Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

OceanFirst Financial Corp (NASDAQ:OCFC)
Q4 2019 Earnings Call
Jan 28, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day and welcome to the OceanFirst Financial Corp. Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. All participants will be in listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Jill Hewitt, Senior Vice President and Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Jill Hewitt -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, Jason. Good morning, and thank you all for joining us. I'm Jill Hewitt, Senior Vice President and Investor Relations Officer at OceanFirst Financial Corp. We will begin this morning's call with our forward-looking statement disclosure. Please remember that many of our remarks today contain forward-looking statements based on current expectations. Refer to our press release and other public filings, including the risk factors in our 10-K where you will find factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements.

Thank you. And now, I turn the call over to our host today, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Maher.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Jill, and good morning to all who've been able to join our fourth quarter 2019 earnings conference call today. This morning, I'm joined by our Chief Operating Officer, Joe Lebel; and Chief Financial Officer, Mike Fitzpatrick. As always, we appreciate your interest in our performance and are pleased to be able to discuss our operating results with you.

This morning, we will highlight a few key items from the quarter, add some color to the results, then discuss our views regarding the operating environment for 2020. After that, we look forward to taking your questions.

In terms of financial results for the fourth quarter, GAAP diluted earnings per share were $0.47. Quarterly reported earnings were impacted by merger-related expenses, branch consolidation charges, non-recurring professional fees and the reduction in state income tax expense related to a change in the New Jersey tax code that totaled $2.3 million net of federal tax benefit. That results in core earnings per share of $0.51.

Earnings were subject to headwinds related to net interest margin and some accelerated IT expenses related to end-of-life equipment migrations. Net interest income plateaued during the quarter and is positioned to improve in 2020 as net loan growth may compensate for any additional margin compression over the next few quarters.

Operating efficiency is also positioned to improve as we had the scale benefits of the Two River and Country Bank acquisitions, which both closed on January 1st of this year. Joe will provide more color on operating conditions and the integration of the acquisitions later in the call.

Regarding capital management for the quarter, the Board declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.17, the company's 92nd consecutive quarterly cash dividend. The $0.17 dividend represents a conservative 33% payout of core earnings. We remain at the lower end of our historical payout range for a few reasons. First, our organic growth trajectory provides the opportunity to put internally generated capital to work. Second, our acquisition experience has provided the opportunity to deploy capital. The Two River acquisition provide an opportunity to deploy $48 million worth of capital just this month.

Finally, share repurchases are efficient and effective at our current valuation. The Board approved the new repurchase plan in December, which provides the opportunity to purchase 2.5 million shares. At today's valuation, that repurchase plan would enable $62 million of capital to be returned to shareholders. During 2019, the company has repurchased 1.1 million shares at an average cost of $23.12, returning $26.1 million of surplus capital to our shareholders.

Core net income fell slightly from the prior quarter but appears to be leveling off in its position for improvement in 2020. Net interest income was flat due to margin compression but should build going forward. The year-end loan portfolio is approximately $45 million larger than the average quarterly balance in Q4 and approximately $200 million larger than the average quarterly balance in Q3. Loan pipelines remain strong moving into 2020. Fourth quarter operating expenses were elevated as we opted to augment our IT staff to accelerate workstation and server lifecycle upgrades. In addition, renegotiated core processing and digital banking contracts reduce infrastructure costs materially beginning in January of 2020.

Finally, the addition of Two River and Country Bank businesses will provide some immediate financial benefits and their contributions will strengthen over the course of 2020 as integrations progress.

Our balance sheet remains quite strong. Net charge offs for the year were less than 3 basis points. Delinquencies and risk ratings have used no signs of concern and non-performing assets totaled just 22 basis points of total assets. Tangible book value per share ended the year at $15.13, a 6% increase over year-end 2018. Over the past three years, tangible book value per share has increased by $2.19 or 17%. During a period of significant acquisitions, we remain focused on this metric.

I'll let Joe speak to the quarterly operating metrics later as I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about the longer term performance of the company. At a recent investor presentation, I was asked which investor question I found most disappointing. After considering, I responded that the focus on short-term metric changes can make it difficult to assess trends and the outlook for long-term value creation.

In the current environment, the emphasis on net interest margin tax rates and quarterly provisions falls into that category. As we consider the long-term prospects for our business, we look toward indicators of an ability to thrive over a wide variety of operating environments. That said, there are certain table stakes which are required bank performance metrics. Those include net interest margin, return on assets, return on equity, operating efficiency, net charge offs and non-performing asset levels. Our performance metrics in each of these areas are competitive.

