Georgia banking industry touts growth

ATLANTA — Georgia’s banking industry made significant improvements last year, according to the state’s top regulator.


Rob Braswell, the commissioner of banking and finance, issued his annual report Thursday in which he noted that three-quarters of the state-chartered banks were profitable by the end of last year.

“Regarding the entities we regulate, 2012 contained many encouraging signs indicating a slow, but steady economic recovery,” he wrote.

The state took over 10 banks that never turned the corner after losing ground during the recent recession. That’s better than the 13 closed in 2011 or the 22 in 2010.

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta reports in its latest Beige Book, the real estate sector is improving, which is helping the financial sector as well.

“The outlook for construction activity and new home sales over the next several months remained positive with most anticipating levels to be slightly ahead on a year-over-year basis,” Fed officials wrote.

Georgia had 276 banks chartered by the Department of Banking & Finance in 2008 at the beginning of the recession and only has 186 now.

The number of state-chartered credit unions has shrunk less, from 67 in 2008 to 54 today. But everything isn’t rosy for the credit unions.

“The state’s credit unions continued to face earnings challenges in 2012 from abundant liquidity, low loan demand, and the continued low-interest-rate environment,” Braswell wrote in his report. “Net interest margins continued to decline, and investment maturities were extended in many cases in an effort to increase yields.”

The department also regulates mortgage brokers and check-cashing operations. Its largest number of enforcement actions was aimed at unlicensed mortgage brokers.

It ordered 76 companies to stop operations and warned another 62 their licenses could be revoked.