance. For example, the new legislation resulted in a reduction in our federal corporate tax rate from 35% in 2017 to 21% in 2018, which had a favorable impact on our earnings and capital generation abilities. However, the new legislation also enacted limitations on certain deductions, such as the deduction of FDIC deposit insurance premiums, which partially offset the anticipated increase in net earnings from the lower tax rate.
In addition, the Bank’s customers experienced and likely will continue to experience varying effects from both the individual and business tax provisions of the Tax Act and such effects, whether positive or negative, may have a corresponding impact on our business and the economy as a whole.
Our internal controls may be ineffective. Management regularly reviews and updates our internal controls, disclosure controls and procedures, and corporate governance policies and procedures. Any system of controls, however well designed and operated, is based in part on certain assumptions and can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurances that the objectives of the controls are met. Any failure or circumvention of our controls and procedures or failure to comply with regulations related to controls and procedures could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
Impairment of investment securities, goodwill, other intangible assets, or deferred tax assets could require charges to earnings, which could result in a negative impact on our results of operations. In assessing whether the impairment of investment securities is other-than-temporary, management considers the length of time and extent to which the fair value has been less than cost, the financial condition and near-term prospects of the issuer, and the intent and ability to retain our investment in the security for a period of time sufficient to allow for any anticipated recovery in fair value in the near term.
Under current accounting standards, goodwill is not amortized but, instead, is subject to impairment tests on at least an annual basis or more frequently if an event occurs or circumstances change that reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying amount. A decline in our stock price or occurrence of a triggering event following any of our quarterly earnings releases and prior to the filing of the periodic report for that period could, under certain circumstances, cause us to perform a goodwill impairment test and result in an impairment charge being recorded for that period which was not reflected in such earnings release. During 2019, the annual impairment test conducted in May indicated that the estimated fair value of all of the
Corporation’s reporting units exceeded the carrying value. In the event that we conclude that all or a portion of our goodwill may be impaired, a non-cash charge for the amount of such impairment would be recorded to earnings. Such a charge would have no impact on tangible capital. At December 31, 2019, we had goodwill of $1.2 billion, which representing approximately 30% of stockholders’ equity.
In assessing the realizability of deferred tax assets, management considers whether it is more likely than not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. Assessing the need for, or the sufficiency of, a valuation allowance requires management to evaluate all available evidence, both negative and positive, including the recent trend of quarterly earnings. Positive evidence necessary to overcome the negative evidence includes whether future taxable income in sufficient amounts and character within the carryback and carryforward periods is available under the tax law, including the use of tax planning strategies. When negative evidence (e.g., cumulative losses in recent years, history of operating loss or tax credit carryforwards expiring unused) exists, more positive evidence than negative evidence will be necessary.
The impact of each of these impairment matters could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
We may not be able to attract and retain skilled people. Our success depends, in large part, on our ability to attract and retain skilled people. Competition for the best people in most activities engaged in by us can be intense, and we may not be able to hire sufficiently skilled people or to retain them. The unexpected loss of services of one or more of our key personnel could have a material adverse impact on our business because of their skills, knowledge of our markets, years of industry experience, and the difficulty of promptly finding qualified replacement personnel.
Loss of key employees may disrupt relationships with certain customers. Our business is primarily relationship-driven in that many of our key employees have extensive customer relationships. Loss of a key employee with such customer relationships may lead to the loss of business if the customers were to follow that employee to a competitor or otherwise choose to transition to another financial services provider. While we believe our relationship with our key personnel is good, we cannot guarantee that all of our key personnel will remain with our organization. Loss of such key personnel could result in the loss of some of our customers.
Revenues from our investment management and asset servicing businesses are significant to our earnings. Generating returns that satisfy clients in a variety of asset classes is important to maintaining existing business and attracting new business. Administering or managing assets in accordance with the terms of governing documents and applicable laws is also important to client satisfaction. Failure in either of the foregoing areas can expose us to liability, and result in a decrease in our revenues and earnings.
