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UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549 
FORM 10-K 
      Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. 
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2020
OR 
      Transition Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. 
     For the transition period from _____ to _____      
Commission File No. 001-34582 
nwbi-20201231_g1.jpg
NORTHWEST BANCSHARES, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter) 
Maryland27-0950358
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(I.R.S. Employer Identification Number)
100 Liberty Street,Warren,Pennsylvania16365
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)(Zip Code)
 (814) 726-2140
(Registrant’s telephone number) 
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act: 

Title of each classTrading symbol(s)Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $0.01 Par ValueNWBINASDAQ Stock Market, LLC
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes   No
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes   No
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding twelve months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes   No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes   No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.  See the definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. 
        Large accelerated filer         Accelerated filer
        Non-accelerated filer         Smaller reporting company
                Emerging growth company
    If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management's assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. Yes   No  
     Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  Yes  No  
As of February 22, 2021, there were 126,949,388 shares outstanding of the Registrant’s Common Stock. 
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, computed by reference to the last sale price on June 30, 2020, as reported by the Nasdaq Global Select Market, was approximately $1.308 billion. 
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE 
Proxy Statement for the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders of the Registrant (Part III).

Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
   
  
  
  
  
EX — 101  



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FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
 
This document contains forward-looking statements, which can be identified by the use of words such as “estimate,” “project,” “believe,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “plan,” “seek,” “expect” and words of similar meaning. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to:
statements of our goals, intentions and expectations;
statements regarding our business plans, prospects, growth and operating strategies;
statements regarding the asset quality of our loan and investment portfolios; and
estimates of our risks and future costs and benefits.

 These forward-looking statements are based on current beliefs and expectations of our management and are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond our control. In addition, these forward-looking statements are subject to assumptions with respect to future business strategies and decisions that are subject to change. 
    The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from the anticipated results or other expectations expressed in the forward-looking statements:

the disruption to local, regional, national and global economic activity caused by infectious disease outbreaks, including the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the significant impact that such outbreak has had and may have on our growth, operations and earnings;
changes in asset quality, including increases in default rates on loans and higher levels of nonperforming loans and loan charge-offs generally, and specifically resulting from the economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic;
changes in laws or government regulations or policies affecting financial institutions, including changes in regulatory fees and capital requirements;
general economic conditions, either nationally or in our market areas, that are different than expected;
inflation and changes in the interest rate environment that reduce our margins or reduce the fair value of financial instruments;
adverse changes in the securities and credit markets;
cyber-security concerns, including an interruption or breach in the security of our website or other information systems;
technological changes that may be more difficult or expensive than expected;
the ability of third-party providers to perform their obligations to us;
competition among depository and other financial institutions;
our ability to enter new markets successfully and capitalize on growth opportunities;
our ability to manage our internal growth and our ability to successfully integrate acquired entities, businesses or branch offices;
changes in consumer spending, borrowing and saving habits;
our ability to continue to increase and manage our commercial and personal loans;
possible impairments of securities held by us, including those issued by government entities and government sponsored enterprises;
the impact of the economy on our loan portfolio (including cash flow and collateral values), investment portfolio, customers and capital market activities;
our ability to receive regulatory approvals for proposed transactions or new lines of business;
the effects of any federal government shutdown;
changes in the financial performance and/or condition of our borrowers;
the effect of changes in accounting policies and practices, as may be adopted by the regulatory agencies, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") and other accounting standard setters.
changes in the level and direction of loan delinquencies and write-offs and changes in estimates of the adequacy of the allowance for credit losses;
our ability to access cost-effective funding;
our ability to manage market risk, credit risk and operational risk in the current economic environment;
our ability to retain key employees; and
our compensation expense associated with equity allocated or awarded to our employees.
Because of these and other uncertainties, our actual future results may be materially different from the results indicated by these forward-looking statements.  Please see “Item 1A. Risk Factors.”
Except as may be required by law, we disclaim any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


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ITEM 1.                                                BUSINESS
 
Northwest Bancshares, Inc.
 
Northwest Bancshares, Inc., a Maryland corporation, was incorporated in September 2009 to be the successor corporation to Northwest Bancorp, Inc., the former stock holding company for Northwest Bank, upon completion of the mutual-to-stock conversion of Northwest Bancorp, MHC. The terms “Northwest”, “the Company”, “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Northwest Bancshares, Inc.

The conversion was completed December 18, 2009 when the Company sold 68,878,267 shares of common stock at $10.00 per share in the related offering.  Concurrent with the completion of the offering, shares of Northwest Bancorp, Inc. common stock owned by public stockholders were exchanged for shares of Northwest Bancshares, Inc.’s common stock.  We also issued 1,277,565 shares of common stock and contributed $1.0 million in cash from the offering proceeds to Northwest Charitable Foundation, a charitable foundation that we established for the benefit of the communities in which Northwest Bank operates.  As of December 31, 2020, the Company had 127,019,452 shares outstanding and a market capitalization of approximately $1.618 billion.
    
    Our executive offices are located at 100 Liberty Street, Warren, Pennsylvania 16365.  Our telephone number at this address is (814) 726-2140.
 
The Company’s website (www.northwest.com) contains a direct link to Northwest Bancshares, Inc.’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including copies of annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to these filings, if any. Information on our website shall not be considered a part of this report. Copies of our filings may be obtained, without charge, by written request to Shareholder Relations, P.O. Box 128, Warren, Pennsylvania 16365.
 
Northwest Bank
 
Northwest Bank is a Pennsylvania-chartered stock savings bank headquartered in Warren, Pennsylvania, which is located in northwestern Pennsylvania. Northwest Bank is a community-oriented financial institution offering personal and business banking solutions, investment management and trust services and insurance products. Northwest Bank’s mutual savings bank predecessor was founded in 1896.
 
As of December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank operated 170 community-banking locations throughout its market area in central and western Pennsylvania, western New York and eastern Ohio. Northwest Bank also offers investment management and trust services and employee benefits and property and casualty insurance. Our principal lending activities are the origination of loans secured by first mortgages on owner-occupied, one-to four-family residences, shorter term consumer loans, and commercial business and commercial real estate loans.
 
Our principal sources of funds are personal and business deposits, borrowed funds and the principal and interest payments on loans and marketable securities. Our principal source of income is interest received on loans and marketable securities. Our principal expenses are the cost of employee compensation and benefits and the interest paid on deposits and borrowed funds.
 
Northwest Bank’s principal executive office is located at 100 Liberty Street, Warren, Pennsylvania 16365, and its telephone number at that address is (814) 726-2140.

Market Area and Competition
 
We are headquartered in northwestern Pennsylvania and have expanded primarily through acquisitions, into the southwestern and central regions of Pennsylvania, as well as western New York, northeastern Ohio, and Indiana.  As of December 31, 2020, we operated 100 community banking locations in Pennsylvania, 14 community banking offices in Ohio, 31 community banking offices in New York, and 25 community banking locations in Indiana. All of the aforementioned market areas are served by a number of competing financial institutions. As a result, we encounter strong competition both in attracting deposits and in originating loans. Our most direct competition for deposits comes from other banks, brokerage houses and credit unions in our market areas.  We expect continued competition from these financial institutions in the foreseeable future. With the continued acceptance of internet banking by our customers and consumers generally, competition for deposits has increased from institutions operating outside of our market area as well as from insurance companies.
    
    The following description of our market area is based upon information obtained from SNL Securities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Federal Housing Financial Agency and the Mortgage Bankers Association. 


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Pennsylvania Market Area.  Our retail branch network within the state of Pennsylvania encompasses 28 counties. Our western Pennsylvania market has a diverse economy driven by healthcare and education industries, service businesses, technology companies and small manufacturing operations. Our southeastern Pennsylvania market is primarily driven by service businesses but also serves as a bedroom community to the cities of Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
 
Pennsylvania is a stable banking market with a total population of approximately 12.8 million and total households of approximately 1.9 million as of December 31, 2020. The Pennsylvania markets in which we operate our retail branches contain approximately half of Pennsylvania’s population and a similar percentage of households. These markets have experienced a 3.3% decrease in population between 2011 and 2020. As of December 31, 2020, the market's average median household income had decreased over the last year by 0.1%, to $57,475, compared to the national median income level of $67,761. The household income growth rate in Pennsylvania of 8.4%, is projected to be slightly below the national average growth rates during the next five years of 9.0%. As of December 31, 2020, the market's unemployment rate was 6.38%, slightly lower than the state of Pennsylvania rate of 6.7% and the national average of 6.7%.
 
As of September 30, 2020, the House Price Index for the last four quarters in the state of Pennsylvania increased by 8.06%, compared to an increase in the national average of 3.1%. Nationally, foreclosures have receded from their record highs to the lowest levels since the fourth quarter of 2006. As of September 30, 2020, the foreclosure rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four unit residential properties in the state of Pennsylvania was one in every 5,530 housing units, compared to the national average of one in every 5,048 housing units.

 Western New York Market Area. Our retail branch network of 31 community banking offices in New York encompasses five counties in the western portion of the state. This market has a diverse economy driven by healthcare and education industries, service businesses, technology companies and small manufacturing operations. 
 
Our New York market area has a total population of approximately 2.1 million and total households of approximately 624,000 as of December 31, 2020. This area has experienced a decrease in population between 2011 and 2020, of 1.76%. The average median household income in this market increased by 2.2% over the last year to $61,116 as of December 31, 2020, compared to the national median income level of $67,761. As of December 31, 2020, the unemployment rate for our New York market area was 6.88%, compared to the national average of 6.7%.
 
As of September 30, 2020, the House Price Index for the last four quarters in our New York market increased by 7.05%, compared to an increase in the national average of 3.1%. As of September 30, 2020, the foreclosure rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four unit residential properties in the state of New York was one in every 6,946 housing units, compared to the national average of one in every 5,048 housing units.

Northeastern Ohio Market Area. Our branch network includes two counties in northeastern Ohio, including the Cleveland metro area. The major employment sectors in this market are similar to the contiguous market in western Pennsylvania.
 
Our Ohio market area has a total population of approximately 2.4 million and total households of approximately 1 million as of December 31, 2020. This area has experienced an increase in population between 2011 and 2020, of 2.5%. The median household income for our Ohio market increased 8.1% over the last year to $64,056 as of December 31, 2020, compared to the national median income level of $67,761. As of December 31, 2020, the unemployment rate for our Ohio market was 6.0%, compared to the national average of 6.7%.
 
As of September 30, 2020, the House Price Index for the last four quarters in our Ohio market area increased by 9.21%, compared to an increase in the national average of 3.1%. As of September 30, 2020, the foreclosure rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four unit residential properties in the state of Ohio was one in every 3,641 housing units, compared to the national average of one in every 5,048 housing units.

Indiana Market Area. Our branch network includes eight counties in Indiana. This market has a diverse economy driven by healthcare and education industries, service businesses, technology companies and small manufacturing operations.

Our Indiana market area has a total population of approximately 1.9 million and total households of approximately 719,000 as of December 31, 2020. This area has experienced an increase in population between 2011 and 2020, of 1.36%. The median household income for our Indiana market is $52,571 as of December 31, 2020, compared to the national median income level of $67,761. As of December 31, 2020, the unemployment rate for our Indiana market was 4.45%, compared to the national average of 6.7%.

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As of September 30, 2020, the House Price Index for the last four quarters in our Indiana market area increased by 8.29%, compared to an increase in the national average of 3.1%. As of September 30, 2020, the foreclosure rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four unit residential properties in the state of Indiana was one in every 5,027 housing units, compared to the national average of one in every 5,048 housing units.
 
