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Butterfield well positioned to handle crisis

The length and severity of the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, together with the time it takes for tourism in Bermuda and Cayman to recover, will have a bearing on the impact the health crisis has on Butterfield Bank.

As it reported a first-quarter profit of $40.3 million, down about $12 million compared with the same three months of last year, the bank said its capital and liquidity profile remains strong, but mentioned the impact it could face owing to the economic downturn and tourism disruption.

Michael Collins, Butterfield's chairman and chief executive, said: “We continue to stress test our risk positions and believe that our historically conservative underwriting criteria now places the bank in a strong position to manage through this crisis, and we are beginning to plan for possible economic recovery scenarios.”

He said the bank had achieved relatively strong results in the first three months of the year, despite early headwinds from the Covid-19 health crisis.

He added: “We are acutely aware of the personal and financial challenges being experienced throughout the communities in which we operate. We have taken appropriate measures, such as temporarily deferring mortgage payments, reducing fees, safeguarding our colleagues and customers in retail banking, and operating remotely where possible. We have also significantly increased our contributions to community programmes for people in the greatest need.”

As an essential service provider, the bank said it continues to offer services to customers while maintaining social-distancing and taking necessary steps to reduce the spread of the virus.

The bank's first-quarter net income equated to 77 cents per share, compared with 96 cents per share for the same period in 2019. Its core net income was $40.8 million for the three months, compared with $51.7 million a year ago.

The bank said its net income decreased versus the previous quarter owing principally to lower fee income and a $5.2 million reserve build for future expected credit losses under CECL.

During the first three months of the year, the bank repurchased 1.3 million of its common shares under its existing 3.5 million common share repurchase plan authorisation.

Separately, the bank said independent directors Caroline Foulger and Meroe Park have retired from the board and will not stand for re-election at the upcoming annual meeting. Michael Schrum, group chief financial officer, has joined the board as an executive director.

Mr Collins said: “I would like to thank Caroline and Meroe for their many contributions to Butterfield's board during their tenure.

“Caroline served on the board during an important time of change for the bank, helping oversee the post-financial crisis rebuilding of the balance sheet, and our transition from private equity control to being an independent, widely held NYSE-listed company. Her insight, dedication and counsel at the board were invaluable during that transition.

“Meroe joined us following our initial public offering in the US and, with her leadership background and cybersecurity knowledge, helped us put a renewed focus on many personnel and technology-related aspects of the bank's businesses. She provided valuable input and oversight regarding Butterfield's 2018-19 Deutsche Bank and ABN Amro acquisitions, which transformed our global trust operations and our banking footprint in the Channel Islands.

“As group CFO, Michael has worked closely with our directors over the years, and on their behalf, I welcome him to the board, where I know our deliberations will be enhanced by his robust experience in banking and thorough knowledge of Butterfield's operations around the world.”

Disclosure: the writer owns shares in Butterfield Bank

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Published May 01, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 01, 2020 at 9:01 am)

Butterfield well positioned to handle crisis

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