Climate change and related legislative and regulatory initiatives may result in operational changes and expenditures that could significantly impact our business. The current and anticipated effects of climate change are creating an increasing level of concern for the state of the global environment. As a result, political and social attention to the issue of climate change has increased. In recent years, governments across the world have entered into international agreements to attempt to reduce global temperatures, in part by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Although the United States government has announced its plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the most recent international climate change accord, the U.S. Congress, state legislatures and federal and state regulatory agencies have continued to propose and advance numerous legislative and regulatory initiatives seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change. These agreements and measures may result in the imposition of taxes and fees, the required purchase of emission credits, and the implementation of significant operational changes, each of which may require the Corporation to expend significant capital and incur compliance, operating, maintenance and remediation costs. Given the lack of empirical data on the credit and other financial risks posed by climate change, it is impossible to predict how climate change may impact our financial condition and operations; however, as a banking organization, the physical effects of climate change may present certain unique risks to the Corporation. For example, weather disasters, shifts in local climates and other disruptions related to climate change may adversely affect the value of real properties securing our loans, which could diminish the value of our loan portfolio. Such events may also cause reductions in regional and local economic activity that may have an adverse effect on our customers, which could limit our ability to raise and invest capital in these areas and communities, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Severe weather, natural disasters, public health issues, acts of war or terrorism, and other external events could significantly impact our ability to conduct business. Such events could affect the stability of our deposit base, impair the ability of borrowers to repay outstanding loans, impair the value of collateral securing loans, adversely impact our employee base, cause significant property damage, result in loss of revenue, and / or cause us to incur additional expenses. Although management has established disaster recovery policies and procedures, the occurrence of any such event could have a material adverse effect on our business, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Strategic and External Risks
Our earnings are significantly affected by the fiscal and monetary policies of the federal government and its agencies. The policies of the Federal Reserve impact us significantly. The Federal Reserve regulates the supply of money and credit in the United States. Its policies directly and indirectly influence the rate of interest earned on loans and paid on borrowings and interest-bearing deposits and can also affect the value of financial instruments we hold. Those policies determine to a significant extent our cost of funds for lending and investing. Changes in those policies are beyond our control and are difficult to predict. Federal Reserve policies can also affect our borrowers, potentially increasing the risk that they may fail to repay their loans. For example, a tightening of the money supply by the Federal Reserve could reduce the demand for a borrower’s products and services. This could adversely affect the borrower’s earnings and ability to repay its loan, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively affected if we fail to grow or fail to manage our growth effectively. Our business strategy includes significant growth plans. We intend to continue pursuing a profitable growth strategy. Our prospects must be considered in light of the risks, expenses and difficulties frequently encountered by companies in significant growth stages of development. Sustainable growth requires that we manage our risks by balancing loan and deposit growth at acceptable levels of risk, maintaining adequate liquidity and capital, hiring and retaining qualified employees, successfully managing the costs and implementation risks with respect to strategic projects and initiatives, and integrating acquisition targets and managing the costs.We cannot assure you that we will be able to expand our market presence in our existing markets or successfully enter new markets or that any such expansion will not adversely affect our results of operations. Failure to manage our growth effectively could have a material adverse effect on our business, future prospects, financial condition or results of operations and could adversely affect our ability to successfully implement our business strategy. Also, if we grow more slowly than anticipated, our operating results could be materially adversely affected.
We operate in a highly competitive industry and market area. We face substantial competition in all areas of our operations from a variety of different competitors, both within and beyond our principal markets, many of which are larger and may have more financial resources. Such competitors primarily include national, regional, and internet banks within the various markets in which we operate. We also face competition from many other types of financial institutions, including, without limitation, savings and loans, credit unions, finance companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies, and other financial intermediaries. The financial services industry could become even more competitive as a result of legislative and regulatory changes and continued consolidation. In July 2018, the OCC announced that it will begin accepting applications from financial technology companies to become special purpose national banks.
In addition, as customer preferences and expectations continue to evolve, technology has lowered barriers to entry and made it possible for nonbanks to offer products and services traditionally provided by banks, such as automatic transfer and automatic payment systems. In addition, some of the largest technology firms are engaging in joint ventures with the largest banks to provide and / or expand financial service offerings with a technological sophistication and breadth of marketing that smaller institutions do not have. Many of our competitors have fewer regulatory constraints and may have lower cost structures. Additionally, due to their size, many competitors may be able to achieve economies of scale and, as a result, may offer a broader range of products and services as well as better pricing for those products and services than we can.
Our ability to compete successfully depends on a number of factors, including, among other things:
•the ability to develop, maintain, and build upon long-term customer relationships based on top quality service, high ethical standards, and safe, sound assets;
•the ability to expand our market position;
•the scope, relevance, and pricing of products and services offered to meet customer needs and demands;
•the rate at which we introduce new products and services relative to our competitors;
•customer satisfaction with our level of service; and
•industry and general economic trends.