Lending Activities
 
General Our principal lending activities are the origination of fixed and adjustable-rate loans collateralized by one-to four-family residential real estate, shorter term consumer loans and loans collateralized by multi-family residential and commercial real estate as well as commercial business loans. Generally, we focus our lending activities in the geographic areas where we maintain offices.
 
In an effort to manage interest rate risk, we have sought to make our interest-earning assets more interest rate sensitive by originating adjustable-rate loans, such as adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit, and by originating short-term and medium-term fixed-rate consumer loans. In recent years we have emphasized the origination of commercial real estate loans and commercial business loans, which generally have adjustable-rates of interest and shorter maturities than one-to four-family residential real estate loans. Because we originate a substantial amount of long-term fixed-rate mortgage loans collateralized by one-to four-family residential real estate, when possible, we originate and underwrite loans according to standards that allow us to sell them into the secondary mortgage market for purposes of managing interest-rate risk and liquidity.  The sale of mortgage loans supports our strategy to grow the consumer and commercial loan portfolios faster than our portfolio of long-term fixed-rate residential mortgage loans. We currently sell low-yielding fixed-rate residential mortgage loans with maturities of more than 15 years, and on a more limited basis, those with maturities of 15 years or less, while retaining all adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans. With the build out of our Columbus, Ohio mortgage fulfillment center, our intention is to sell more loans into the secondary market servicing released. We also retain servicing on some of the mortgage loans we sell which generates monthly service fee income.  We generally retain in our portfolio all consumer loans that we originate while we periodically sell participations in the multi-family residential, commercial real estate or commercial business loans that we originate in an effort to reduce the concentration of certain individual credits and the risk associated with certain businesses, industries or geographies.
 
Residential Mortgage Loans.  We offer residential mortgage loans with terms typically ranging from 15 to 30 years, with either fixed or adjustable interest rates. Our mortgage loans are amortized on a monthly basis with both principal and interest due monthly. Originations of fixed-rate residential mortgage loans versus adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans are monitored on an ongoing basis. The percentage of adjustable-rate residential mortgage originations to total originations is affected significantly by the level of market interest rates, customer preference, our interest rate sensitivity and liquidity position, as well as loan products offered by our competitors. Therefore, even when our strategy is to increase the origination of adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans, market conditions may be such that there is greater demand for fixed-rate mortgage loans. Adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans totaled $42.2 million, or 0.4%, of our gross loan portfolio at December 31, 2020.
 
Our fixed-rate residential mortgage loan products offer fixed-rates for up to 30 years. Whenever possible, our fixed-rate residential mortgages are originated and underwritten according to secondary mortgage market guidelines in order to manage credit risk, as well as interest rate risk and liquidity risk. Our adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans offer initial interest rate adjustment periods of five and seven years, terms up to 30 years and adjustments based on changes in designated market indices. 
 
Regulations limit the amount that a savings bank may lend relative to appraised values of real estate securing the loans, as determined by an appraisal at the time of loan origination. Such regulations permit a maximum loan-to-value of 95% for residential properties and 80% for all other real estate secured loans. We generally limit the maximum loan-to-value on both fixed- and adjustable-rate residential mortgage loans without private mortgage insurance, to 80% of the lesser of appraised values or purchase prices of real estate serving as collateral for our mortgage loans.  Limited special financing programs allow for insured loans with loan-to-value ratios of up to 97%, and uninsured loans with loan-to-value ratios up to 100%. The appraisal process is managed by Northwest Appraisal Services, and appraisals are performed by in-house appraiser staff or by appraisers deemed qualified by our chief appraiser. We require fire and casualty insurance, as well as a title guaranty regarding good title, on all properties securing our residential mortgage loans. We also require flood insurance for loans secured by properties located within special flood hazard areas.
 
Included in our $3.009 billion portfolio of residential mortgage loans are construction loans of $38.0 million, or 0.4% of our gross loan portfolio.  We offer fixed-rate and adjustable-rate residential construction-to-permanent loans primarily for the construction of owner-occupied one-to four-family residences in our market area to builders or owners who have a contract for construction.  Construction loans are originated with terms of up to 30 years with an allowance of up to one year for construction.  Advances are made as construction is completed, and interest is charged on the total amount of credit extended.  At the end of the construction period, repayment terms convert to fully amortizing payments, with both principal and interest due monthly. Construction lending generally involves a greater degree of credit risk than permanent residential mortgage lending, as repayment of construction loans is often dependent upon the successful completion of construction projects.  Construction delays or the inability of borrowers to sell
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properties once construction is completed may impair borrowers’ ability to repay loans.  Private mortgage insurance is required for construction loans with loan-to-value ratios in excess of 80%, and the maximum loan-to-value ratio for construction loans is 95% of the lower of cost to build or as-completed appraised value.

    In addition, we originate loans within our market area that are secured by individual unimproved or improved lots.  Land loans for the construction of owner-occupied residential real estate properties are currently offered with fixed-rates for terms of up to ten years.  The maximum loan-to-value ratio for these loans is 80% of the as-completed appraised value.
 
Our residential mortgage loans customarily include due-on-sale clauses, which are provisions giving us the right to declare loans immediately due and payable in the event, among other things, borrowers sell or otherwise dispose of underlying real properties serving as collateral for loans.
 
Home Equity Loans Generally, our home equity loans are secured by the borrower’s principal residence with a maximum loan-to-value ratio, including the principal balances of both the first and second mortgage loans, of 90% or less. We generally underwrite home equity loans and lines of credit in a manner similar to our underwriting of residential mortgage loans.

Home equity loans are offered on a fixed-rate basis with amortized terms of up to 20 years. Principal and interest is due monthly.  At December 31, 2020, our fixed-rate home equity loans totaled $986.3 million, or 9.3% of gross loans.
    Home equity lines of credit are offered on an adjustable-rate basis with terms of up to 25 years, including a draw period of 10 years each. Although home equity lines of credit require interest-only payments during draw periods, they are underwritten using amortizing principal and interest payments based on current rates of equivalent fixed-rate products. The disbursed portion of home equity lines of credit totaled $474.7 million, or 4.5% of gross loans, with $711.4 million remaining undistributed as of December 31, 2020.

Other Consumer Loans The principal types of other consumer loans we offer are direct and indirect automobile loans, sales finance loans, unsecured personal loans, credit card loans, and loans secured by deposit accounts. These loans are typically offered with maturities of ten years or less.
 
The underwriting standards we employ for consumer loans include a determination of the applicant’s credit history and an assessment of ability to meet existing obligations and payments on the proposed loan. The stability of the applicant’s monthly income may be determined by verification of gross monthly income from primary employment, and additionally, from any verifiable secondary income. Creditworthiness of the applicant is of primary consideration; however, the underwriting process also includes a comparison of the value of the collateral in relation to the proposed loan amount.
 
Consumer loans entail greater credit risk than residential mortgage loans, particularly in the case of consumer loans that are unsecured or secured by assets that depreciate rapidly, such as automobiles, mobile homes, boats, recreation vehicles, appliances and furniture. In such cases, repossessed collateral for a defaulted consumer loan may not provide an adequate source of repayment for the outstanding loan and the remaining deficiency often does not warrant further substantial collection efforts against the borrower. In particular, amounts realizable on the sale of repossessed automobiles may be significantly reduced based upon the condition of the automobiles and the lack of demand for used automobiles. At December 31, 2020, other consumer loans totaled $1.458 billion, or 13.8% of gross loans.

Commercial Real Estate Loans Our multi-family commercial real estate loans are secured by multi-family residences, such as rental properties, student housing, and senior living facilities. Our commercial real estate loans are secured by nonresidential properties such as hotels, commercial offices, medical buildings, manufacturing facilities and retail establishments. At December 31, 2020, a significant portion of our multi-family commercial real estate and commercial real estate loans were secured by properties located within our market area.

Our largest commercial relationship with an aggregate total exposure of $131.4 million as of December 31, 2020, comprised our largest multi-family commercial real estate loan relationship with $77.3 million of the total exposure attributed to multi-family commercial. While a portion of this exposure did seek COVID-19 related deferrals at some point during 2020, those deferrals have expired and all loans were performing in accordance with their terms as of December 31, 2020. Our largest commercial real estate loan relationship as of December 31, 2020 had an aggregate total exposure of $105.4 million, of which $103.6 million was comprised of commercial real estate loans. These loans are secured by retail space, office space, hotels, self-storage, restaurant, and a charter school. Some of these loans have received COVID-19 related deferrals and a few continue to operate under these deferrals. All of the loans in this relationship are performing in accordance with their agreed upon terms as of December 31, 2020.

Multi-family commercial and commercial real estate loans are offered with both adjustable and fixed interest rates. The terms of each multi-family residential and commercial real estate loan are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. We generally originate multi-
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family commercial and commercial real estate loans in amounts up to 80% of the appraised value of the property collateralizing the loan. At December 31, 2020, commercial real estate loans totaled $3.350 billion, or 31.7% of gross loans.
 
Loans secured by multi-family commercial and commercial real estate generally involve a greater degree of credit risk than residential mortgage loans and carry larger loan balances. This increased credit risk is a result of several factors, including the concentration of principal in a limited number of loans and borrowers, the effects of general economic conditions on income producing properties, and the increased difficulty of evaluating and monitoring these types of loans. Furthermore, the repayment of loans secured by multi-family commercial and commercial real estate is typically dependent upon the successful operation of the related real estate property. If the cash flow from the project is reduced, the borrower’s ability to repay the loan may be impaired.
 
Commercial Loans We offer commercial loans to finance various activities in our market area, some of which are secured in part by additional real estate collateral. At December 31, 2020, our largest commercial loan relationship had an aggregate total exposure of $90.8 million, and was secured with business assets. This loan was performing in accordance with their agreed upon terms as of December 31, 2020.
 
Commercial business loans are offered with both fixed and adjustable interest rates. Underwriting standards we employ for commercial business loans include a determination of the applicant’s ability to meet existing obligations and payments on the proposed loan from operating cash flows generated by the applicant’s business. The financial strength of each applicant is also assessed through a review of financial statements provided by the applicant.

    We originate commercial loans through our network of Small Business and Commercial Loan Officers located in our areas. In addition, our Commercial Finance group originates loans where multiple banks may be involved in the credit facilities. These loans are made to companies operating in our market area. Many of these companies carry public debt ratings. 

Commercial loans generally have higher interest rates than residential loans, but they also may involve a higher risk of default since their repayment is generally dependent on the successful operation of the borrower’s business.  We strive to obtain personal guarantees from the borrower or a third party as a condition to originating commercial loans. At December 31, 2020, commercial loans totaled $1,208.0 million, or 11.4% of gross loans.

Loan Originations, Solicitation, Processing and Commitments Upon receiving a retail loan application, we obtain a credit report and verification of employment to confirm specific information relating to the applicant’s employment, income, and credit standing.  In the case of a real estate loan, either an in-house appraiser, or an approved external appraiser, appraises the real estate intended to secure the proposed loan.  A loan processor checks the loan document file for accuracy and completeness and verifies the information provided.
 
For our personal loans, including residential mortgage loans, home equity loans and lines of credit, automobile loans, credit cards and other unsecured loans, we have implemented a credit approval process based on a laddered individual loan authority system. Real estate secured loans are underwritten centrally by our underwriting team. Non-real estate loans are underwritten by local loan officers who are granted various levels of authority based on their lending experience and expertise.  These authority levels are reviewed by the Credit Committee on at least an annual basis.
 
