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Sandy Spring Bancorp reports net income drop

Sandy Spring Bancorp, Inc. reported its fourth-quarter earnings Thursday, revealing a $2 million drop in net income from quarter to quarter but also strong growth in its asset base over the previous year.

The Olney-based parent company of Sandy Spring Bank said its fourth-quarter net income amounted to $9.1 million, down from $11.1 million in the third quarter and from $9.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The company’s net income took a $6.2 million hit for the full year, drawing in $38.2 million in 2014 compared with record earnings of $44.4 million in 2013.

In a press release, the company cited $6.5 million in litigation expenses as one reason for the decline.

“Considering the impact on operating results of the items mentioned above, the company produced solid core results in 2014 driven by notable growth in its loan and deposit portfolios and the strong performance of its wealth management business. We are proud of our accomplishments considering the market volatility and extremely competitive environment that existed throughout the year,” said President and CEO Daniel J. Schrider.

In a conference call with investors, Schrider faulted “a number of unique expense items” that affected the bank’s financial results, including a continuing appeal of a decision rendered by an Anne Arundel County jury last May.

In the case, Sandy Spring assumed responsibility for defendant CommerceFirst Bancorp, which it acquired in 2011. The jury awarded $6 million to three men who accused a former CommerceFirst executive of assaulting them at gunpoint. That executive, former vice president Thomas L. Bolander, never worked for Sandy Spring, a spokesperson said at the time. Following the verdict, Schrider said the bank shouldn’t be held liable for Bolander’s actions.

Despite this net income decline, the bank also saw its total assets grow from $4.1 billion at the end of 2013 to $4.4 billion at the end of 2014 – a 7 percent jump attributed to a 12 percent increase in its loan portfolio.

Schrider also cited success in the wealth management division, which grew 9 percent year over year, he said. Just last month, Sandy Spring unveiled a new community office in Bethesda, which includes a “full-service” financial center.

“This is an increasingly strong niche for us in the greater Washington region,” he said.

And Schrider noted “wonderful success” in retail and commercial deposits. Considering these positive factors, Schrider told investors he believes the bank is well-positioned for the future.

Sandy Spring has 44 branches in Maryland and Virginia, with locations in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties.