DBRS, Inc. (DBRS Morningstar) confirmed the ratings of Fulton Financial Corporation (Fulton or the Company), including the Company’s Long-Term Issuer Rating of A (low). At the same time, DBRS Morningstar confirmed the ratings of its primary banking subsidiary, Fulton Bank, N.A. (the Bank). The trend for all ratings is Stable. The Intrinsic Assessment (IA) for the Bank is ‘A’, while its Support Assessment remains SA1. The Company’s Support Assessment is SA3 and its Long-Term Issuer Rating is positioned one notch below the Bank’s IA.
KEY RATING CONSIDERATIONS
Fulton’s ratings confirmation and Stable trend reflect the Company’s solid community banking franchise operating in a number of states and historically sound asset quality that is supported by consistent and conservative loan underwriting and a fairly granular loan portfolio. Additionally, the Company exhibits good core deposit funding, as well as a solid capital position.
Fulton’s ratings also consider the Company’s limited scale and somewhat concentrated position in commercial real estate loans (CRE).
DBRS Morningstar considers Fulton’s current ratings as well placed. Over the longer term, the ratings would be upgraded if Fulton grew its franchise resulting in greater revenue diversity and driving a sustained improvement in profitability metrics. Conversely, sustained weaker profitability metrics, an increase in risk appetite, overly aggressive capital management or a poorly integrated acquisition would result in a downgrade of ratings.
Franchise Combined Building Block (BB) Assessment: Good / Moderate
Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Fulton reported $25.8 billion in assets at December 31, 2021. The Company maintains a solid community banking franchise offering a full range of banking products to its customers in each of its markets. The Company operates approximately 200 branches in five states, utilizing a community banking model with local decision making. Fulton’s strategic focus in recent years has been to grow its franchise in larger markets including Philadelphia and Baltimore. The recently announced acquisition of Philadelphia-based Prudential Bancorp, Inc. will accelerate that endeavor, adding 10 branches and approximately $1.1 billion in assets.
Earnings Combined Building Block (BB) Assessment: Good
Fulton’s earnings proved resilient in 2021 with a relatively stable net interest margin and strong results from non-interest income sources, including wealth management. The Company reported net income of $275.5 million for 2021, 55% higher than the $178.0 million earned in 2020. Results were boosted by reserve releases, but the Company also experienced revenue growth. Non-interest income, driven by wealth management, moved higher and the net interest margin, at 2.78%, was fairly resilient declining by just eight basis points year over year. DBRS Morningstar expects Fulton’s asset sensitive balance sheet to benefit from higher interest rates, contributing to higher net interest income in 2022.
Risk Combined Building Block (BB) Assessment: Strong / Good
Consistently strong asset quality and conservative underwriting have remained a key strength for the Company and help underpin the ratings. DBRS Morningstar considers Fulton’s relatively high level of CRE and construction loans, which represented approximately 46% of total loans at YE21, a concentration risk. Somewhat reducing this risk are the highly granular exposure limits the Company has maintained for both borrowers and projects, as well as a large percentage of owner-occupied CRE exposures that are typically less risky. Net charge-offs were just .07% for 2021. However, DBRS Morningstar views current asset quality metrics as unsustainably low and expects these metrics to start trending back towards more normalized levels.
Funding and Liquidity Combined Building Block (BB) Assessment: Strong / Good
DBRS Morningstar views the Company’s funding and liquidity as solid. Deposit growth continued in 2021 with deposits increasing 12% year-over-year. The Company fully funds its loan portfolio with deposits and is not reliant on wholesale funding. On balance sheet liquidity remains strong and the Company has ready access to additional sources of liquidity, if needed.
Capitalization Combined Building Block (BB) Assessment: Strong / Good
Regulatory capital ratios remain sound. Specifically, the CET1 ratio was 9.9% while the total capital ratio was 14.1% at year-end. The Company increased its dividend and repurchased shares in 2021.The recently announced acquisition of Prudential Bancorp, Inc. is expected to be neutral to capital ratios.
Further details on the Scorecard Indicators and Building Block Assessments can be found at https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/393352.
A description of how DBRS Morningstar considers ESG factors within the DBRS Morningstar analytical framework can be found in the DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Approach to Environmental, Social, and Governance Risk Factors in Credit Ratings at https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/373262.
All figures are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.
The principal methodology is the Global Methodology for Rating Banks and Banking Organisations (July 19, 2021): https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/381742/global-methodology-for-rating-banks-and-banking-organisations. Other applicable methodologies include the DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Approach to Environmental, Social, and Governance Risk Factors in Credit Ratings (February 3, 2021): https://www.dbrsmorningstar.com/research/373262/dbrs-morningstar-criteria-approach-to-environmental-social-and-governance-risk-factors-in-credit-ratings.
The primary sources of information used for this rating include Morningstar, Inc. and Company Documents. DBRS Morningstar considers the information available to it for the purposes of providing this rating was of satisfactory quality.
The rated entity or its related entities did participate in the rating process for this rating action. DBRS Morningstar had access to the accounts and other relevant internal documents of the rated entity or its related entities in connection with this rating action.
Generally, the conditions that lead to the assignment of a Negative or Positive trend are resolved within a 12-month period. DBRS Morningstar’s outlooks and ratings are under regular surveillance.
For more information on this credit or on this industry, visit www.dbrsmorningstar.com.
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