2019 core results included NIM of 3.62%, return on assets of 1.30%, return on tangible common equity of 14.2%, core efficiency ratio of 55.8%, net charge-offs of just 2.3 basis points and non-performing assets totaling just 22 basis points of total assets. The current interest rate environment will cause some additional compression in margins for another one to two quarters, but our performance measures should remain competitive regardless of that.

In the meantime, our longer-term value creation opportunity rests in an ability to improve revenue growth and operating efficiency on a consistent basis. We have three levers that provide the ability to produce revenue growth. Those are traditional organic growth, growth via acquisition, and digital customer acquisition. During 2019, we demonstrated performance in all three areas. On an organic basis, our entry into New York and Philadelphia resulted in the origination of $450 million in new commercial loans in those markets, helping to lift annual organic loan production by 60% to over $1.5 billion.

Regarding acquisitions, we completed the Two River and Country Bank acquisitions, which were our sixth and seventh whole bank acquisitions. They deliver important scale as well as the opportunity to increase efficiency. On the digital acquisition front, our multi-year efforts are beginning to evidence results. Mobile activation rates drive high levels of customer satisfaction, which have enabled the bank to address branch operating expenses more quickly than most of our peers. By June 30th of 2020, branch consolidations over the past five years will total 53 branches. We've completed these consolidations while growing total deposits and delivering one of the lowest deposit costs in the Northeast.

In addition, our mobile account opening process and our hybrid robo-advisor product are generating meaningful numbers of new digital customers. Combined, these products have delivered over 4,300 new relationships. These figures are not high enough to drive profits in the short-term, but they represent a meaningful portion of total new relationships. Our digital experience is teaching us how to attract, service and retain digital clients. The unit economics associated with both products is highly attractive as our products are priced very conservatively.

The ability to increase revenue organically through acquisition and digitally is an incredibly important advantage. Equally important is our ability to drive efficiencies over time. Organic growth provides consistent improvements in scale, while acquisitions provide step function opportunities to improve operating efficiency, and our digital focus reduces the cost to service our clients in addition to enabling rapid branch consolidation.

We remain highly focused on the table stakes of margins, profitability, balance sheet quality and earnings-per-share growth. The business performs well today and is strongly positioned to thrive in the long run. I'd also like to be clear about our strategy related to the $10 billion regulatory threshold.

As the economy stabilized in 2019 and the organic loan originations picked up steam, we've become more optimistic regarding the opportunity to source high quality organic growth in the upcoming quarters. Based on the external environment shift and increased confidence in organic growth, we've positioned the Bank for consistent organic growth over the next six quarters.

Having begun 2020 with approximately $10.2 billion in total assets, the additional growth is able to offset the revenue reduction associated with the Durbin Amendment. We time the closing of our most recent acquisitions to fall just after midnight on January 1st, 2020. As a result, the Durbin Amendment impact will be effective on July 1st, 2021, provided we finish calendar year 2020 with more than $10 billion in assets.

Building additional scale in the coming years is important but can be accomplished in an organic matter. It is important that we continue to evidence a conservative bias regarding acquisitions. While acquisitions provide an important leverage to improve performance, organic business growth needs to remain our most important strategy.

At this point, I'll turn the discussion over to Joe Lebel to provide more details regarding operating conditions and some additional color regarding many of the initiatives I've outlined earlier.

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Chris. Record loan originations of $504 million drove loan growth of $125 million for the quarter. Commercial lending closings were strong at $265 million with all regions of the company providing meaningful contributions as our new geographies in New York and Philadelphia closed $148 million and our legacy New Jersey markets closed another $117 million.

The commercial bank grew $59 million for the quarter. Residential real estate concluded 2019 with another stellar quarter with $239 million in closings and then $66 million in portfolio growth. The total pipeline at $328 million remains robust and at an all-time high despite the record closing quarter. More importantly, we are seeing a shift in the mix of the loan pipeline to commercial from residential, which will help as commercial originations typically carry a higher interest rate. Accordingly, we anticipate a solid first quarter 2020 in loan activity despite very difficult competition in credit terms, pricing and non-bank. Our swap product had a solid quarter. And while fee income from swaps can be volatile quarter-over-quarter, we expect this income stream to build in 2020.