Aggregate credit exposures over $1.0 million are underwritten by Credit Administration. Our commercial loan policy assigns individual lending limits for our various commercial loan officers and dual authority consisting of an individual from Commercial Lending and Credit Administration. Lending authorities are established by the Credit Committee. The Senior Loan Committee may approve extensions of credit in excess of the maximum dual authority. The Credit Committee meets quarterly to review the assigned lending limits and to monitor our lending policies, loan activity, economic conditions and concentrations of credit.

Our general policy is to make no loans either individually or in the aggregate to one customer in excess of $30.0 million.  Under certain circumstances, for instance well-qualified customers or customers with multiple individually qualified projects, this limit may be exceeded subject to the approval of the Senior Loan Committee. Loans exceeding $5.0 million or unusual loan requests are reviewed with the Risk Management Committee of the Board of Directors at each quarterly meeting.  In addition, the Chief Credit Officer has the authority to require that the Board of Directors review any loan that has been approved by the Senior Loan Committee with which the Chief Credit Officer has specific concerns. Fire and casualty insurance is required at the time the loan is made and throughout the term of the loan, and flood insurance is required as determined by regulation.  After a loan is approved, a loan commitment letter is promptly issued to the borrower.  At December 31, 2020, we had commitments to originate $251.1 million of loans.
 
The commitment letter specifies the terms and conditions of the proposed loan including the amount, interest rate, amortization period, maturity, a description of the required collateral and required insurance coverage. Property searches are requested, as needed, on all loans secured by real property.
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 Loan Origination Fees and Costs We defer loan origination fees received from borrowers and costs to originate loans and amortize such amounts as an adjustment of yield over the life of the loan by using the level yield method. Deferred loan fees and costs are recognized as part of interest income immediately upon prepayment or the sale of the related loan. At December 31, 2020, we had $41.9 million of net deferred loan origination fees. Loan origination fees vary with the volume and type of loans and commitments originated and purchased, principal repayments, and competitive conditions in the marketplace.
 
Loan origination costs were $29.6 million, $15.5 million and $11.2 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
 
Loans-to-One Borrower. As of December 31, 2020, the largest aggregate amount loaned to one borrower, or related borrowers, totaled $131.4 million in exposure and was secured by student housing, retail space, office space and commercial development. Our second largest lending relationship totaled $105.4 million in exposure and was secured by a hotel, retail space, office space, multi-family, a charter school, self-storage, and a restaurant. Our third largest commercial relationship totaled $90.8 million in exposure and was secured by hotels, senior housing, and office space. Our fourth largest commercial relationship totaled $81.1 million in exposure and was secured by student housing, medical space, senior housing, office space, industrial, and retail space. Our fifth largest commercial relationship totaled $51.9 million in exposure and was secured by student housing. All of these loans were performing in accordance with their terms at December 31, 2020.
 
Investment Activities
 
Our Board of Directors has primary responsibility for establishing and overseeing our investment policy. The Board of Directors has delegated authority to implement the investment policy to our Chief Financial Officer. The investment policy is reviewed at least annually, and any changes to the policy are subject to approval by the Board of Directors.  The overall objectives of the investment policy are to maintain a portfolio of high quality and diversified investments, to provide liquidity, and to control interest rate risk while providing an acceptable return. The investment portfolio is also used to provide collateral for qualified deposits and borrowings, to provide additional earnings when loan production is low, and to reduce our tax liability. The policy dictates that investment decisions give consideration to the safety of principal, liquidity requirements and potential returns. All purchase and sale transactions are reported to the Board of Directors on a monthly basis.
 
Our investment policy does not permit the purchase of complex securities and derivatives as defined in federal banking regulations and other high-risk securities, nor does it permit additional investments in non-agency mortgage-backed securities, pooled trust preferred securities, or single issuer trust preferred securities.
 
At the time of purchase, we designate a security as either held-to-maturity or available-for-sale based upon our ability and intentions. Securities available-for-sale are carried at fair value and securities held-to-maturity are carried at amortized cost. On a quarterly basis, we measure expected credit losses on held-to-maturity debt securities on a collective basis by major security type. Available-for-sale debt securities in an unrealized loss position are reviewed for impairment at least quarterly. If impairment exists, credit related impairment losses are recorded through an allowance for credit losses while noncredit related impairment losses are recorded in accumulated other comprehensive income (for available-for-sale securities).  The fair values of our securities are based on published or securities dealers’ market values, when available.  See Note 5 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for a detailed analysis and description of our investment portfolio and valuation techniques.
 
We purchase debentures and mortgage-backed securities that generally are issued by the Federal Home Loan Bank ("FHLB"), Fannie Mae ("FNMA"), Freddie Mac ("FHLMC") or Ginnie Mae ("GNMA").  Historically, we have invested in mortgage-backed securities to achieve positive interest rate spreads with minimal administrative expense and to lower our credit risk as a result of the guarantees provided by FHLMC, FNMA or GNMA. 

Sources of Funds
 
General. Deposits are the primary funding source for lending and other investing purposes. In addition to deposits, we derive funds from the amortization, prepayment and sale of loans and mortgage-backed securities, the maturity of investment securities, operations and, if needed, borrowings. Scheduled loan principal repayments are a relatively stable source of funds, while deposit inflows and outflows and loan prepayments and sales are influenced significantly by general interest rates and market conditions. Borrowings may be used on a short-term basis to compensate for reductions in the availability of funds from other sources or on a longer term basis for general business purposes, including to manage interest rate risk.
 
Deposits. Personal and business deposits are generated from our market area by offering a broad selection of deposit instruments including checking accounts, savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, term certificate accounts and individual retirement accounts. While we accept deposits of $250,000 or more, we do not offer premium rates for such deposits. We accept brokered deposits through the CDARS program, but generally do not solicit funds outside our market area.  As of December 31, 2020, we had deposits through the CDARS program with an aggregate balance of $2.3 million. Deposit account terms vary according to the
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minimum balance required, the period of time during which the funds must remain on deposit, and the interest rate, among other factors. We regularly execute changes in our deposit rates based upon general market interest rates, competition, and liquidity requirements.
 
Borrowings. We may utilize borrowings to supplement our supply of lendable funds and to meet deposit withdrawal requirements. Borrowings from the FHLB of Pittsburgh and Indianapolis typically are collateralized by a portion of our real estate loans. In addition to the FHLB, we have borrowing facilities with the Federal Reserve Bank, three correspondent banks and we borrow funds, in the form of corporate repurchase agreements, from municipalities, corporations and school districts.

Northwest Bank is a member of the FHLB of Pittsburgh, and, due to the acquisition of MutualBank, is also a member of the FHLB of Indianapolis. The FHLB functions as a central bank providing credit for Northwest Bank and other member financial institutions.  As a member, Northwest Bank is required to own capital stock in the FHLB of Pittsburgh and Indianapolis and is authorized to apply for borrowings on the security of certain of its real estate loans, provided certain standards related to creditworthiness have been met.  Borrowings are made pursuant to several different programs.  Each credit program has its own interest rate and range of maturities.  Depending on the program, limitations on the amount of borrowings are based either on a fixed percentage of a member institution’s net worth or on the FHLB’s assessment of the institution’s creditworthiness. 

On September 9, 2020, the Company issued $125.0 million of 4.00% fixed-to-floating rate subordinated notes with a maturity date of September 15, 2030. The subordinated notes, which qualify as Tier 2 capital, bear interest at an annual rate of 4.00%, payable semi-annually in arrears commencing on March 15, 2021, and a floating rate of interest equivalent to the 3-month Secured Overnight Financing Rate ("SOFR") plus 3.89% payable quarterly in arrears commencing on December 15, 2025. The subordinated debt issuance costs of approximately $1.8 million are being amortized over five years on a straight-line basis into interest expense.

Subsidiary Activities
 
Northwest Bancshares, Inc.’s sole direct consolidated subsidiary is Northwest Bank. Northwest Bancshares, Inc. also owns all of the common stock of seven statutory business trusts: Northwest Bancorp Capital Trust III, a Delaware statutory business trust, Northwest Bancorp Statutory Trust IV, a Connecticut statutory business trust, LNB Trust II, a Delaware statutory business trust, Union National Capital Trust I, a Delaware statutory business trust, Union National Capital Trust II, a Delaware statutory business trust, MFBC Statutory Trust I, a Delaware statutory business trust, and Universal Preferred Trust, a Delaware statutory business trust (the “Trusts”). At December 31, 2020, the Trusts have issued a total of $128.9 million of trust preferred securities. The Trusts are not consolidated with Northwest Bancshares, Inc.  At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bancshares, Inc.’s investment in the Trusts totaled $4.0 million, and the Trusts had assets of $128.8 million, net of discounts due to fair value adjustments made at the time of acquisition of Union Community Bank and MutualFirst Financial, Inc.

At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had five active wholly-owned subsidiaries; Great Northwest Corporation, Allegheny Services, Inc., Northwest Capital Group, Inc., The Bert Company, and Mutual Federal Investment Company. For financial reporting purposes all of these companies are included in the Consolidated Financial Statements of Northwest Bancshares, Inc.

Great Northwest Corporation holds equity investments in government-assisted, low-income housing projects in various locations throughout our market area. At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment in Great Northwest Corporation of $13.4 million.  For the year ended December 31, 2020, Great Northwest Corporation had net income of $650,000, generated primarily from federal low-income housing tax credits.

Allegheny Services, Inc. is a Delaware investment company that holds mortgage loans originated through our wholesale lending operation as well as municipal bonds. At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment in Allegheny Services, Inc. of $861.6 million, and for the year ended December 31, 2020, Allegheny Services, Inc. had net income of $20.3 million.

Northwest Capital Group, Inc.’s principal activity is to own, operate and ultimately divest of properties that were acquired in foreclosure.  At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment of $11.7 million in Northwest Capital Group, Inc., with a $16,000 net loss reported for the year ended December 31, 2020.
 
The Bert Company (doing business as Northwest Insurance Services) is an employee benefits and property and casualty insurance agency specializing in commercial and personal insurance as well as retirement benefit plans.  At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment of $12.2 million in The Bert Company and for the year ended December 31, 2020, The Bert Company had net income of $925,000. 

Mutual Federal Investment Company, which is a Nevada corporation, holds and manages a portion of the Northwest Bank investment portfolio and consumer closed end first mortgage loans. At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment
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in Mutual Federal Investment Company of $499.2 million.  For the year ended December 31, 2020, Mutual Federal Investment Company had net income of $4.3 million.

Northwest Bank strategically ceased operating several business lines in prior periods.

Northwest Advisors, Inc., a federally registered investment advisor, which provided investment management programs and investment portfolio planning services, ceased operations and became inactive during 2018. At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment in Northwest Advisors, Inc. of $1.7 million.

Northwest Settlement Agency, LLC ceased writing new title insurance business during the fourth quarter of 2016 and ceased operations and became inactive during 2017. At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment in Northwest Settlement Agency, LLC of $3.9 million. 

Northwest Financial Services, Inc. provided retail brokerage services which became inactive during the fourth quarter of 2017. At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment in Northwest Financial Services of $9.4 million.

On July 14, 2017, Northwest Consumer Discount Company, Inc. became inactive as all consumer finance offices were closed.  At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank had an equity investment in Northwest Consumer Discount Company of $44.3 million.

Federal regulations require insured institutions to provide 30 days advance notice to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) before establishing or acquiring a subsidiary or conducting a new activity in a subsidiary.  The insured institution must also provide the FDIC such information as may be required by applicable regulations and must conduct the activity in accordance with the rules and orders of the FDIC. In addition to other enforcement and supervision powers, the FDIC may determine after notice and opportunity for a hearing that the continuation of a savings bank’s ownership of or relation to a subsidiary constitutes a serious risk to the safety, soundness or stability of the savings bank, or is inconsistent with the purposes of federal banking laws. Upon the making of such a determination, the FDIC may order the savings bank to divest the subsidiary or take other actions.
 
