Primis Financial Corp. Reports Diluted Earnings per Share of $0.38 for the First

MCLEAN, Va., April 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Primis Financial Corp. (NASDAQ: FRST) (“Primis” or the “Company”), and its wholly-owned subsidiary Primis Bank (the “Bank”), today reported net income of $9.4 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2021, compared to $27 thousand for the quarter ended March 31, 2020.  Earnings per share for the three months ended March 31, 2021 were $0.39 on a basic and $0.38 on a diluted basis compared to $0.00 basic and diluted for the three months ended March 31, 2020.  

The Company also announced its new digital banking initiative expected to launch in the fourth quarter of this year.  As detailed below, the new digital bank will have unique technology-driven products and services and will initially be focused on consumer and small-business customers.

The Board of Directors also announced and declared a dividend of $0.10 per share payable on May 24, 2021 to shareholders of record on May 14, 2021.  This is Primis’ thirty-eighth consecutive quarterly dividend.  

Highlights for the three months ended March 31, 2021 versus three months ended March 31, 2020

  • Rebranding of the Corporation and the Bank from Southern National Bancorp of Virginia, Inc. and Sonabank, respectively, effective March 31, 2021.
  • Return on average assets of 1.19% versus 0.0% in the year-ago period.
  • Operating return on average assets(1) of 1.21% versus 0.63% in the year-ago period.
  • Net income was $9.4 million, pre-tax pre-provision earnings were $11.3 million and pre-tax pre-provision operating earnings(1) were $11.5 million for the first quarter of 2021, versus $27 thousand, $3.5 million and $8.9 million, respectively for the first quarter of 2020.
  • Pre-tax pre-provision return on average assets(1) of 1.43% and pre-tax pre-provision operating return on average assets(1) of 1.45% for the first quarter of 2021, compared to 0.52% and 1.30%, respectively, in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Total assets at the end of first quarter of 2021 were $3.33 billion, an increase of 20.6%.
  • Gross loans were $2.39 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2021, up 8.1% from the year ago period.  Excluding PPP balances, gross loans declined 7.1% over the same period.
  • Loans on deferral were $112.8 million or 5.5% of gross loans excluding PPP balances. Approximately 59% of total deferrals were from the hotel portfolio while restaurant deferrals were approximately 1%.
  • Total deposits increased $613 million year-over-year despite a $288 million decline in time deposits over the same time frame.  Non-time deposits comprised 83.7% of total deposits at March 31, 2021 versus 65.0% at March 31, 2020.
  • Cost of deposits declined to 0.60% for the first quarter of 2021 compared to 1.25% for the first quarter of 2020.
  • Mortgage income was $1.3 million for the first quarter of 2021 versus $231 thousand for the first quarter of 2020.
  • Allowance for credit losses to total loans (excluding PPP balances) of 1.70% at March 31, 2021 versus 0.57% at March 31, 2020.
  • Book value per share of $16.22 and tangible book value per share(1) of $11.84 at March 31, 2021, an increase of $0.63 and $0.73, respectively, from a year ago despite a significant build in the allowance for credit losses and $0.40 in dividends paid over the last twelve months.

Commenting on the quarter, President and CEO Dennis J. Zember, Jr. stated, “I am proud of the accomplishments our bank has made over this past quarter, including a wildly successful rebranding effort.  Launching a new brand and working to change perception in the marketplace is no easy task.  Our employees have embraced the challenge of making Primis stand for superior customer service enhanced by technology.  The feedback from customers has been tremendous so far.  As we detail below, our new digital banking effort is the next exciting step of the Primis evolution.”

Added Matthew A. Switzer, Executive Vice President and CFO, “Our liquidity continued to build in the quarter as cash and equivalents ended March at $480 million.  Part of this liquidity build was due to a deposit relationship with a mortgage company that has generated more funds than anticipated.  We anticipate normalization of this account in the second quarter which should reduce cash balances by approximately $100 million.  We continue to focus on building core deposits while anticipating a more robust lending environment in the latter half of 2021 as the economy continues to open.” 

Announcement of New Digital Banking Initiative

As noted above, the Company announced plans for a new digital bank offering with a launch date during the fourth quarter of 2021.  This venture will utilize a modern, cloud-based core platform provided by Finxact.  The Company has also partnered with nearly a dozen technology firms to provide the most robust and unique banking experience including Apiture (for digital customer-facing and mobile applications), Savana (customer and product management and servicing) and Levvel (third-party lead for development and implementation).  Key features enabled by this new technology include real-time processing and fully self-contained mobile applications, including in-app account opening, while utilizing the latest security protocols and robust consumer data protection.

The Company believes that this modern banking architecture is critical.  First, this architecture greatly compresses the time for creative thoughts and ideas to become a reality in the customer’s mobile application.  Today’s mobile applications are not functional or unique and severely limit the ability to incorporate banks’ new ideas to address customer needs.  Second, the Company’s creative abilities and unique features will remain the property of Primis alone.  The developers that breathe life into these new ideas will either be employed by or contracted to the Company and any distinguishing features will not be for sale or distribution by our core provider.  This drastically lengthens the period of time in which the Company can differentiate itself and invites substantial collaboration from industry experts, consumers and fintech partners who previously had no avenue or platform to roll out exclusive solutions.

The initial rollout will center on deposit solutions for retail and small business customers and will incorporate a variety of unique and proprietary features that the Company believes will be very attractive for customers.  Additionally, the Company’s products and services in the digital bank will feature rates, fee schedules and customer incentives that recognize the substantially lower infrastructure costs borne by the bank to provide services.  Management estimates that the capital outlay of developing a fully functional, modern core with unique and distinguishing characteristics will approximate the capital investment of two to three traditional branches in metropolitan-type markets.

The digital bank will operate in parallel with the Bank’s existing infrastructure currently powered by solutions from Fiserv.  Fiserv remains an important partner for the Company, and the Fiserv platform will continue to support the Bank’s growth for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Zember noted, “Our branches and employees are passionate about providing the highest quality service and leadership in our local communities. This high-touch model is important but at the same time, we are cognizant of how customer behavior and demands for more technology have changed over the last year. We launched a new brand with a vision of being unique in this industry, wanting to use technology to improve the customer experience. Our efforts here should create a competitive advantage and something noticeably unique in our communities.”

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