Operating in new metropolitan markets among fierce competition in this rate environment and originating the volume of residential loans we do in our markets has impacted the net interest margin. For the quarter, average yields on new originations were impacted by Fed cuts and competition in new and existing markets causing the net interest margin of 3.48% to decrease by 7 basis points. The effective prior Fed cuts and longer-term Treasury rates were seen in lower weighted average originations of 4.05% for the commercial bank and 3.49% for the residential book. Much of the loan growth was later in the quarter, so we will see a positive impact on the net interest income in 2020. The change in loan mix into more commercial will help offset pressure on the NIM, and deposit costs are stable. Our costs of deposits was basically unchanged this quarter at 64 basis points, up 2 basis points.

Moving to expenses. The $2.2 million increase quarter-over-quarter was related to higher compensation, data processing, partly due to system upgrades and professional fees mostly related to technology consulting services. On a positive note, we will recognize savings in early 2020 on data processing contracts which were recently negotiated.

The merger integration for the recently closed acquisitions of Two River Community Bank and Country Bank are going well. We are working through the final underpinnings of some branch rationalization related to the Two River acquisition and our existing branch footprint. Some of the rationalizations savings will continue to fund initiatives and digital acquisition, additional expansion in treasury services, information technology and to support our growing customer base in New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.

Chris mentioned our continued success and focus on digital acquisition of clients through Nest Egg and AmiGo. Nest Egg, our hybrid robo advisory product introduced early last year, has gathered over 1,000 accounts and $35 million in assets under management as of year-end. AmiGo, our digital online checking account, has also seen solid growth with over 1,000 active profitable accounts. These digital checking accounts pay a modest 0.25% as we focus on quality digital growth.

Similarly, Nest Egg asset management fees are 110 basis points, keeping with our goal to build a profitable digital business. As I've stated before, this represents small dollars today with little impact on financial performance in 2019 and likely 2020, but unit economics are excellent and growth remains well ahead of plan.

Looking into 2020, we expect solid loan growth in the face of competition as we remain bullish on our talent, source internally through acquisition and recruitment. We saw loan originations grow over 60% in 2019 to just over $1.5 billion. And while we anticipate lower residential activity, the commercial bank momentum should continue to deliver growth. We anticipate the bulk of the loan growth to come from Philadelphia and New York, although as we saw in the fourth quarter, we see continued opportunity in our legacy markets as well. Deposit growth will be challenging but attainable and ably supported by our burgeoning digital focus and product set.

With that, I'll turn the call back to Chris.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Joe. At this point, Mike, Joe and I would be pleased to take some questions.

Questions and Answers:

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] The first question comes from Frank Schiraldi from Piper Sandler. Please go ahead.

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Good morning.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Frank.

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Just -- just wondered if -- there's a lot of -- well there's obviously with the deals closing early this year, there's a significant changes to the income statement as you fold those two names in. But just wondering if you could help us maybe think about expense base levels post deal where you expect those to flush out in the near-term?

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Frank, it's Mike. Yeah. So first quarter would be the highest for the year. Of course, it's not less opportunity to take out cost saves. There's a little bit of cost saves that happen right away, but not that much. And then, they trend -- and then they trend in overtime. So, we're expecting first quarter would be roughly $53 million in operating expenses and that might trend down to about $50 million in the fourth quarter.

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Great. Okay. And then, just secondly on the margin. Chris, you talked about perhaps a couple more quarters of NIM compression. Looking at the pipeline, and then I realize that it's more skewed to commercial which helps. But still, if I look at the average yield there versus the average yield of the book, I would imagine that's what's driving the near-term compression. If you could just talk a little bit about the NIM mechanics and how you reach stabilization there in one or two quarter's time?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So if you have to look at both sides of that equation, Frank. You're right that the loan yields will be under a little bit of pressure. Even as we shift to more commercial than residential, we're still going to be putting loans on at slightly lower than the portfolio yield. So, we expect for the next couple of quarters, you're going to see a little bit of that. Where we're going to make it up is unlikely on the loan side. And the reason I say that is, it's a very competitive market, particularly as we expand into the urban areas with a lot of good high quality competition. You're going to wind up if you stick to your credit terms and your structures. You're going to have a pretty competitive yield.

That said, our deposit costs plateaued for the last three quarters of the year staying within a range of about 2 basis points. At some point, we do hope to start to bring those costs down as well. There's a little bit of a lag effect. Many of our treasury clients have rates fixed for a period of time even on their transaction accounts. So, we're hopeful that as we move through 2020, we might be able to pick up a little bit of an opportunity on the deposit side. So, it's really two things, less pressure on loans going out a couple of quarters and then maybe being able to pull some off the deposit side.

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Thank you.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

As it would have been a mix shift, we can replace some securities with loans, but that's probably not going to be a big impact.

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Great. Okay, thank you.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Frank.

