Ameris Bancorp  (ABCB)
Other Ticker:  
    Sector  Financial    Industry Regional Banks
   Industry Regional Banks
   Sector  Financial

Ameris Bancorp

Business Description

We are a financial holding company whose business is conducted primarily through our wholly owned banking subsidiary, Ameris Bank (the “Bank”), which provides a full range of banking services to its retail and commercial customers who are primarily concentrated in select markets in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. Ameris was incorporated on December 18, 1980 as a Georgia corporation. The Company’s executive office is located at 310 First St., S.E., Moultrie, Georgia 31768, our telephone number is (229) 890-1111 and our internet address is www.amerisbank.com. We operate 101 domestic banking offices, with eight of those locations announced to be consolidated within the coming months. We do not operate in any foreign activities.

Our primary business as a bank holding company is to manage the business and affairs of the Bank. As a bank holding company, we perform certain shareholder and investor relations functions and seek to provide financial support, if necessary, to the Bank.

Our principal subsidiary is the Bank, which is headquartered in Moultrie, Georgia and operates branches primarily concentrated in select markets in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. These branches serve distinct communities in our business areas with autonomy but do so as one bank, leveraging our favorable geographic footprint in an effort to acquire more customers.

Lending Activities

General. The Company maintains a diversified loan portfolio by providing a broad range of commercial and retail lending services to business entities and individuals. We provide agricultural loans, commercial business loans, commercial and residential real estate construction and mortgage loans, consumer loans, revolving lines of credit and letters of credit. The Company also originates first mortgage residential mortgage loans and generally enters into a commitment to sell these loans in the secondary market. We have not made or participated in foreign, energy-related or subprime type loans. In addition, the Company does not buy loan participations or portions of national credits but from time to time, may acquire balances subject to participation agreements through acquisition.

Commercial Real Estate Loans. This portion of our loan portfolio has grown significantly over the past few years and represents the largest segment of our loan portfolio. These loans are generally extended for acquisition, development or construction of commercial properties. The loans are underwritten with an emphasis on the viability of the project, the borrower’s ability to meet certain minimum debt service requirements and an analysis and review of the collateral and guarantors, if any.

Residential Real Estate Mortgage Loans. Ameris originates adjustable and fixed-rate residential mortgage loans. These mortgage loans are generally originated under terms and conditions consistent with secondary market guidelines. Some of these loans will be placed in the Company’s loan portfolio; however, a majority are sold in the secondary market. The residential real estate mortgage loans that are included in the Company’s loan portfolio are usually owner-occupied and generally amortized over a 10- to 20-year period with three- to five-year maturity or repricing.

Agricultural Loans. Our agricultural loans are extended to finance crop production, the purchase of farm-related equipment or farmland and the operations of dairies, poultry producers, livestock producers and timber growers. Agricultural loans typically involve seasonal balance fluctuations. Although we typically look to an agricultural borrower’s cash flow as the principal source of repayment, agricultural loans are also generally secured by a security interest in the crops or the farm-related equipment and, in some cases, an assignment of crop insurance and mortgage on real estate. The lending officer visits the borrower regularly during the growing season and re-evaluates the loan in light of the borrower’s updated cash flow projections. A portion of our agricultural loans is guaranteed by the Farm Service Agency Guaranteed

Loan Program.

Commercial and Industrial Loans. Generally, commercial and industrial loans consist of loans made primarily to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of goods, service companies, municipalities and other industries. These loans are made for acquisition, expansion and working capital purposes and may be secured by real estate, accounts receivable, inventory, equipment, personal guarantees or other assets. The Company monitors these loans by requesting submission of corporate and personal financial statements and income tax returns. The Company has also generated loans which are guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (the “SBA”). SBA loans are generally underwritten in the same manner as conventional loans generated for the Bank’s portfolio. Periodically, a portion of the loans that are secured by the guaranty of the SBA will be sold in the secondary market. Management believes that making such loans helps the local community and also provides Ameris with a source of income and solid future lending relationships as such businesses grow and prosper. The primary repayment risk for commercial loans is the failure of the business due to economic or financial factors.

Consumer Loans. Our consumer loans include motor vehicle, home improvement, home equity, student and signature loans and small personal credit lines. The terms of these loans typically range from 12 to 60 months and vary based upon the nature of collateral and size of the loan. These loans are generally secured by various assets owned by the consumer.

Credit Administration

We have sought to maintain a comprehensive lending policy that meets the credit needs of each of the communities served by the Bank, including low and moderate-income customers, and to employ lending procedures and policies consistent with this approach. All loans are subject to our corporate loan policy, which is reviewed annually and updated as needed. The loan policy provides that lending officers have sole authority to approve loans of various amounts commensurate with their seniority, experience and needs within the market. Our local market Presidents have discretion to approve loans in varying principal amounts up to established limits, and our regional credit officers review and approve loans that exceed such limits.