Human Capital Management

Workforce Demographics. As of December 31, 2020, we had 2,318 full-time and 205 part-time employees, or 2,421 full-time equivalent employees ("FTEs"). This represents an increase of 212 FTEs, or 9.6%, from December 31, 2019 when we had 2,084 full-time and 249 part-time employees, or 2,209 FTEs. This increase is due to the acquisition of MutualBank on April 24, 2020 as well as an increase in our organic employee population as we add additional talent to support our growing company. As a financial institution, approximately 44% of our employee population are employed at our 162 banking offices across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Indiana and approximately 3% are employed at our customer call centers. Our turnover rate was 28.5% as of December 31, 2020. None of our employees are represented by a collective bargaining group.

As a community bank, our reputation is an extremely valuable and important component of our business. We strive to conduct our business in a manner that enhances our reputation. This is done, in part, by recruiting, hiring and retaining employees who share our core values of being an integral part of the communities we serve, delivering superior service to our customers and caring about our customers and associates.

Inclusion and Diversity. We believe that an environment where all employees can contribute, innovate and thrive is key to our success in the future. With the goal of continuing to deliver an inclusive and diverse environment at Northwest, we have developed the Northwest Inclusion Council which consists of 18 leaders throughout our Company’s footprint. This council is focused on engaging our entire employee population and leveraging their diverse talents and perspectives to uphold our company’s core values.

Workforce Health and Safety. The health and safety of our employees, their families and the communities we serve is our top priority. The COVID-19 pandemic presented an unpredictable and challenging environment across the globe. Throughout this pandemic, we committed to take every measure and precaution to protect our employees while continuing to serve our customers and being mindful of the fiduciary responsibility we have to our shareholders. We committed to our employees to continue to provide full pay and benefits throughout this crisis. Through incredible teamwork and adaptability of our workforce, we were able to establish remote capabilities for our personnel to work virtually through this pandemic, with approximately 75% of our back-office and regional headquarter personal working fully remote.

Compensation and Benefits. Our compensation program is designed to attract and retain talented individuals to support our business objectives and achieve our strategic goals. We provide employees with compensation packages that include base salaries, annual bonuses and incentive stock compensation. In addition, we also offer employees a 401(k) Plan with an employer match contribution, healthcare and insurance benefits, flexible spending accounts, paid time off, and family leave.
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 SUPERVISION AND REGULATION

General

    As a savings and loan holding company, we are required to comply with the rules and regulations of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve Board”), and are also required to file certain reports with and are subject to examination by the Federal Reserve Board. We are also subject to the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission under the federal securities laws.

Northwest Bank is a Pennsylvania-chartered stock savings bank and our deposit accounts are insured up to applicable limits by the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund (the "DIF"). Northwest Bank is subject to extensive regulation by the Department of Banking and Securities of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the “Department of Banking”), as its chartering agency, and by the FDIC, as the insurer of its deposit accounts. Northwest Bank must file reports with the Department of Banking and the FDIC concerning its activities and financial condition in addition to obtaining regulatory approvals prior to entering into certain transactions including acquisitions of other financial institutions. Northwest Bank is examined periodically by the Department of Banking and the FDIC to test Northwest Bank’s compliance with various laws and regulations. This regulation and supervision, as well as federal and state law, establishes a comprehensive framework of activities in which Northwest Bank may engage and is intended primarily for the protection of the DIF and depositors. The regulatory structure also gives the regulatory authorities extensive discretion in connection with their supervisory and enforcement activities and with their examination policies, including policies with respect to the classification of assets and the establishment of adequate credit loss reserves for regulatory purposes. Any change in these laws or regulations, whether by the Department of Banking or the FDIC, could have a material adverse impact on the Company, Northwest Bank and their respective operations. Additionally, when the consolidated assets of a financial institution and its holding company exceed $10 billion, the financial institution becomes subject to additional statutory and regulatory requirements that will result in additional costs. This includes enhanced risk management and corporate governance processes, stress-testing based on scenarios specified by the federal regulatory agencies and examination for compliance with federal financial consumer protection laws by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") rather than the FDIC. As of December 31, 2020, our consolidated assets were $13.806 billion.

Set forth below is a brief description of certain regulatory requirements that are applicable to Northwest Bank and Northwest Bancshares, Inc. The description below is limited to certain material aspects of the statutes and regulations addressed, and is not intended to be a complete description of such statutes and regulations and their effects on Northwest Bank and Northwest Bancshares, Inc.

Pennsylvania Savings Bank Law

The Pennsylvania Banking Code of 1965, as amended (the “Banking Code”) contains detailed provisions governing the organization, operations, corporate powers, savings and investment authority, branching rights and responsibilities of directors, officers and employees of Pennsylvania savings banks. A Pennsylvania savings bank may locate or change the location of its principal place of business and establish an office anywhere in, or adjacent to, Pennsylvania, with the prior approval of the Department of Banking. The Banking Code delegates extensive rulemaking power and administrative discretion to the Department of Banking in its supervision and regulation of state-chartered savings banks.

Although the Department of Banking may accept the examinations and reports of the FDIC in lieu of its own examination, the current practice is for the Department of Banking to conduct joint examinations with the FDIC. The Department of Banking may order any savings bank to discontinue any violation of law or unsafe or unsound business practice and may direct any director, officer, or employee of a savings bank engaged in a violation of law, unsafe or unsound practice or breach of fiduciary duty to show cause at a hearing before the Department of Banking why such person should not be removed. Legislation enacted in 2012 clarified the Department of Banking’s examination and enforcement authority over subsidiaries of Pennsylvania institutions and authorized the assessment of civil money penalties of up to $25,000 under certain circumstances for violations of laws or orders related to the institution or unsafe or unsound practices or breaches of fiduciary duties. The Department of Banking may also appoint a receiver or conservator for an institution in appropriate cases.

Federal Deposit Insurance

The FDIC currently maintains the DIF, which was created in 2006 through the merger of the Bank Insurance Fund and the Savings Association Insurance Fund.  The deposit accounts of our subsidiary bank are insured by the DIF to the maximum amount provided by law.  This insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

As insurer, the FDIC is authorized to conduct examinations of and to require reporting by DIF-insured institutions.  It also may prohibit any DIF-insured institution from engaging in any activity the FDIC determines by regulation or order to pose a serious threat to the DIF.  The FDIC also has the authority to take enforcement actions against insured institutions.
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The FDIC charges insured depository institutions premiums to maintain the DIF. Under the FDIC’s original risk-based assessment system, insured institutions were assigned a risk category based on supervisory evaluations, regulatory capital levels and certain other factors. An institution’s rate depended upon the category to which it is assigned, and certain adjustments specified by FDIC regulations. Institutions deemed less risky pay lower FDIC assessments.

    Assessments for most institutions are now based on financial measures and supervisory ratings derived from statistical modeling estimating the probability of failure within three years. In conjunction with the DIF reserve ratio achieving 1.15%, the assessment range was reduced for most banks and savings associations of less than $10 billion in total assets to 1.5 basis points from 30 basis points (inclusive of possible adjustments), effective July 1, 2016. The Dodd-Frank Act specified that banks with greater than $10 billion in assets be required to bear the burden of raising the reserve ratio from 1.15% to 1.35%. Such institutions were subject to an annual surcharge of 4.5 basis points of total assets exceeding $10 billion. The FDIC indicated that the 1.35% ratio was exceeded in November 2018. The Dodd-Frank Act eliminated the 1.5% maximum fund ratio, instead leaving it to the discretion of the FDIC, and the FDIC has exercised that discretion by establishing a long-range fund ratio of 2%.

Insurance of deposits may be terminated by the FDIC upon a finding that the institution has engaged or is engaging in unsafe and unsound practices, is in an unsafe or unsound condition to continue operations or has violated any applicable law, regulation, rule, order or condition imposed by the FDIC or written agreement entered into with the FDIC. The management of the Bank does not know of any practice, condition or violation that might lead to termination of deposit insurance.

Capital Requirements

Federal regulations require federally insured depository institutions to meet several minimum capital standards: a common equity Tier 1 capital to risk-based assets ratio of 4.5%, a Tier 1 capital to risk-based assets ratio of 6.0%, a total capital to risk-based assets ratio of 8.0%, and a 4.0% Tier 1 capital to total assets leverage ratio.

In determining the amount of risk-weighted assets for purposes of calculating risk-based capital ratios, all assets, including certain off-balance-sheet assets (e.g., recourse obligations, direct credit substitutes, residual interests) are multiplied by a risk weight factor assigned by the regulations based on the risks believed inherent in the type of asset. Higher levels of capital are required for asset categories believed to present greater risk. Common equity Tier 1 capital is generally defined as common stockholders’ equity and retained earnings. Tier 1 capital is generally defined as common equity Tier 1 and additional Tier 1 capital. Additional Tier 1 capital includes certain noncumulative perpetual preferred stock and related surplus and minority interests in equity accounts of consolidated subsidiaries. Total capital includes Tier 1 capital (common equity Tier 1 capital plus additional Tier 1 capital) and Tier 2 capital. Tier 2 capital is comprised of capital instruments and related surplus, meeting specified requirements, and may include cumulative preferred stock and long-term perpetual preferred stock, mandatory convertible securities, intermediate preferred stock and subordinated debt. Also included in Tier 2 capital is the allowance for loan and lease losses limited to a maximum of 1.25% of risk-weighted assets and, for institutions that have exercised an opt-out election regarding the treatment of Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income, up to 45% of net unrealized gains on available-for-sale equity securities with readily determinable fair market values. Calculation of all types of regulatory capital is subject to deductions and adjustments specified in the regulations. In assessing an institution’s capital adequacy, the FDIC takes into consideration not only these numeric factors but qualitative factors as well, and has the authority to establish higher capital requirements for individual institutions where deemed necessary.

Any institution that fails any of the regulatory capital requirements is subject to enforcement action by the FDIC. Such action may include a capital directive, a cease and desist order, civil money penalties, restrictions on an institution’s operations, termination of federal deposit insurance, and the appointment of a conservator or receiver. Such action, through enforcement proceedings or otherwise, may require a variety of corrective measures. The regulations limit capital distributions and certain discretionary bonus payments to management if the institution does not hold a “capital conservation buffer” consisting of 2.5% of common equity Tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets above the amount necessary to meet its minimum risk-based capital requirements. The capital conservation buffer requirement was phased in beginning January 1, 2016 at 0.625% of risk-weighted assets and increased each year until fully implemented at 2.5% on January 1, 2019.