Operator

The next question comes from Russell Gunther from D.A. Davidson. Please go ahead.

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Russell.

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Hey, Russell.

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Quick follow-up on the expense guide, Mike, the $50 million general target for the fourth quarter. Could you just give us a sense of what's included in there from a cost save recognition from the two deals that just closed as well as what the vendor contracts savings be in that kind of $50 million run rate as well?

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

The last point, yeah, the vendor contracts that were renegotiated in the fourth quarter, the legacy OceanFirst contracts, the benefit will start in January -- this month, January 2020. So that's in the -- that'll be in the first quarter and the fourth quarter numbers.

With respect to Two River and Country, we were -- this is consistent with the merger announcement. We expect a 54% cost save for Two River, 33% for Country. So those -- some of those, as I mentioned, happened day one, but most of those happened subsequent to system conversion dates. For Two River, that would be May; for Country, it'd be later in the year. So, like I said, the expenses will wind -- will gradually wind down over the year from $53 million to about $50 million.

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Okay. And then, because the deal-related cost saves are largely with the systems integration, as well as once you've recognized day one, Mike, it sounds like the $50 million 4Q run rate would be inclusive of pretty much all of the deal-related cost saves. Is that correct?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

It'd be pretty close though. Russell, it's Chris. The country integration is probably going to happen in the fourth quarter. So you're not going to get a full quarter benefit from that. That said, as you roll into the first quarter 2021, you'll have some pressure just from ordinary inflation items like benefit plans and that kind of stuff. So, that won't represent the full efficiencies, but it's a decent kind of trajectory from there.

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Yeah. Thank you, Chris. I got you. And then, apologies because I missed the first two minutes of your of your table stake commentary, and particularly around the core efficiency ratio. So, is that a result that you anticipate achieving for 2020 that I believe you said the 50% -- the 55% mark. If you could just clarify comments there for me, that would be very helpful.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So there's two sides to that efficiency ratio. On the expense side, we feel really comfortable with that. Obviously, with NIM having compressed in the last couple of quarters, and not knowing the exact shape of the yield curve as we go into 2020, it's the revenue side that would be a little bit more sensitive. So, we still think that we can be below 55% and approaching 50%, but it's going to be the -- the exact numbers can be driven more by net interest margin and revenues than it would be by expenses. We know kind of where the expenses are going to come in. There's a little bit of movement on the NIM depending on the exact shape of the yield curve throughout the year.

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Okay. Very helpful. Thank you. And then, I heard you guys on the low growth side of things particularly slower single family resi, and I'm trying to tie that together with being through $10 billion in assets, what that would imply for the mortgage gain on sale within fees.

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

So we've not been running that business for a lot of gain on sale obviously. I think we might have the opportunity to do more of that as we go through 2020, especially because we really don't want to build a concentration in any of the -- especially the 30-year paper. So I think you'll see some mortgage gains -- gain on sale during the year, but it's not going to be a material number.

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Okay, great. And last one for me, again, apologies if I've missed it, but any guidance on the tax rate for 2020?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So we said for OceanFirst, we've guided about 21% when we merged the three banks. Two River's tax rate was higher. That was higher than ours. Country was similar. So, we're probably -- we start the year maybe at a higher rate, 22%, or actually -- or maybe a little more than Two River. And then over the course of the year, we can kind of apply our tax strategies to the Two River portfolio and work that tax rate down. So it'll likely be a little bit higher in the first and second quarter, and then a little bit lower maybe later the year. So, for the full year, maybe about 21.5%, 22%, something like that.

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Thanks, Mike, and thank you all for taking my questions.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Russell.

Operator

The next question comes from Sean Tobin from Janney. Please go ahead.

Sean Tobin -- Janney Montgomery Scott LLC -- Analyst

Good morning, guys.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Sean.

Sean Tobin -- Janney Montgomery Scott LLC -- Analyst

First, to touch on the buyback. You bought back around 1.1 million shares in 2019. Given more shares are valued today, would you expect that your appetite for buybacks to be even healthier in 2020? And then, just a follow-up to that, what are some of the thresholds that will determine how aggressive you are on that front?

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So I think if you look back into 2019, our buybacks were a little bit limited due to just the windows in which we could buy back. We had the acquisitions pending, and there's certain math over how many shares you're allowed to purchase at any given period. So, we had a stronger appetite than we were able to execute on in 2019.