Individual lending authority is assigned by the Company’s Chief Credit Officer, as is the maximum limit of new extensions of credit that may be approved in each market. These approval limits are reviewed annually by the Company and adjusted as needed. All requests for extensions of credit in excess of any of these limits are reviewed by one of four regional credit officers. When the request for approval exceeds the authority level of the regional credit officer, the approval of the Company’s Chief Credit Officer and/or the Company’s loan committee are required. All new loans or modifications to existing loans in excess of $250,000 are reviewed monthly by the Company’s credit administration department with the lender responsible for the credit. In addition, our ongoing loan review program subjects the portfolio to sampling and objective review by our monthly internal loan review process which is independent of the originating loan officer.

Each lending officer has authority to make loans only in the market area in which his or her Bank office is located and its contiguous counties. Occasionally, our loan committee will approve making a loan outside of the market areas of the Bank, provided the Bank has a prior relationship with the borrower. Our lending policy requires analysis of the borrower’s projected cash flow and ability to service the debt.

We actively market our services to qualified lending customers in both the commercial and consumer sectors. Our commercial lending officers actively solicit the business of new companies entering the market as well as longstanding members of that market’s business community. Through personalized professional service and competitive pricing, we have been successful in attracting new commercial lending customers. At the same time, we actively advertise our consumer loan products and continually seek to make our lending officers more accessible.

The Bank continually monitors its loan portfolio to identify areas of concern and to enable management to take corrective action when necessary. Local market Presidents and lending officers meet periodically to review all past due loans, the status of large loans and certain other credit or economic related matters. Individual lending officers are responsible for collection of past due amounts and monitoring any changes in the financial status of the borrowers.

Investment Activities

Our investment policy is designed to maximize income from funds not needed to meet loan demand in a manner consistent with appropriate liquidity and risk management objectives. Under this policy, our Company may invest in federal, state and municipal obligations, corporate obligations, public housing authority bonds, industrial development revenue bonds, securities issued by Government-Sponsored Enterprises (“GSEs”) and satisfactorily-rated trust preferred obligations. Investments in our portfolio must satisfy certain quality criteria. Our Company’s investments must be “investment-grade” as determined by either Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s. Investment securities where the Company has determined a certain level of credit risk are periodically reviewed to determine the financial condition of the issuer and to support the Company’s decision to continue holding the security. Our Company may purchase non-rated municipal bonds only if the issuer of such bonds is located in the Company’s general market area and such bonds are determined by the Company to have a credit risk no greater than the minimum ratings referred to above. Industrial development authority bonds, which normally are not rated, are purchased only if the issuer is located in the Company’s market area and if the bonds are considered to possess a high degree of credit soundness. Traditionally, the Company has purchased and held investment securities with very high levels of credit quality, favoring investments backed by direct or indirect guarantees of the U.S. Government.

While our investment policy permits our Company to trade securities to improve the quality of yields or marketability or to realign the composition of the portfolio, the Bank historically has not done so to any significant extent.

Our investment committee implements the investment policy and portfolio strategies and monitors the portfolio. Reports on all purchases, sales, net profits or losses and market appreciation or depreciation of the bond portfolio are reviewed by our Board of Directors each month. The written investment policy is reviewed annually by the Company’s Board of Directors and updated as needed.

The Company’s securities are held in safekeeping accounts at approved correspondent banks.

The Company provides a full range of deposit accounts and services to both retail and commercial customers. These deposit accounts have a variety of interest rates and terms and consist of interest-bearing and noninterest-bearing accounts, including commercial and retail checking accounts, regular interest-bearing savings accounts, money market accounts, individual retirement accounts and certificates of deposit. Our Bank obtains most of its deposits from individuals and businesses in its market areas.

Brokered time deposits are deposits obtained by utilizing an outside broker that is paid a fee. The Bank utilizes brokered deposits to accomplish several purposes, such as (i) acquiring a certain maturity and dollar amount without repricing the Bank’s current customers which could increase or decrease the overall cost of deposits and (ii) acquiring certain maturities and dollar amounts to help manage interest rate risk.

Other Funding Sources

The Federal Home Loan Bank (“FHLB”) allows the Company to obtain advances through its credit program. These advances are secured by securities owned by the Company and held in safekeeping by the FHLB, FHLB stock owned by the Company and certain qualifying residential mortgages. The Company has a revolving credit agreement with a regional bank, secured by subsidiary bank stock, and the Company maintains credit arrangements with various other financial institutions to purchase federal funds. The Company participates in the Federal Reserve discount window borrowings.

The Company also enters into repurchase agreements. These repurchase agreements are treated as short-term borrowings and are reflected on the Company’s balance sheet as such.

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