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Continued low interest rates and regulatory demands have convinced Evanston-based First Bank & Trust to get out of the business of making automobile loans indirectly through dealers, something the bank has done since its inception.

Managing director and CEO of First Evanston Bancorp, Inc., Robert R. Yohanan, broke the news in a letter to stockholders at the same time he announced that earnings for the first quarter of the year had increased some 15 percent when compared to the same period last year.

In his letter, Yohanan noted that regulations pertaining to indirect auto lending had become a “burden” that no longer made it a sufficiently profitable line of business for the bank to continue.

“Fortunately,” he said, “our loan production in the commercial/industrial area has more than offset the decreased volume in the indirect area.”

Indeed, the bank’s loans, net of allowances for loan losses, in the past 12 months have increased by nearly 12 percent, from $556 million to $622 million. Included are commercial loans of $234 million that are up by about 11 percent from nearly $210 million a year ago. Real estate loans grew to nearly $300 million from $246 million a year earlier, a gain of nearly 22 percent.

Consumer loans were off a bit, from $40 million to $38 million.

Total assets of the bank stood at $871,484,000 on March 31, up from $854,498,000 on the same date in 2013.

Net income for the quarter was $995,000, or 63 cents a share, compared with $865,000, or 56 cents a share, for the same quarter last year.

The bank’s cash reserves of $108 million declined by nearly half, to $58 million.

“This decrease in liquidity,” Yohanan explained, “is a natural phenomenon as the business market improves and loan demand picks up.”

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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