As we go into 2020, the valuation hasn't changed much. While we don't release any specific guidance over prices, we have in the past talked about tangible book value dilution and earn-backs. So, I think if you were to go out and solve for keeping our earn-backs in five-year-or-less range, that would give you a sense as to where appetite is. I think, in 2020, it's going to be more execution-bounded. So, if we can find the shares at the right price, you'll see us repurchase a decent amount of shares. But if the market is not there, we're going to be disciplined about it.

So, one of the nice, I think, advantages we have is buybacks are one tool. We've been able to deploy the capital through organic as well as acquisitions. I mean, to give you a sense, we deployed $108 million worth of capital essentially during the last year. So that was $26 million of buybacks, $34 million of regular quarterly dividend, and $48 million was a consideration in the Two River acquisition, which we closed on January 1st. So, we think we've got a number of levers. If we can do it in buybacks we'll do it. But if we start to get concerned about the earn-backs to the price, then you'll see us use a different tool, or we'll let the capital build up for a little bit and we can always use it hopefully down the road in organic growth and acquisition.

Sean Tobin -- Janney Montgomery Scott LLC -- Analyst

Got you. That's very helpful. Then switching gears to the loan-to-deposit ratio. And on the past, you guys have said that you prefer to stay under 100% but it sounds like deposit growth maybe a bit of a challenge going forward. Would you be comfortable kind of surpassing that 100% mark or is the plant still to kind of fund loans and deposits dollar for dollar?

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

The way we look at loan-to-deposit ratio is that there is a kind of -- your perfect target would be just at 100%, but it's hard to manage perfection. So we've tended to stay a little bit under 100%, it gives us a lot of optionality. But if we found it economical to go to 101% or 100.5%, we wouldn't allow it to serve as a too restrictive measure. That said, we're not a company that's going to 110%, 115%, 125% loan-to-deposit ratio. We don't think that's the appropriate risk position to have. But I wouldn't look at 100% as a limit. I would look as 100% as an ideal place to be.

Sean Tobin -- Janney Montgomery Scott LLC -- Analyst

Got you. Then just one interest rate-related question. The loan floors], are they possible for you to get done today? Is that something you're looking at for 2020 within your commercial contracts?

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, Sean. We -- it's Joe. We -- we've been employing loan floors for a while and once we saw the direction where the Fed was going to go last year, we started implementing them midyear largely in the commercial book.

Sean Tobin -- Janney Montgomery Scott LLC -- Analyst

Got you. Good stuff. That's it for me. Thanks for taking my questions.

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Sean.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] The next question comes from Collyn Gilbert from KBW. Please go ahead.

Collyn Gilbert -- KBW -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, guys. If we could just start on the loan growth that you saw just for the quarter and just kind of the dynamic as you're thinking about that broadly. So, obviously resi came in a lot stronger than perhaps what you were thinking or I was thinking. So just curious as to the dynamic there and then what you see the drivers to be as to why that might be less in 2020. And then, Joe, I appreciate your comments around kind of the pipelines and that type of thing but maybe if you could give a little bit of a tighter outlook as to what loan growth you're expecting for 2020, if you guys can still hold it at that. I know for a while you've been targeting kind of $100 million or so quarter-over-quarter, so just two questions there on that loan growth dynamic.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So, I think -- thank you, Collyn. I think on the revenue side, look, it was a little bit of a perfect storm last year. Not only do we have talented folks and a broader reach in the markets that we serve. We also have the benefit of really solid and decreasing rate environment. So, I look at it even seven, eight, nine, 10 years after the financial crisis, people are possibly couldn't afford to refinance those years back and refinanced with us at lower rates. What was really fascinating to me is that of the volume of resi business we did, the internal refinance rate was less than 30%, which is just fascinating compared to prior low rate environment.

So, I think just by normal course, you would expect that just to dissipate. If it doesn't dissipate, good for us, but we're anticipating that we're not going to have a year where you're going to originate $580 million in resi. The good news is that you start to see the pick-up in the new markets in Philadelphia and New York. We're bullish on those and most of those teams are fully staffed. We continue to look for more people so -- and we've noted the mix in the pipeline. So, I think we're going to continue to see that growth it'll be more cemented toward commercial, and we still believe that the $100 million a quarter is attainable despite the change in the mix. It might be a little lumpy on occasion but for the most part we think that's a real solid clean number that we could focus on.