The following table shows the Basel III regulatory capital levels that must be maintained to avoid limitations on capital distributions and discretionary bonus payments, effective January 1, 2021.
 January 1, 2021
Common equity Tier 1 ratio plus capital conservation buffer7.000 %
Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio plus capital conservation buffer8.500 %
Total risk-based capital ratio plus capital conservation buffer10.500 %
 
    Northwest Bank is also subject to capital guidelines of the Department of Banking. Although not adopted in regulation form, the Department of Banking requires 6% leverage capital and 10% risk-based capital. The components of leverage and risk-based capital are substantially the same as those defined by the FDIC.
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Prompt Corrective Action

Federal law requires, among other things, that federal bank regulators take “prompt corrective action” with respect to institutions that do not meet minimum capital requirements. For this purpose, the law establishes five capital categories: well capitalized, adequately capitalized, undercapitalized, significantly undercapitalized and critically undercapitalized. Under applicable regulations, an institution is deemed to be “well capitalized” if it has a total risk-based capital ratio of 10.0% or greater, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 8.0% or greater, a leverage ratio of 5.0% or greater and a common equity Tier 1 ratio of 6.5% or greater. An institution is “adequately capitalized” if it has a total risk-based capital ratio of 8.0% or greater, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 6.0% or greater, a leverage ratio of 4.0% or greater and a common equity Tier 1 ratio of 4.5% or greater. An institution is “undercapitalized” if it has a total risk-based capital ratio of less than 8.0%, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of less than 6.0%, a leverage ratio of less than 4.0% or a common equity Tier 1 ratio of less than 4.5%. An institution is deemed to be “significantly undercapitalized” if it has a total risk-based capital ratio of less than 6.0%, a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of less than 4.0%, a leverage ratio of less than 3.0% or a common equity Tier 1 ratio of less than 3.0%. An institution is considered to be “critically undercapitalized” if it has a ratio of tangible equity (as defined in the regulations) to total assets that is equal to or less than 2.0%. Institutions that fall into an “undercapitalized” category are subject to a variety of mandatory and discretionary supervisory actions, including a restriction on capital distributions and the requirement to file a capital restoration plan with the regulators. Performance under the capital restoration plan must be guaranteed by the parent holding company up to the lesser of the amount of the capital deficiency when deemed undercapitalized or 5% of the institution’s total assets. Federal regulations also specify circumstances under which a federal banking agency may reclassify a well capitalized institution as adequately capitalized, and may require an adequately capitalized institution to comply with supervisory actions as if it were in the next lower category (except that the FDIC may not reclassify a significantly undercapitalized institution as critically undercapitalized). As of December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank was well-capitalized for this purpose.

Loans-to-One Borrower Limitation

In accordance with the Banking Code, a Pennsylvania chartered savings bank, with certain limited exceptions, may lend to a single or related group of borrowers on an “unsecured” basis an amount equal to 15% of its capital accounts, the aggregate of capital, surplus, undivided profits, capital securities and reserve for credit losses. The Credit Committee has established an internal lending limit, either individually or in the aggregate to one customer, of $30.0 million. Under certain circumstances, for instance well qualified customers or customers with multiple individually qualified projects, this limit may be exceeded subject to the approval of the Senior Loan Committee. As of December 31, 2020 we had six credit relationships that were equal to or exceeded our $30.0 million internal limit.

Activities and Investments of Insured State-Chartered Banks

Federal law generally limits the activities and equity investments of state-chartered banks insured by the FDIC to those that are permissible for national banks. Under regulations dealing with equity investments, an insured state bank generally may not, directly or indirectly, acquire or retain any equity investment of a type, or in an amount, that is not permissible for a national bank. An insured state bank is not prohibited from, among other things: (i) acquiring or retaining a majority interest in a subsidiary; (ii) investing as a limited partner in a partnership the sole purpose of which is direct or indirect investment in the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of a qualified housing project, provided that such limited partnership investments may not exceed 2% of the bank’s total assets; (iii) acquiring up to 10% of the voting stock of a company that solely provides or reinsures liability insurance for directors, trustees or officers, or blanket bond group insurance coverage for insured depository institutions; and (iv) acquiring or retaining the voting shares of a depository institution if certain requirements are met. Activities of state banks and their subsidiaries are generally limited to those permissible for national banks. Exceptions include where the bank meets applicable regulatory capital requirements and the FDIC determines that the proposed activity does not pose a significant risk to the DIF.

The USA PATRIOT Act

The USA Patriot Act gives the federal government powers to address terrorist threats through enhanced domestic security measures, expanded surveillance powers, increased information sharing and broadened anti-money laundering requirements. The USA Patriot Act also requires the federal banking agencies to take into consideration the effectiveness of controls designed to combat money-laundering activities in determining whether to approve a merger or other acquisition application of a member institution. Accordingly, if we engage in a merger or other acquisition, our controls designed to combat money laundering would be considered as part of the application process. We have established policies, procedures and systems designed to comply with these regulations.

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Holding Company Regulation

General. Federal law allows a state savings bank, such as Northwest Bank, to elect to be treated as a savings association for purposes of the savings and loan company provisions of the Home Owners’ Loan Act of 1933, as amended, provided that it qualifies as a “Qualified Thrift Lender.” Such election results in its holding company being regulated as a savings and loan holding company by the Federal Reserve Board rather than as a bank holding company. Northwest Bank has made such an election. Therefore, Northwest Bancshares, Inc. is a savings and loan holding company within the meaning of the Home Owners’ Loan Act of 1933, as amended. As such, we are registered as a savings and loan holding company with the Federal Reserve Board and are subject to Federal Reserve Board regulations, examinations, supervision and reporting requirements. In addition, the Federal Reserve Board has enforcement authority over the Company and any non-savings institution subsidiaries of the Company. Among other things, this authority permits the Federal Reserve Board to restrict or prohibit activities that are determined to be a serious risk to the subsidiary savings institution.

Permissible Activities. The business activities of Northwest Bancshares, Inc. are generally limited to those activities permissible for financial holding companies under Section 4(k) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended, or for multiple savings and loan holding companies. A financial holding company may engage in activities that are financial in nature, including underwriting equity securities and insurance as well as activities that are incidental to financial activities or complementary to financial activities. The Dodd-Frank Act and Federal Reserve Board regulations specify that a savings and loan holding company may only engage in financial holding company activities if it meets the qualitative criteria necessary for a bank holding company to engage in such activities and files an election with the Federal Reserve Board. Northwest Bancshares, Inc. has not chosen to be regulated as a financial holding company as of this time. A multiple savings and loan holding company is generally limited to activities permissible for bank holding companies under Section 4(c)(8) of the Bank Holding Company Act, subject to the prior approval of the Federal Reserve Board, and certain additional activities authorized by Federal Reserve Board regulations.

Federal law prohibits a savings and loan holding company, including Northwest Bancshares, Inc., directly or indirectly, or through one or more subsidiaries, from acquiring more than 5% of another savings institution or holding company thereof, without prior written approval of the Federal Reserve Board. It also prohibits, with certain exceptions, the acquisition or retention of more than 5% of a non-subsidiary company engaged in activities that are not closely related to banking or financial in nature, or acquiring or retaining control of an institution that is not federally insured. In evaluating applications by holding companies to acquire savings institutions, the Federal Reserve Board must consider, among other factors, the financial and managerial resources and future prospects of the company and institution involved, the effect of the acquisition on the risk to the DIF, the convenience and needs of the community and competitive factors.

The Federal Reserve Board is prohibited from approving any acquisition that would result in a multiple savings and loan holding company controlling savings institutions in more than one state, subject to two exceptions:

(i)     the approval of interstate supervisory acquisitions by savings and loan holding companies; and
(ii)     the acquisition of a savings institution in another state if the laws of the state of the target savings institution specifically permit such acquisition.

The states vary in the extent to which they permit interstate savings and loan holding company acquisitions.

Qualified Thrift Lender Test. To be regulated as a savings and loan holding company (rather than as a bank holding company), Northwest Bank must qualify as a Qualified Thrift Lender. To qualify as a Qualified Thrift Lender, Northwest Bank must be a “domestic building and loan association,” as defined in the Internal Revenue Code, or comply with the Qualified Thrift Lender test. Under the Qualified Thrift Lender test, a savings institution is required to maintain at least 65% of its “portfolio assets” (total assets less: (1) specified liquid assets up to 20% of total assets; (2) intangibles, including goodwill; and (3) the value of property used to conduct business) in certain “qualified thrift investments” (primarily residential mortgages and related investments, including certain mortgage-backed and related securities) in at least nine months out of each 12-month period. As of December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank met the Qualified Thrift Lender test.

Capital Requirements. Savings and loan holding companies had not historically been subjected to consolidated regulatory capital requirements. However, the Dodd-Frank Act required the Federal Reserve Board to establish, for all depository institution holding companies, minimum consolidated capital levels that are as stringent as those required for the insured depository subsidiaries. Consolidated regulatory capital requirements identical to those applicable to the subsidiary depository institutions apply to savings and loan holding companies (of greater than $3 billion in consolidated assets). As is the case with institutions themselves, the capital conservation buffer was phased in between 2016 and 2019. Northwest Bancshares, Inc. was in compliance with the holding company capital requirements and the capital conservation buffer throughout the transition period between 2016 and 2019.

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Source of Strength/Capital Distributions. The Dodd-Frank Act extended to savings and loan holding companies the Federal Reserve Board’s “source of strength” doctrine, which has long applied to bank holding companies. The Federal Reserve Board has promulgated regulations implementing the “source of strength” policy, which requires holding companies to act as a source of strength to their subsidiary depository institutions by providing capital, liquidity and other support in times of financial stress.

The Federal Reserve Board has issued a policy statement regarding capital distributions by bank holding companies that it has made applicable to savings and loan holding companies as well. In general, the policy provides that dividends should be paid only out of current earnings and only if the prospective rate of earnings retention by the holding company appears consistent with the organization’s capital needs, asset quality and overall financial condition. The ability of a holding company to pay dividends may be restricted if a subsidiary depository institution becomes undercapitalized. Regulatory guidance provides for prior regulatory consultation with respect to dividends in certain circumstances, such as where the company’s net income for the past four quarters, net of dividends previously paid over that period, is insufficient to fully fund the dividend or the company’s overall rate of earnings retention is inconsistent with the company’s capital needs and overall financial condition. The guidance similarly provides for regulatory review of stock repurchases or redemptions under certain circumstances. These regulatory policies could affect our ability to pay dividends or otherwise engage in capital distributions, including stock repurchases.

As a subsidiary of a savings and loan holding company, Northwest Bank must notify the Federal Reserve Board thirty days before declaring any dividend to the Company. The dividend notice may be objected to under certain circumstances, such as where the dividend raises safety or soundness concerns, the dividend would cause the savings bank to be undercapitalized or the dividend would violate a law, regulation, regulatory condition or enforcement order.

Federal Securities Laws

Our common stock is registered with the SEC under Section 12(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). We are also subject to the proxy rules, tender offer rules, insider trading restrictions, annual and periodic reporting, and other requirements of the Exchange Act.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was enacted to increase corporate responsibility, to provide for enhanced penalties for accounting and auditing improprieties at publicly traded companies, and to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures pursuant to the securities laws. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act generally applies to all companies that file or are required to file periodic reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

    As directed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer are required to certify that our quarterly and annual reports do not contain any untrue statement of a material fact. The rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act have several requirements, including having these officers certify that: they are responsible for establishing, maintaining and regularly evaluating the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting; they have made certain disclosures to our auditors and the audit committee of the board of directors about our internal control over financial reporting; and they have included information in our quarterly and annual reports about their evaluation and whether there have been changes in our internal control over financial reporting or in other factors that could materially affect internal control over financial reporting.

FEDERAL AND STATE TAXATION
 
Federal Taxation.  For federal income tax purposes, Northwest Bancshares, Inc. files a consolidated federal income tax return with its wholly-owned subsidiaries on a calendar year basis. The applicable federal income tax expense or benefit is properly allocated to each subsidiary based upon taxable income or loss calculated on a separate company basis.
 
We account for income taxes using the asset and liability method which accounts for deferred income taxes by applying the enacted statutory rates in effect at the balance sheet date to differences between the book basis and the tax basis of assets and liabilities.  The resulting deferred tax liabilities and assets are adjusted to reflect changes in tax laws.

    On December 22, 2017, H.R.1, commonly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”), was signed into law. The Act includes many provisions that affect our income tax expense, including reducing our federal tax rate from 35.0% to 21.0% effective January 1, 2018. As a result of the rate reduction, we were required to re-measure, through income tax expense in the period of enactment, our deferred tax assets and liabilities using the enacted rate at which we expect them to be recovered or settled. The re-measurement of our net deferred tax liability resulted in a 2017 income tax benefit of $3.1 million.
    