Failure to perform in any of these areas could significantly weaken our competitive position, which could adversely affect our growth and profitability, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Fiscal challenges facing the U.S. government could negatively impact financial markets which in turn could have an adverse effect on our financial position or results of operations. Many of our investment securities are issued by the U.S. government and government agencies and sponsored entities. As a result of uncertain domestic political conditions, including potential future federal government shutdowns, the possibility of the federal government defaulting on its obligations for a period of time due to debt ceiling limitations or other unresolved political issues, investments in financial instruments issued or guaranteed by the federal government pose liquidity risks. Following the government shutdown in 2011, Standard & Poor’s lowered its long term sovereign credit rating on the U.S. from AAA to AA+. A further downgrade or a downgrade by other rating agencies, as well as sovereign debt issues facing the governments of other countries, could have a material adverse impact on financial markets and economic conditions in the U.S. and worldwide. In addition, the U.S. government and the governments of other countries took steps to stabilize the financial system, including investing in financial institutions, and implementing programs to improve general economic conditions, but there can be no assurances that these efforts will restore long-term stability and that they will not result in adverse unintended consequences. A prolonged government shutdown may also adversely impact a significant segment of our customer base resulting in increased defaults within our loan portfolio, which could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Consumers may decide not to use banks to complete their financial transactions. Technology and other changes are allowing parties to complete financial transactions through alternative methods that historically have involved banks. For example, consumers can now maintain funds that would have historically been held as bank deposits in brokerage accounts, mutual funds or general-purpose reloadable prepaid cards. Consumers can also complete transactions, such as paying bills and / or transferring funds directly without the assistance of banks.
The process of eliminating banks as intermediaries, known as "disintermediation," could result in the loss of fee income, as well as the loss of customer deposits and the related income generated from those deposits. The loss of these revenue streams and the lower cost of deposits as a source of funds could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Our profitability depends significantly on economic conditions in the states within which we do business. Our success depends on the general economic conditions of the specific local markets in which we operate particularly Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Local economic conditions have a significant impact on the demand for our products and services, as well as the ability of our customers to repay loans, on the value of the collateral securing loans, and the stability of our deposit funding sources. A significant decline in general local economic conditions caused by inflation, recession, unemployment, changes in securities markets, changes in housing market prices, or other factors could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The earnings of financial services companies are significantly affected by general business and economic conditions. Our operations and profitability are impacted by general business and economic conditions in the United States and abroad. These conditions include short-term and long-term interest rates, inflation, money supply, political issues, legislative and regulatory changes, fluctuations in both debt and equity capital markets, broad trends in industry and finance, the strength of the United States economy, and uncertainty in financial markets globally, all of which are beyond our control. A deterioration in economic conditions, including those arising from government shutdowns, defaults, anticipated defaults or rating agency downgrades of sovereign debt (including debt of the U.S.), or increases in unemployment, could result in an increase in loan delinquencies and nonperforming assets, decreases in loan collateral values, and a decrease in demand for our products and services, among other things, any of which could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
New lines of business or new products and services may subject us to additional risk. From time to time, we may implement new lines of business or offer new products and services within existing lines of business. There are substantial risks and uncertainties associated with these efforts, particularly in instances where the markets are not fully developed. In developing and marketing new lines of business and / or new products and services, we may invest significant time and resources. Initial timetables for the introduction and development of new lines of business and / or new products or services may not be achieved and price and profitability targets may not prove feasible. External factors, such as competitive alternatives and shifting market preferences, may also impact the successful implementation of a new line of business and / or a new product or service. Furthermore, strategic planning remains important as we adopt innovative products, services, and processes in response to the evolving demands for financial services and the entrance of new competitors, such as out-of-market banks and financial technology firms. Any new line of business and / or new product or service could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of our system of internal controls, so we must responsibly innovate in a manner that is consistent with sound risk management and is aligned with the Bank's overall business strategies. Failure to successfully manage these risks in the development and implementation of new lines of business and / or new products or services could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Failure to keep pace with technological change could adversely affect our business. The financial services industry is continually undergoing rapid technological change with frequent introductions of new technology-driven products and services. The effective use of technology increases efficiency and enables financial institutions to better serve customers and to reduce costs. Our future success depends, in part, upon our ability to address the needs of our customers by using technology to provide products and services that will satisfy customer demands, as well as to create additional efficiencies in our operations. Many of our competitors have substantially greater resources to invest in technological improvements. 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. Failure to successfully keep pace with technological change affecting the financial services industry could have a material adverse impact on our business and, in turn, our financial condition and results of operations.