Collyn Gilbert -- KBW -- Analyst

Okay. That's great. That's helpful. And then, Mike, just a question on the NIM. And Chris, I know one of you had said relative stabilization in the core NIM going forward, but just curious as to what you're expecting, Mike, in terms of accretion for 2020. I think you guys put up like close to $14 million in 2019 and just maybe sort of how you see that running down in 2020.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. So there's some -- so that's the legacy OceanFirst accretion. So for that, there's about a $500,000 decrease in the first quarter. And then it's very modest after that, about maybe $150,000 to $200,000 a quarter, second, third and fourth quarters. So it's really most -- so it's fairly modest impact. And then we're going to be adding to that accretion purchase accounting adjustments on Two River and Country. We don't have all those scheduled out yet, but those are not going to be -- they're going to have a relatively modest impact because of the rate environment and where it is. Some of the interest rate marks are actually premiums now, not discounts. And the credit marks were not that much different than what their existing allowance was. So those will have an impact but not a significant impact.

Collyn Gilbert -- KBW -- Analyst

Okay. Okay. That's helpful. And then did you provide any or can you guys provide any guidance on CECL?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, we didn't provide any guidance yet. But let me just reiterate what we discussed after the third quarter results because we don't think it's shifted very much. We have a complicated allowance because it includes the purchase accounting marks on all the banks it requires. We have five banks worth of purchase accounting marks that are kind of part of the soup. A portion of that mark carries over to CECL, so it carries over a portion does not.

After the third quarter, in our investor presentation, we said that we expected the incremental add to the allowance related to CECL might range between $5 million and $10 million. So that's kind of the net impact on the OceanFirst portfolio after the third quarter, and we don't see that changing much in the fourth quarter. So we reran it in the fourth quarter and it's almost identical. So, that's the OceanFirst portion.

We're still in the process of going through the CECL marks for Two River and Country, but we don't expect a big impact from those either. So, we're kind of categorizing this as a reasonably modest additional provision. Now, we'll have to run the Two River and Country provisions through the income statement in the first quarter, because those happened technically after 12/31. So you'll see that kind of going through the GAAP net income statement at this point. But I think $5 million to $10 million of the legacy OceanFirst, and then a little bit more for Two River and Country, but it's not going to be a joint number.

Collyn Gilbert -- KBW -- Analyst

Okay. Okay. That's helpful. And then, Chris, just finally if you could kind of give us your thoughts on additional M&A, the consolidating market, if you are seeing any change in the landscape, or how you're thinking about the acquisitive component of your business going forward?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Look, we've obviously -- we like using acquisitions. We've done it on a number of occasions. We think that there are industrywide pressures that should cause more consolidation over the next few years. And those pressures are really -- they're technology, digital and continuing pressures over compliance. Although the compliance environments may be a little bit more friendly than it was a few years ago, it's still a pretty big burden, right? I mean, there's still a lot of new regs that came out of Dodd-Frank. So, we think that there's more consolidation ahead for us as an industry.

In terms of our appetite, we're comfortable. We think we've done it -- done these acquisitions well in the past. We would be open to doing others. But it's always really important to me that we don't feel forced to do that because you have some issue you're trying to resolve in your core business, that never works well. You have to have a good core business. And then if you find an acquisition that furthers your goals and accelerates your strategic plan, that makes sense.

So, I'd put us in a position of kind of ready, willing, and able to make an acquisition if a smart one came along, but not feeling any pressure to do so, especially over the $10 billion in the Durbin comments. So we start the year at $10.2 billion. And as Joe was talking earlier, we'd like to see much so we can get loan growth of $100 million in a quarter. We have six quarters to get to that kind of Durbin beginning points.

If we add another $300 million, $400 million, $500 million worth of assets between now and then, that should overcome the Durbin headwind. So, we thought it was the right environment and the right time for the company to push through the $10 billion, and we think we can do so without acquisitions. That said, if the right acquisition comes along, we're prepared to move forward on.

Collyn Gilbert -- KBW -- Analyst

Okay. That's great. That's great color. I will leave it there. Thanks, everyone.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thanks, Collyn.

Operator

The next question comes from Brody Preston from Stephens Incorporated. Please go ahead.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Good morning, everyone. How are you?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good. Good morning, Brody.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Just wanted to quickly follow up on the M&A discussion. Most of my other questions have been answered. But I wanted to get a sense for what size you thought the balance sheet needed to be fully offset the Durbin related hit?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So we think the minimum size probably somewhere around $10.5 billion to $10.6 billion. And we say that because every bank is different in the composition of their interchange income. So, when you look at the interchange income you have to understand there are two parts to it. There is a section that is, think of it as a signature-based transactions and PIN-based transactions. So, the signature-based transactions in the market continue to earn a level above the Durbin maximum charge. So that's where you're going to see the compression. So it's not even all of your interchange income, because the PIN-based interchange for us anyway is right on top of the Durbin level anyway. It's that way today.

