Tax reform, higher interest rates boost Wintrust's profit

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Wintrust Financial in Rosemont, Ill., reported higher quarterly profit that reflected higher interest rates and a boost from tax reform.

The $27.9 billion-asset company said in a press release Monday that its fourth-quarter earnings rose by 26% from a year earlier, to $68.8 million, or $1.17 a share. The results included a $7.6 million net tax benefit related to recently passed tax reform legislation.

Without the tax benefit, Wintrust’s profits would have risen by 12%.

Net interest income rose by 14.8% to $219 million. Total loans — excluding loans held for sale and covered loans — rose nearly 10% to $21.6 billion. That growth resulted mostly from a 13% increase in commercial loans, a 16% rise in life insurance loans and an 18% spike in residential real estate.

Home equity and consumer loans fell.

The net interest margin widened by 24 basis points to 3.45%. Deposits increased by 7% to $23.2 billion.

Wintrust's loan-loss provision increased by 6%, to $7.8 million.

Noninterest income fell 5% to $81 million, mostly due to a 23% decline in mortgage banking. Wintrust, which bought Veterans First Mortgage in early January, said the acquisition should help its mortgage banking business.

Wintrust will continue looking for opportunities to expand its mortgage business organically and through acquisitions, Ed Wehmer, the company's president and CEO, said in the release.

Noninterest expense rose by 9% to $197 million, which included higher salary and employee benefit costs. The bank’s efficiency ratio still lingers around 65%.

"We remain well positioned for expected rising rates in the future," Wehmer said in the release. "Deposit growth was strong in the fourth quarter."

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