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    State Taxation.  As a Maryland business corporation, Northwest Bancshares, Inc. is required to file annual tax returns with the State of Maryland.  In addition, Northwest Bancshares, Inc. is subject to Pennsylvania’s corporate net income tax.  Dividends received from Northwest Bank qualify for a 100% dividends received deduction and are not subject to corporate net income tax.
 
Northwest Bank is subject to Pennsylvania’s mutual thrift institutions tax based on Northwest Bank’s net income determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, with certain adjustments.  The tax rate under the mutual thrift institutions tax is 11.5%.  Interest on Pennsylvania and federal obligations is excluded from net income.  An allocable portion of interest expense incurred to carry the tax-free obligations is disallowed as a deduction.  Northwest Bank is also subject to taxes in the other states in which it conducts business.  These taxes are apportioned based upon the volume of business conducted in those states as a percentage of the whole.  Because a majority of Northwest Bank’s affairs are conducted in Pennsylvania, taxes paid to other states are not material.
 
The subsidiaries of Northwest Bank are subject to a Pennsylvania corporate net income tax and are also subject to other applicable taxes in the states where they conduct business.

ITEM 1A.                                       RISK FACTORS
 
In addition to factors discussed in the description of our business and elsewhere in this report, the following are factors that could adversely affect our future results of operations and financial condition.

Risks Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

In December 2019, COVID-19 was reported in China, and, in March 2020, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. In March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a national emergency in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant economic dislocation in the United States as many state and local governments have ordered non-essential businesses to close and residents to shelter in place at home. This has resulted in an unprecedented slow-down in economic activity and a related increase in unemployment. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, millions of individuals have filed claims for unemployment, and stock markets have declined in value and in particular, bank stocks have significantly declined in value. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Federal Reserve Board has reduced the benchmark federal funds rate to a target range of 0% to 0.25%, and the yields on 10 and 30-year treasury notes have declined to historic lows. Various state governments and federal agencies are requiring lenders to provide forbearance and other relief to borrowers (e.g., waiving late payment and other fees). The federal banking agencies have encouraged financial institutions to prudently work with affected borrowers and recently passed legislation has provided relief from reporting loan classifications due to modifications related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Certain industries have been particularly hard-hit, including the travel and hospitality industry, the restaurant industry and the retail industry. Finally, the spread of the coronavirus has caused us to modify our business practices, including employee travel, employee work locations, and cancellation of physical participation in meetings, events and conferences. We have many employees working remotely and we may take further actions as may be required by government authorities or that we determine are in the best interests of our employees, customers and business partners.

Given the ongoing and dynamic nature of the circumstances, it is difficult to predict the full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our business. The extent of such impact will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain, including when the coronavirus can be controlled and abated and when and how the economy may be reopened. As the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related adverse local and national economic consequences, we could be subject to any of the following risks, any of which could have a material, adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations:

demand for our products and services may decline, making it difficult to grow assets and income;
if the economy is unable to substantially reopen and high levels of unemployment continue for an extended period of time, loan delinquencies, problem assets, and foreclosures may increase, resulting in increased charges and reduced income;
collateral for loans, especially real estate, may decline in value, which could cause credit losses to increase;
our allowance for credit losses may have to be increased if borrowers experience financial difficulties beyond forbearance periods, which will adversely affect our net income;
the net worth and liquidity of loan guarantors may decline, impairing their ability to honor commitments to us;
as the result of the decline in the Federal Reserve Board’s target federal funds rate to near 0%, the yield on our assets may decline to a greater extent than the decline in our cost of interest-bearing liabilities, reducing our net interest margin and spread and reducing net income;

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a material decrease in net income or a net loss over several quarters could result in a decrease in the rate of our quarterly cash dividend;
our wealth management revenues may decline with continuing market turmoil;
our cyber security risks are increased as the result of an increase in the number of employees working remotely;
a prolonged weakness in economic conditions resulting in a reduction of future projected earnings could result in our recording a valuation allowance against our current outstanding deferred tax assets;
litigation, regulatory enforcement risk and reputation risk regarding our participation in the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") and the risk that the Small Business Administration ("SBA") may not fund some or all PPP loan guarantees;
the occurrence of what management would deem to be a triggering event that could, under certain circumstances, cause management to perform impairment testing on our goodwill or core deposit and customer relationships intangibles that could result in an impairment charge being recorded for that period, that would adversely impact our results of operations and the ability of Northwest Bank to pay dividends to us;
we rely on third party vendors for certain services and the unavailability of a critical service due to the COVID-19 outbreak could have an adverse effect on us; and
FDIC premiums may increase if the agency experience additional resolution costs.

Moreover, our future success and profitability substantially depends on the management skills of our executive officers and directors, many of whom have held officer and director positions with us for many years. The unanticipated loss or unavailability of key employees due to the outbreak could harm our ability to operate our business or execute our business strategy. We may not be successful in finding and integrating suitable successors in the event of key employee loss or unavailability.

Any one or a combination of the factors identified above could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations and prospects.

Risk Related to our Lending Activities

Our commercial loan portfolio is increasing and the inherently higher risk of loss may lead to additional provisions for credit losses or charge-offs, which would negatively impact earnings and capital.

    Commercial loans generally expose a lender to greater risk of non-payment and loss than one- to four-family residential mortgage loans because repayment of the loans often depends on the successful operation of the business and the income stream of the borrowers.  Such loans typically involve larger loan balances to single borrowers or groups of related borrowers compared to one- to four-family residential mortgage loans.  Also, many of our commercial borrowers have more than one loan outstanding with us.  Consequently, an adverse development with respect to one loan or one credit relationship can expose us to a significantly greater risk of loss compared to an adverse development with respect to a one- to four-family residential mortgage loan.  Commercial business loans expose us to additional risk since they typically are dependent on the borrower’s ability to make repayments from the cash flows of the business and are secured by non-real estate collateral that may depreciate over time.  Further, our commercial business loans may be secured by collateral other than real estate, such as inventory and accounts receivable, the value of which may be more difficult to appraise, control or collect and may be more susceptible to fluctuation in value at the time of default.

The level of our commercial real estate loan portfolio may subject us to additional regulatory scrutiny.
    The FDIC and the other federal bank regulatory agencies have promulgated joint guidance on sound risk management practices for financial institutions with concentrations in commercial real estate lending. Under the guidance, a financial institution that, like us, is actively involved in commercial real estate lending should perform a risk assessment to identify concentrations. A financial institution may have a concentration in commercial real estate lending if, among other factors, (i) total reported loans for construction, land acquisition and development, and other land represent 100% or more of total capital, or (ii) total reported loans secured by multi-family and non-farm residential properties, loans for construction, land acquisition and development and other land, and loans otherwise sensitive to the general commercial real estate market, including loans to commercial real estate related entities, represent 300% or more of total capital. Based on these factors, we have a concentration in multi-family and commercial real estate lending, as such loans represent 473.7% of total bank capital as of December 31, 2020. The particular focus of the guidance is on exposure to commercial real estate loans that are dependent on the cash flow from the real estate held as collateral and that are likely to be at greater risk to conditions in the commercial real estate market (as opposed to real estate collateral held as a secondary source of repayment or as an abundance of caution). The purpose of the guidance is to guide banks in developing risk management practices and capital levels commensurate with the level and nature of real estate concentrations. The guidance states that management should employ heightened risk management practices including board and management oversight and strategic planning, development of underwriting standards, risk assessment and monitoring through market analysis and stress testing. While we believe we have implemented policies and procedures with respect to our commercial real estate loan portfolio consistent with this guidance, bank regulators could require us to implement additional policies and procedures consistent with their interpretation of the guidance that
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may result in additional costs to us or that may result in a curtailment of our multi-family and commercial real estate lending that would adversely affect our loan originations and profitability.

If the allowance for credit losses is not sufficient to cover actual credit losses, our earnings could decrease.

Our customers may not repay their loans according to the original terms, and the collateral, if any, securing the payment of these loans may be insufficient to pay any remaining loan balance. We may experience significant credit losses, which may have a material adverse effect on operating results. We make various assumptions and judgments about the collectability of the loan portfolio, including the creditworthiness of borrowers and the value of the real estate and other assets serving as collateral for the repayment of loans. If our assumptions prove to be incorrect, the allowance for credit losses may not be sufficient to cover losses inherent in our loan portfolio, resulting in additions to the allowance. Material additions to the allowance would materially decrease net income.

Our emphasis on originating commercial real estate and commercial loans is one of the more significant factors in evaluating the allowance for credit losses. As we continue to increase the amount of such loans, increased provisions for credit losses may be necessary, which would decrease our earnings. In addition, any future credit deterioration, including as a result of COVID-19, could require us to increase our allowance for credit losses in the future.

    Bank regulators periodically review our allowance for credit losses and may require an increase to the provision for credit losses or further loan charge-offs. Any increase in our allowance for credit losses or loan charge-offs as required by these regulatory authorities may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.

We are subject to regulatory enforcement risk and reputation risk regarding our participation in the PPP, we are party to litigation with respect to our participation in the PPP, and we are subject to the risk that the SBA may not fund some or all PPP loan guarantees.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act included the PPP as a loan program administered through the SBA. Under the PPP, small businesses and other entities and individuals can apply for loans from existing SBA lenders and other approved regulated lenders that enroll in the program, subject to detailed qualifications and eligibility criteria.

Because of the short timeframe between the passing of the CARES Act and implementation of the PPP, some of the rules and guidance relating to PPP were issued after lenders began processing PPP applications. Also, there was and continues to be uncertainty in the laws, rules and guidance relating to the PPP. Since the opening of the PPP, several banks have been subject to litigation regarding the procedures used in processing PPP applications, and several banks have been subject to litigation regarding the payment of fees to agents that assisted borrowers in obtaining PPP loans. In addition, some banks and borrowers have received negative media attention associated with PPP loans. Although we believe that we have administered the PPP in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and guidance, we may be exposed to litigation risk and negative media attention related to our participation in the PPP. If any such litigation is not resolved in our favor, it may result in significant financial liability to us or adversely affect our reputation. In addition, litigation can be costly, regardless of outcome. Any financial liability, litigation costs or reputational damage caused by PPP-related litigation or media attention could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

The PPP has also attracted interest from federal and state enforcement authorities, oversight agencies, regulators, and U.S. Congressional committees. State Attorneys General and other federal and state agencies may assert that they are not subject to the provisions of the CARES Act and the PPP regulations entitling us to rely on borrower certifications, and take more aggressive action against us for alleged violations of the provisions governing the PPP. Federal and state regulators can impose or request that we consent to substantial sanctions, restrictions and requirements if they determine there are violations of laws, rules or regulations or weaknesses or failures with respect to general standards of safety and soundness, which could adversely affect our business, reputation, results of operations and financial condition, and thereby adversely affect your investment.

We also have credit risk on PPP loans if the SBA determines that there is a deficiency in the manner in which we originated, funded or serviced loans, including any issue with the eligibility of a borrower to receive a PPP loan. In the event of a loss resulting from a default on a PPP loan and a determination by the SBA that there was a deficiency in the manner in which we originated, funded or serviced a PPP loan, the SBA may deny its liability under the guaranty, reduce the amount of the guaranty or, if the SBA has already paid under the guaranty, seek recovery of any loss related to the deficiency from us.

We could become subject to more stringent capital requirements, which could adversely impact our return on equity, require us to raise additional capital, or constrain us from paying dividends or repurchasing shares.

