Community banks improve

WARREN – National banks and federal savings associations located in nine Midwestern states including Ohio continue to report better earnings compared to last year, due largely to improving credit quality, a federal regulator said Tuesday.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or OCC, which regulates at least six community banks and thrifts with offices in the Mahoning Valley, said in a quarterly risk assessment telephone conference call that improving bank capitalization and profitability is helping more banks look to increase lending activity and volume of commercial loans.

Among Ohio’s 90 community banks and thrifts regulated by the OCC, six with local affiliations are Farmers National Bank of Canfield; Huntington National Bank; Home Federal Savings and Loan of Niles; First Place Bank in Warren; Keybank National Association; and JPMorgan Chase Bank National Association.

While the OCC officials did not speak in specifics, District Deputy Comptroller Bert Otto said, generally, the Ohio banks they regulate are operating with less risk.

In Ohio, the regulator said most problem banks are improving or stable.

“As a result of this progress, more of our banks are looking to increase lending activity in their communities. Many have been able to achieve growth in commercial loans as we’ve seen volume pick up there in recent quarters,” Otto said.

OCC Risk Committee Chairman and District Risk Officer John Meade expressed concern with commercial loan growth that may be occurring too rapidly at unnecessary risk. As a result, he said examiners will continue to monitor credit risk and underwriting at banks rapidly growing their commercial loans.