Ameris in Ga. to cut 2019 expenses by $20 million

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Ameris Bancorp in Jacksonville, Fla., plans to cut annual expenses by $20 million in coming months.

The $11.2 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that it will reduce data processing costs and close branches.

Ameris provided no additional details on the expected cuts, though Dennis Zember, its president and CEO, said in the release that the moves will have "little to no adverse impact on customer service."

"We have invested substantially in mobile and online delivery systems that increasingly mirror our customers' behaviors,” added Zember, who became CEO in July. “The convenience that we provide customers with these products and services, combined with the proximity to other Ameris Bank branches, gives me confidence that we are not impacting our growth rates or our ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience."

Company executives did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Ameris said in a presentation included in a regulatory filing that the cost-cutting effort should address investor concerns about potential margin compression, slower loan growth and an economic slowdown.

Ameris, which recently moved its corporate office to Jacksonville from Moultrie, Ga., said it expects to use expense savings to hire more commercial lenders and improve risk and data management systems.

Ameris recently acquired the $1.8 billion-asset Hamilton State Bancshares in Hoschton, Ga., and the $922 million-asset Atlantic Coast Financial in Jacksonville. While the company said it expects to exceed cost-save goals for the deals by about $2.4 million, that money isn’t included in the planned 2019 expense cuts.

Through the first half of 2018, Ameris reported core operating expenses of $120 million and a 58.67% efficiency ratio. Ameris said in its presentation that it expects to push its efficiency ratio down to the “lower 50% range” over the next 18 months.

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