Federal regulations establish minimum capital requirements for insured depository institutions, including minimum risk-based capital and leverage ratios, and define “capital” for calculating these ratios. The minimum capital requirements are: (i) a
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common equity Tier 1 capital ratio of 4.5%; (ii) a Tier 1 to risk-based assets capital ratio of 6% (increased from 4%); (iii) a total capital ratio of 8% (unchanged from current rules); and (iv) a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 4%. Unrealized gains and losses on certain “available-for-sale” securities holdings are to be included for purposes of calculating regulatory capital requirements unless a one-time opt-out was exercised. The Bank exercised this one-time opt-out option. The regulations also establish a “capital conservation buffer” of 2.5% and the following minimum ratios: (i) a common equity Tier 1 capital ratio of 7%, (ii) a Tier 1 to risk-based assets capital ratio of 8.5%, and (iii) a total capital ratio of 10.5%. An institution will be subject to limitations on paying dividends, engaging in share repurchases, and paying discretionary bonuses if its capital level falls below the buffer amount. These limitations will establish a maximum percentage of eligible retained income that can be utilized for such actions.

At December 31, 2020, Northwest Bank has met all of these requirements, including the full 2.5% capital conservation buffer.

The application of more stringent capital requirements could, among other things, result in lower returns on equity, require the raising of additional capital, and result in regulatory actions if we were to be unable to comply with such requirements. Furthermore, the imposition of liquidity requirements in connection with the implementation of Basel III could result in our having to lengthen the term of our funding, restructure our business models, and/or increase our holdings of liquid assets. Implementation of changes to asset risk weightings for risk-based capital calculations, items included or deducted in calculating regulatory capital and/or additional capital conservation buffers could result in management modifying its business strategy, and could limit our ability to make distributions, including paying out dividends or buying back shares. Specifically, Northwest Bank’s ability to pay dividends will be limited if it does not have the capital conservation buffer required by the capital rules, which may limit our ability to pay dividends to stockholders.

We are subject to environmental liability risk associated with lending activities.

    A significant portion of our loan portfolio is secured by real estate, and we could become subject to environmental liabilities with respect to one or more of these properties. During the ordinary course of business, we may foreclose on and take title to properties securing defaulted loans. In doing so, there is a risk that hazardous or toxic substances could be found on these properties. If hazardous conditions or toxic substances are found on these properties, we may be liable for remediation costs, as well as for personal injury and property damage, civil fines and criminal penalties regardless of when the hazardous conditions or toxic substances first affected any particular property. Environmental laws may require us to incur substantial expenses to address unknown liabilities and may materially reduce the affected property’s value or limit our ability to use or sell the affected property. In addition, future laws or more stringent interpretations or enforcement policies with respect to existing laws may increase our exposure to environmental liability. Although we have policies and procedures to perform an environmental review before initiating any foreclosure action on nonresidential real property, these reviews may not be sufficient to detect all potential environmental hazards. The remediation costs and any other financial liabilities associated with an environmental hazard could have a material adverse effect on us.

Risks Related to Laws and Regulations

Changes in laws and regulations and the cost of compliance with new laws and regulations may adversely affect our operations and our income.

    The Company and Northwest Bank are subject to extensive regulation, supervision and examination by the Federal Reserve Board, the Department of Banking and the FDIC. These regulatory authorities have extensive discretion in connection with their supervisory and enforcement activities, including the ability to impose restrictions on Northwest Bank’s operations, reclassify assets, determine the adequacy of Northwest Bank’s allowance for credit losses and determine the level of deposit insurance premiums assessed. The laws and regulations applicable to us are subject to frequent change and interpretations. Any change in these regulations and oversight, whether in the form of regulatory policy, new regulations or legislation or additional deposit insurance premiums could have a material impact on our operations.

The potential exists for additional federal or state laws and regulations, or changes in policy, affecting lending and funding practices and liquidity standards. Moreover, bank regulatory agencies have been active in responding to concerns and trends identified in examinations, and have issued many formal enforcement orders requiring capital ratios in excess of regulatory requirements. Bank regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Department of Banking, the CFPB and the FDIC, govern the activities in which we may engage, primarily for the protection of depositors, and not for the protection or benefit of potential investors. In addition, new laws and regulations may increase our costs of regulatory compliance and of doing business, and otherwise affect our operations. New laws and regulations may significantly affect the markets in which we do business, the markets for and value of our loans and investments, the fees we can charge and our ongoing operations, costs and profitability.

Non-compliance with the USA PATRIOT Act, Bank Secrecy Act, or other laws and regulations could result in fines or sanctions.
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The USA PATRIOT and Bank Secrecy Acts require financial institutions to develop programs to prevent financial institutions from being used for money laundering and terrorist activities. If such activities are detected, financial institutions are obligated to file suspicious activity reports with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. These rules require financial institutions to establish procedures for identifying and verifying the identity of customers seeking to open new financial accounts. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in fines or sanctions or affect our ability to pursue further acquisition opportunities. During the last year, several banking institutions have received large fines for non-compliance with these laws and regulations. While we have developed policies and procedures designed to assist in compliance with these laws and regulations, these policies and procedures may not be effective in preventing violations of these laws and regulations.

We are subject to the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws, and failure to comply with these laws could lead to material penalties.

The Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and other fair lending laws and regulations impose nondiscriminatory lending requirements on financial institutions. A successful regulatory challenge to an institution’s performance under the CRA or fair lending laws and regulations could result in a wide variety of sanctions, including the required payment of damages and civil money penalties, injunctive relief, imposition of restrictions on mergers and acquisitions activity and restrictions on expansion. Private parties may also have the ability to challenge an institution’s performance under fair lending laws in private class action litigation. Such actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The Federal Reserve Board may require us to commit capital resources to support Northwest Bank.

Federal law requires that a holding company act as a source of financial and managerial strength to its subsidiary bank and to commit resources to support such subsidiary bank. Under the “source of strength” doctrine, the Federal Reserve Board may require a holding company to make capital injections into a troubled subsidiary bank and may charge the holding company with engaging in unsafe and unsound practices for failure to commit resources to a subsidiary bank. A capital injection may be required at times when the holding company may not have the resources to provide it and therefore may be required to borrow the funds or raise capital. Any loans by a holding company to its subsidiary bank are subordinate in right of payment to deposits and to certain other indebtedness of such subsidiary bank. In the event of a holding company’s bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee will assume any commitment by the holding company to a federal bank regulatory agency to maintain the capital of a subsidiary bank. Moreover, bankruptcy law provides that claims based on any such commitment will be entitled to a priority of payment over the claims of the institution’s general unsecured creditors, including the holders of its note obligations. Thus, any borrowing that must be done by the Company to make a required capital injection becomes more difficult and expensive and could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Future legislative or regulatory actions responding to perceived financial and market problems could impair our ability to foreclose on collateral.

There have been proposals made by members of Congress and others that would reduce the amount distressed borrowers are otherwise contractually obligated to pay under their mortgage loans and limit an institution’s ability to foreclose on mortgage collateral. Were proposals such as these, or other proposals limiting our rights as a creditor, to be implemented, we could experience increased credit losses or increased expense in pursuing our remedies as a creditor.

Legal and regulatory proceedings and related matters could adversely affect us or the financial services industry in general.

We, and other participants in the financial services industry upon whom we rely to operate, have been and may in the future become involved in legal and regulatory proceedings. Most of the proceedings we consider to be in the normal course of our business are typical for the industry; however, it is inherently difficult to assess the outcome of these matters, and other participants in the financial services industry or we may not prevail in any proceeding or litigation. There could be substantial cost and management diversion in such litigation and proceedings, and any adverse determination could have a materially adverse effect on our business, brand or image, or our financial condition and results of our operations.

Monetary policies and regulations of the Federal Reserve Board could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In addition to being affected by general economic conditions, our earnings and growth are affected by the policies of the Federal Reserve Board. An important function of the Federal Reserve Board is to regulate the money supply and credit conditions. Among the instruments used by the Federal Reserve Board to implement these objectives are open market purchases and sales of U.S. government securities, adjustments of the discount rate and changes in banks’ reserve requirements against bank deposits. These instruments are
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used in varying combinations to influence overall economic growth and the distribution of credit, bank loans, investments and deposits. Their use also affects interest rates charged on loans or paid on deposits.

The monetary policies and regulations of the Federal Reserve Board have had a significant effect on the operating results of financial institutions in the past and are expected to continue to do so in the future. The effects of such policies upon our business, financial condition and results of operations cannot be predicted.

Provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that are applicable to savings banks and their holding companies with $10 billion or more in assets may decrease our fee income and increase our operating costs or otherwise have a material effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

The Dodd-Frank Act resulted in several new requirements for banking institutions with $10 billion or more in assets. As of December 31, 2020, we had consolidated assets of $13.806 billion. These provisions, subject to a phase-in period, may significantly increase our compliance or operating costs or otherwise have a significant impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Such provisions include:

The Dodd-Frank Act created the CFPB, which has broad powers to supervise and enforce consumer protection laws. The CFPB has broad rule-making authority for a wide range of consumer protection laws that apply to all banks, including the authority to prohibit “unfair, deceptive or abusive” acts and practices. Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and the FDIC examine Northwest Bank for compliance with consumer protection laws. However, the CFPB has examination and enforcement authority over all banks with more than $10 billion in assets, and accordingly will assume examination and enforcement authority over us, subject to a phase in period.
Interchange fees for electronic debt transactions by a payment card issuer would be limited to $0.21 plus five basis points times the value of the transaction, plus up to $0.01 for fraud prevention costs. This would lower significantly our interchange or “swipe” revenue. We estimate this decrease in interchange fee income to be approximately $8.0 million, before tax for the year end December 31, 2021.
The Dodd-Frank Act established 1.35% as the minimum DIF reserve ratio and the FDIC has adopted a plan under which it will meet the statutory minimum fund reserve ratio of 1.35% by September 30, 2020. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the FDIC to offset the effect of the increase in the statutory minimum fund reserve ratio to 1.35% from the former statutory minimum of 1.15% on institutions with assets less than $10 billion. We will not be entitled to benefit from the offset.
The Dodd-Frank Act requires a publicly traded savings and loan holding company with $10 billion or more in assets to establish and maintain a risk committee responsible for oversight of enterprise-wide risk management practices, which must be commensurate with the bank’s structure, risk profile, complexity, activities and size.

It is difficult to predict the overall compliance cost of these provisions. However, compliance with these provisions would likely require additional staffing, engagement of external consultants and other operating costs that could have a material adverse effect on our future financial condition and results of operations.

Risk Related to Market Interest Rates

Changes in interest rates could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

While we strive to control the impact of changes in interest rates on our net income, our results of operations and financial condition could be significantly affected by changes in interest rates. Our results of operations depend substantially on our net interest income, which is the difference between the interest income we earn on our interest-earning assets, such as loans and investment securities, and the interest expense we pay on our interest-bearing liabilities, such as deposits, borrowings and trust preferred securities. Because it is difficult to perfectly match the maturities and cash flows from our financial assets and liabilities our net income could be adversely impacted by changes in the level of interest rates or the slope of the Treasury yield curve.

Changes in interest rates may also affect the average life of loans and mortgage-related securities. Decreases in interest rates can result in increased prepayments of loans and mortgage-related securities, as borrowers refinance to reduce their borrowing costs. Under these circumstances, we are subject to reinvestment risk to the extent that we are unable to reinvest the cash received from such prepayments at rates that are comparable to the rates on existing loans and investment securities. Additionally, increases in interest rates may decrease loan demand and make it more difficult for borrowers to repay adjustable rate loans. Also, increases in interest rates may extend the life of fixed rate assets, which would restrict our ability to reinvest in higher yielding alternatives, and may result in customers withdrawing certificates of deposit early so long as the early withdrawal penalty is less than the interest they could receive as a result of the higher interest rates.