We may be adversely affected by risks associated with potential and completed acquisitions. As part of our growth strategy, we regularly evaluate merger and acquisition opportunities and conduct due diligence activities related to possible transactions with other financial institutions and financial services companies. As a result, negotiations may take place and future mergers or acquisitions involving cash, debt, or equity securities may occur at any time. We seek merger or acquisition partners that are culturally similar, have experienced management, and possess either significant market presence or have potential for improved profitability through financial management, economies of scale, or expanded services.
Acquiring other banks, businesses, or branches involves potential adverse impact to our financial results and various other risks commonly associated with acquisitions, including, among other things:
•incurring time and expense associated with identifying and evaluating potential acquisitions and negotiating potential transactions, and with integrating acquired businesses, resulting in the diversion of resources from the operation of our existing businesses;
•difficulty in estimating the value of target companies or assets and in evaluating credit, operations, management, and market risks associated with those companies or assets;
•payment of a premium over book and market values that may dilute our tangible book value and earnings per share in the short and long term;
•potential exposure to unknown or contingent liabilities of the target company, including, without limitation, liabilities for regulatory and compliance issues;
•exposure to potential asset quality issues of the target company;
•there may be volatility in reported income as goodwill impairment losses could occur irregularly and in varying amounts;
•difficulties, inefficiencies or cost overruns associated with the integration of the operations, personnel, technologies, services, and products of acquired companies with ours;
•inability to realize the expected revenue increases, cost savings, increases in geographic or product presence, and / or other projected benefits;
•potential disruption to our business;
•the possible loss of key employees and customers of the target company; and
•potential changes in banking or tax laws or regulations that may affect the target company.
Acquisitions also involve operational risks and uncertainties, and acquired companies may have unknown or contingent liabilities, exposure to unexpected asset quality problems that require write-downs or write-offs (as well as restructuring and impairment or other charges), difficulty retaining key employees and customers and other issues that could negatively affect our business. We may not be able to realize any projected cost savings, synergies or other benefits associated with any such acquisition we complete. Acquisitions typically involve the payment of a premium over book and market values and, therefore, some dilution of our tangible book value and net income per common share may occur in connection with any future transaction. Failure to successfully integrate the entities we acquire into our existing operations could increase our operating costs significantly and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
In addition, we face significant competition from other financial services institutions, some of which may have greater financial resources than we do, when considering acquisition opportunities. Accordingly, attractive opportunities may not be available to us and there can be no assurance that we will be successful in identifying or completing future acquisitions.
Acquisitions may be delayed, impeded, or prohibited due to regulatory issues. Acquisitions by the Corporation, particularly those of financial institutions, are subject to approval by a variety of federal and state regulatory agencies (collectively, "regulatory approvals"). The process for obtaining these required regulatory approvals has become substantially more difficult in recent years. Regulatory approvals could be delayed, impeded, restrictively conditioned or denied due to existing or new regulatory issues the Corporation has, or may have, with regulatory agencies, including, without limitation, issues related to BSA compliance, CRA issues, fair lending laws, fair housing laws, consumer protection laws, unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices regulations, and other similar laws and regulations. We may fail to pursue, evaluate or complete strategic and competitively significant acquisition opportunities as a result of our inability, or perceived or anticipated inability, to obtain regulatory approvals in a timely manner, under reasonable conditions or at all. The regulatory approvals may contain conditions on the completion of the merger that adversely affect our business following the closing, or which are not anticipated or cannot be met. Difficulties associated with potential acquisitions that may result from these factors could have a material adverse impact on our business, and, in turn, our financial condition and results of operations.
Legal, Regulatory, Compliance and Reputational Risks
We are subject to extensive government regulation and supervision. We are subject to extensive federal and applicable state regulation and supervision, primarily through Associated Bank and certain nonbank subsidiaries. Banking regulations are primarily intended to protect depositors’ funds, federal deposit insurance funds, and the banking system as a whole, not shareholders. These regulations affect our lending practices, capital structure, investment practices, dividend policy, and growth, among other things. Congress and federal regulatory agencies continually review banking laws, regulations, and policies for possible changes. Changes to statutes, regulations, or regulatory policies, including changes in interpretation or implementation of statutes, regulations, or policies, could affect us in substantial and unpredictable ways. Such changes could subject us to additional costs, limit the types of financial services and products we may offer, and / or increase the ability of nonbanks to offer competing financial services and products, among other things. Failure to comply with laws, regulations, or policies could result in sanctions by regulatory agencies, civil money penalties, and / or reputation damage, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. While we have policies and procedures designed to prevent these types of violations, there can be no assurance that such violations will not occur.
Significantly, the enactment of the Economic Growth Act, and the promulgation of its implementing regulations, repealed or mo