Benchmark announces increased earnings

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Benchmark Bankshares Inc., the Kenbridge-based holding company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced earnings of $6.5 million, or $1.26 per share, for the year ending Dec. 31.

“This compares to $6,327,895, or $1.23 per share, earned during 2015,” bank officials said in a press release.

“Return on average equity for the year was 10.35 percent and return on average assets was 1.21 percent, compared to 10.75 percent and 1.25 percent, respectively, reported last year. The bank earned $1,530,626, or 30 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to $1,536,697, or 30 cents per share, earned in 2015 during the same period.”

According to the release, total loans at year-end amounted to $448.4 million, a $24.1 million increase over the past 12 months.

“This growth has been driven by increased loan demand throughout our market area, the acquisition of several local municipal loans, and the opening of a loan production office in Henderson, N.C. The bank’s mortgage and home construction lending business had another outstanding year as low interest rates continued to encourage both refinancing and new home purchases,” officials said.

“Total deposits of $500.7 million at year-end were up $26.2 million from last year. The bank has continued to focus on checking account growth while pursuing a less aggressive strategy for time deposits. The bank also benefited from the closing of three Bank of America offices in the marketplace, which resulted in the opening of 2,500 new accounts. Over 1,600 of these accounts were checking accounts. During the year, non-interest checking accounts increased by $16.6 million, interest-bearing checking accounts increased by $7.0 million, and savings and money market accounts were up $17.6 million. This growth combined to offset a $15.0 million decline in time deposits.”

Officials say interest rates again remained low throughout the year, the impact of which was a continued decline to the bank’s cost of funds.

“Interest expense for 2016 amounted to $2.1 million, down 9.8 percent from the $2.3 million realized during 2015. The bank’s total yield on loans, at 5.36 percent, was down slightly from 5.39 percent last year, while the cost of funds declined from .53 percent to .45 percent. Overall, the bank’s net interest margin declined slightly, dropping from 4.52 percent to 4.48 percent.”

“We are pleased to say that we had another very good year in 2016,” said Benchmark CEO Mike Walker.

“We experienced an unexpected surge in new deposit customers in several of our Virginia markets and our loan portfolio continued to grow nicely,” added Benchmark President Jay Stafford.

“The key to all this has been readiness,” Walker said. “A strong brand and reputation — built over many years — has made us the bank of choice for customers seeking a new financial home. Our well-positioned, well-trained staff has handled the growth well.”