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Changes in interest rates also affect the current fair value of our interest-earning investment securities portfolio. Generally, the value of securities moves inversely with changes in interest rates. At December 31, 2020, the fair value of our investment and mortgage-backed securities portfolio totaled $1,578.6 million. Net unrealized gains on these securities totaled $24.0 million at December 31, 2020.

Any increase in market interest rates may reduce our mortgage banking income. We generate revenues primarily from gains on the sale of mortgage loans to investors, and from the amortization of deferred mortgage servicing rights. We recognized noninterest income of $3.8 million on mortgage banking activities during the year ended December 31, 2020. We also earn interest on loans held for sale while awaiting delivery to our investors.  In a rising or higher interest rate environment, our mortgage loan originations may decrease, resulting in fewer loans that are available for sale. This would result in a decrease in interest income and a decrease in revenues from loan sales. In addition, our results of operations are affected by the amount of noninterest expense associated with mortgage banking activities, such as salaries and employee benefits, occupancy, equipment, data processing and other operating costs. During periods of reduced loan demand, our results of operations may be adversely affected to the extent that we are unable to reduce expenses commensurate with the decline in mortgage loan origination activity.

At December 31, 2020, our interest rate risk analysis indicated that the market value of our equity would decrease by 5.5% if there was an instant parallel 200 basis point increase in market interest rates. See “Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.”

A continuation of the historically low interest rate environment and the possibility that we may access higher-cost funds to support our loan growth and operations may adversely affect our net interest income and profitability.

In recent years the Federal Reserve Board’s policy has been to maintain interest rates at historically low levels through its targeted federal funds rate and the purchase of mortgage-backed securities. Our ability to reduce our interest expense may be limited at current interest rate levels while the average yield on our interest-earning assets may continue to decrease, and our interest expense may increase as we access non-core funding sources or increase deposit rates to fund our operations. A continuation of a low interest rate environment or an increase in our cost of funds may adversely affect our net interest income, which would have an adverse effect on our profitability.

Risk Related to our Business Strategy

Acquisitions may disrupt our business and dilute stockholder value.

We regularly evaluate merger and acquisition opportunities with other financial institutions and financial services companies. As a result, negotiations may take place and future mergers or acquisitions involving cash, debt, or equity securities may occur at any time. We would seek acquisition partners that offer us either significant market presence or the potential to expand our market footprint and improve profitability through economies of scale or expanded services.

Acquiring other banks, businesses, or branches may have an adverse effect on our financial results and may involve various other risks commonly associated with acquisitions, including, among other things:

difficulty in estimating the value of the target company;
payment of a premium over book and market values that may dilute our tangible book value and earnings per share in the short and long term;
potential exposure to unknown or contingent liabilities of the target company;
exposure to potential asset quality problems of the target company;
potential volatility in reported income associated with goodwill impairment losses;
difficulty and expense of integrating the operations and personnel of the target company;
inability to realize the expected revenue increases, cost savings, increases in geographic or product presence, and/or other projected benefits of the acquisition;
potential disruption to our business;
potential diversion of our management’s time and attention;
the possible loss of key employees and customers of the target company; and
potential changes in banking or tax laws or regulations that may affect the target company.

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Acquisitions may not enhance our cash flows, business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects as expected and such acquisitions may have an adverse effect on our results of operations, particularly during periods in which the acquisitions are being integrated into our operations.

Our continued pace of growth may require us to raise additional capital in the future, but that capital may not be available when it is needed.

We are required by federal regulatory authorities to maintain adequate levels of capital to support our operations.  We anticipate that we will have sufficient capital resources to satisfy our capital requirements for the foreseeable future.  We may at some point, however, need to raise additional capital to support our continued growth.  If we raise capital through the issuance of additional shares of our common stock or other securities, it would dilute the ownership interests of existing stockholders and may dilute the per share book value of our common stock.  New investors may also have rights, preferences and privileges senior to our current stockholders, which may adversely impact our current stockholders.  Also, the need to raise additional capital may force our management to spend more time in managerial and financing-related activities than in operational activities.

Our ability to raise additional capital, if needed, will depend on conditions in the capital markets at that time, which are outside of our control, and on our financial performance.  Accordingly, we may not be able to raise additional capital, if needed, with favorable terms.  If we cannot raise additional capital when needed, our ability to further expand our operations through internal growth and acquisitions could be materially impaired.

New lines of business or new products and services may subject us to additional risks.

    From time to time, we may implement new lines of business or offer new products and services within existing lines of business. In addition, we will continue to make investments in research, development, and marketing for new products and services. There are substantial risks and uncertainties associated with these efforts, particularly in instances where the markets are not fully developed. In developing and marketing new lines of business and/or new products and services we may invest significant time and resources. Initial timetables for the development and introduction of new lines of business and/or new products or services may not be achieved and price and profitability targets may not prove feasible. Furthermore, if customers do not perceive our new offerings as providing significant value, they may fail to accept our new products and services. External factors, such as compliance with regulations, competitive alternatives, and shifting market preferences, may also impact the successful implementation of a new line of business or a new product or service. Furthermore, the burden on management and our information technology of introducing any new line of business and/or new product or service could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of our system of internal controls. Failure to successfully manage these risks in the development and implementation of new lines of business or new products or services could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our business strategy includes growth, and our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively affected if we fail to grow or fail to manage our growth effectively.

Our business strategy includes growth in assets, deposits and the scale of our operations. Achieving our growth targets will require us to attract customers that currently bank at other financial institutions in our market, thereby increasing our share of the market. Our ability to successfully grow will depend on a variety of factors, including our ability to attract and retain experienced bankers, the continued availability of desirable business opportunities, the competitive responses from other financial institutions in our market area and our ability to manage our growth. Growth opportunities may not be available or we may not be able to manage our growth successfully. If we do not manage our growth effectively, our financial condition and operating results could be negatively affected.

Uncertainties associated with increased loan originations may result in errors in our judgment of collectability, which may lead to additional provisions for credit losses or charge-offs, which would negatively affect our operations.

    Increasing loan originations would likely require us to lend to borrowers with which we have limited experience. Accordingly, we would not have a significant payment history pattern with which to judge future collectability. Further, newly originated loans have not been subjected to unfavorable economic conditions. As a result, it may be difficult to predict the future performance of newly originated loans. These loans may have delinquency or charge-off levels above our recent historical experience, which could adversely affect our future performance.

Risk Related to Economic Conditions

A worsening of economic conditions in our market area could reduce demand for our products and services and/or result in increases in our level of non-performing loans, which could adversely affect our operations, financial condition and earnings.

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Our performance is significantly impacted by the general economic conditions in our primary markets in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and Indiana. At December 31, 2020, 39.4% of our loan portfolio was secured by properties located in Pennsylvania, and 17.9% of our loan portfolio was secured by properties located in New York, with a large portion of the rest of our loans secured by real estate located in Ohio, and Indiana. Local economic conditions have a significant impact on the ability of our borrowers to repay loans and the value of the collateral securing loans.

A deterioration in economic conditions, as a result of COVID-19 or otherwise, could result in the following consequences, any of which could have a material adverse affect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations:

demand for our products and services may decline;
loan delinquencies, problem assets and foreclosures may increase;
collateral for loans, especially real estate, may decline in value, in turn reducing customers’ future borrowing power, and reducing the value of assets and collateral associated with existing loans; and
the net worth and liquidity of loan guarantors may decline, impairing their ability to honor commitments to us.

In addition, deflationary pressures, while possibly lowering our operating costs, could have a significant negative effect on our borrowers, especially our business borrowers, and the values of underlying collateral securing loans, which could negatively affect our financial performance.

Risk Related to Competitive Matters

Strong competition may limit growth and profitability.

Competition in the banking and financial services industry is intense. We compete with commercial banks, savings institutions, mortgage brokerage firms, credit unions, finance companies, fintech companies, mutual funds, insurance companies, and brokerage and investment banking firms operating locally and elsewhere. Many of these competitors (whether regional or national institutions) have substantially greater resources and lending limits than we have and may offer certain services that we do not or cannot provide. In addition, some have competitive advantages such as the credit union exemption from paying Federal income tax. Our profitability depends upon our ability to successfully compete in our market areas.

Risk Related to Operational Matters

Risks associated with system failures, interruptions, or breaches of security could negatively affect our earnings.

    Information technology systems are critical to our business.  We use various technology systems to manage our customer relationships, general ledger, deposits, and loans.  We have established policies and procedures to prevent or limit the impact of system failures, interruptions, and security breaches, but such events may still occur or may not be adequately addressed if they do occur.  In addition, any compromise of our systems could deter customers from using our products and services.  Although we rely on security systems to provide security and authentication necessary to effect the secure transmission of data, these precautions may not protect our systems from compromises or breaches of security.

    Our business is subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which, among other things: (i) imposes certain limitations on our ability to share nonpublic personal information about our customers with nonaffiliated third parties; (ii) requires that we provide certain disclosures to customers about our information collection, sharing and security practices and afford customers the right to “opt out” of any information sharing by us with nonaffiliated third parties (with certain exceptions); and (iii) requires that we develop, implement and maintain a written comprehensive information security program containing appropriate safeguards based on our size and complexity, the nature and scope of our activities, and the sensitivity of customer information we process, as well as plans for responding to data security breaches. Ensuring that our collection, use, transfer and storage of personal information complies with all applicable laws and regulations can increase our costs. Despite the defensive measures we take to manage our internal technological and operational infrastructure, threats may originate externally from third parties such as foreign governments, organized crime and other hackers, and outsource or infrastructure-support providers and application developers, or may originate internally from within our organization. Furthermore, we may not be able to ensure that all of our clients, suppliers, counterparties and other third parties have appropriate controls in place to protect the confidentiality of the information that they exchange with us, particularly where such information is transmitted by electronic means.

In addition, we outsource a significant amount of our data processing to certain third-party providers.  If these third-party providers encounter difficulties, or if we have difficulty communicating with them, our ability to adequately process and account for transactions could be affected, and our business operations could be adversely affected.  Threats to information security also exist in the processing of customer information through various other vendors and their personnel.
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The occurrence of any system failures, interruption, or breach of security could damage our reputation and result in a loss of customers and business, could subject us to additional regulatory scrutiny, or could expose us to litigation and possible financial liability.  Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Our risk management framework may not be effective in mitigating risk and reducing the potential for significant losses.

    Our risk management framework is designed to minimize risk and loss to us. We seek to identify, measure, monitor, report and control our exposure to risk, including strategic, market, liquidity, credit, interest rate, compliance and operational risks. While we use a broad and diversified set of risk monitoring and mitigation techniques, these techniques are inherently limited because they cannot anticipate the existence or future development of currently unanticipated or unknown risks. Recent economic conditions and heightened legislative and regulatory scrutiny of the financial services industry, among other developments, have increased our level of risk. Accordingly, we could suffer losses as a result of our failure to properly anticipate and manage these risks.

Our business may be adversely affected by an increasing prevalence of fraud and other financial crimes.

Our loans to businesses and individuals and our deposit relationships and related transactions are subject to exposure to the risk of loss due to fraud and other financial crimes.  Nationally, reported incidents of fraud and other financial crimes have increased.  We have also experienced losses due to apparent fraud and other financial crimes.  While we have policies and procedures designed to prevent such losses, losses may still occur.

We could be adversely affected by the soundness of other financial institutions and other third parties we rely on.