So when we've modeled it by 2021, we think that's about a $5 million pre-tax item. So it's probably a $4 million after-tax item. And if you use kind of a rule of thumb and say, you're going to earn 1% more return on assets, you need several hundred million dollars to get the breakeven. So that's kind of how we back into the number.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Durbin number has been falling for us for the last several years. And the reason it's been falling is all goes to transaction mix. So, as our customers do more PIN-based and less signature-based transactions, less of our revenue is subject to -- practically subject to Durbin. It's all subject to Durbin. But as a point, the market -- the market price for PIN-based is really right on top of Durbin. So, I hope that provides guidance. That said, if we could do an acquisition on top of that and it was accretive that'd be a great thing. But we don't think we need that in order to overcome it.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. I guess, just as I think about the timing of future acquisitions, Chris, it sounds like with the -- I think it was country conversion you said isn't slated to go through until the fourth quarter. If you were to sort of maybe jump back in M&A, does it -- would that be a first half of '21 type event or would it be more second half '21?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We don't think that those integrations would limit our ability to be in the market in 2020 if the right opportunity came up. Obviously we're squarely focused on making sure we do the right integrations with the banks we have going on now. But I would point out in 2016 we integrated both Cape and Ocean City Home in the same year and just staggered them out. So, overlapping the integration timeline with an acquisition timeline is not a terribly difficult thing to do. So, we're focused internally now, but there's no reason that we couldn't enter into the market in 2020.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

All right. Great. Thank you for the color. I appreciate it.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thanks, Brody.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] The next question comes from Erik Zwick from Boenning & Scattergood. Please go ahead.

Erik Zwick -- Boenning & Scattergood, Inc. -- Analyst

Good morning. Maybe just a quick follow-up on your last response with regard to Durbin. So, the $5 million pre-tax figure you've mentioned, is that based on the run rate you saw in 4Q '19 or that's where you estimate the impact will be in July 2021 given the dynamics you outlined, the declining portion of signature-based as well as any growth that you would expect in customer balances and activity between now and then?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So that's based on where we think we'll be but that's not materially different from where we are today. There is a difference. There's a migration but it's a slow and steady migration, it's not dropping like a rock.

Erik Zwick -- Boenning & Scattergood, Inc. -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you. And then just one last one for me. In terms of what you can see into their commercial pipeline today, wondering if you can provide a little color in terms of the split between commercial real estate, C&I and then, if there's any particular industries or product types, where you're really seeing the most attractive risk adjusted opportunities for lending today?

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

So, most of the -- most of the pipeline is skewed in CRE, although we do have some C&I opportunities in all of the footprints. I would say that probably over 60% of it is CRE. None of those are limited to any one, whether it's retailers or multi or any of those types of areas, I think it's fairly dispersed and different and similar with the -- similar with our expectations as we go forward in all the markets. Everybody, I think, would love to do more C&I relationship-based business as would we. It's very difficult in the marketplace to do it. We have the talent and the teams to do it. So -- but at the moment, the pipeline is much more in the CRE space.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

And I would just add to Joe's comments too that within CRE, there's a lot of different segments and a lot of different geographies. So we're very thoughtful, we don't have anything that we would kind of put on a list and say we won't do. But I will say there were certain CRE asset classes, where the hurdles we would expect to clear in order to do a responsible deal are higher. So, we're very thoughtful about industrial warehouse lending, we do it, but we're thoughtful about tenancies that's been a really high growth rate kind of subset. We're very thoughtful about multi-family in New York based on the cap rate changes that appear to be going on that are kind of an outgrowth of where the lease revenue changes that are being enacted in New York.

And then, even looking in Philadelphia, there have been some changes around tax credits and tax incentives around new developments. So, we're thoughtful we'll do any well-structured loans in any of those markets, but we do have our eyes open, and you're not going to see us over concentrate in any one asset class. And you're going to see us be pretty careful about those and, in construction, especially spec construction, so we've been keeping our construction portfolio at a reasonably modest level.

Erik Zwick -- Boenning & Scattergood, Inc. -- Analyst

I appreciate the color there. And maybe just one quick follow up. You mentioned a desire to potentially do more C&I. It sounds like you've got the right lending team. They've got the right relationship. So it sounds like it's more of a borrower issue at this point. And is it just the interest rate environment or the economic growth environment, or what do you think is keeping potentially the demand there in check today?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, there's two factors. The net new demand is somewhat tepid in the Northeast, which means that most of the C&I opportunities are gaining share off a competitor. So that is an expensive thing to do. You're going to have margins that are going to be compressed because of that. And then, I think if you were to sample and listen to a lot of these earnings calls, a lot of people have been charging into the C&I market. So you have a lot more players going into a market that is not growing organically very quickly. So, we've had some great opportunities where the pricing was just as well south of LIBOR plus 100. And as much as we love those opportunities, you can't really make money at that. So for us, I think there are opportunities out there. We're in a competitive moment, where pricing has been really pressed, and that'll probably abate over time.

Erik Zwick -- Boenning & Scattergood, Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks for taking my questions.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from William Wallace from Raymond James. Please go ahead.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Hi, good morning.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

I have just one follow-up question on net interest margin, and I apologize if you addressed this in the remarks. But last quarter, I believe there was a negative impact from prepayment penalty income. I'm just curious what the prepayment penalty income was in the fourth quarter and the impact was to net interest margin.

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

It was a little bit higher than the last quarter. So, it's probably about 3 or 4 basis points for this quarter.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

It's never been...

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

3 to 4 basis points higher than last quarter or 3 to 4 in total?

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

It's -- this quarter was 4, last quarter was 1 basis points, so 3 basis points higher. The total was 4.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Right.

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Historically, prepayment has not been a big line item in our NIM.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Yeah. Okay. Thanks. And then, Chris, as it relates to the commentary around going ahead and crossing $10 billion because you believe you can, I guess, grow the asset base enough this year to offset that impact. When you initially introduced these acquisitions, I believe the plan was to manage and cross in 2021 unless you saw growth opportunities that were higher. So, should we expect then that the EPS impact from crossing Durbin earlier will not impact the tangible book value payback or EPS accretion expectations that were given to us with the deal announcements?

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think it's going to be about even, and the way I would look at that is when we announced the deals, the big change has been more external than internal. So we announced the deals in the beginning of August. And if you recall, like that's at the point where we weren't quite sure how much more work the Fed had to do in terms of how many more cuts. The yield curve was -- it's not great today, but it was particularly terrible then. We looked at that as an environment that would not be the best environment to organically grow through -- at least not in the numbers we're talking about today.

So the environment shifts, a little bit of the steepening of the yield curve -- I mean, it's still not the curve we want, but at least it's got some slope to it -- kind of put us in a position to say, this is an environment we can operate in. If you think about it this way, when we announced the deals, we said we'd stay under $10 billion, and we had certain earn-back projections.

Now, we're going to grow over $10 billion. But by the time Durbin impacts us, we should have enough assets to offset those charges. So it's about a neutral ball. And one of the things that we've always done is, we've looked at acquisitions over the years, some of which that would cross us over $10 billion. And we don't think it's appropriate to apply Durbin to that last acquisition because it would cause you to maybe make the wrong decision in the long-term interest of your shareholders. So, even with our example, right, if we were to model both of these, would we model it -- would we tag Durbin into Two River or would we tag it into Country? And it causes a decision criteria that's a little bit silly.

If you're going to be around in the long run and you're running your company for that, and you think you can be materially above $10 billion, then it's only a matter of time before you overcome Durbin. So if it's not a perfect exchange by the third quarter of 2021, within a couple of quarters after that, we'll be through it. And we do think it's a barrier we have to put behind us, and we want to make sure that everyone understands that we don't feel any pressure to go out and have to acquire something to overcome that.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Understood. And then, I'll just ask one more question on net interest margin. I understand that there's a ton of moving parts and it's hard to predict from one quarter to the next, what your NIM might do. But if you just think about where the curve sits today -- the shape of the curve today, and assuming that we don't hear -- have any more cuts or any more movement from the Fed, do you think that the pressure that you would expect or anticipate we might see in the first and possibly the second quarters would be more than offset by -- what we see, by the time we get to the fourth quarter, or do you think that it's just kind of like we see some pressure in the first half, we get some benefit in the second half and we end up the year kind of around where we are now.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

As you understand, it's really hard to say about that.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

I know. I got you.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. If there's no change in the yield curve, I think that's not an unreasonable scenario. And one of the other things we're very much aware of is that we are in the midst of what is going to become a giant Presidential election cycle. And I think during the course of the year, we're prepared for some pretty wild swings in things like the markets and anticipation over interest rate movements and things like that as people handicap how they think the election is going to play out. So, we're expecting volatility this year. But we've got a relationship business. We think that over the long run, we've got a net interest margin that is well into the 3s. We're not a company that's organized to have a net interest margin of 2% or 2.25%. But there'll be some quarters that are better and worse than others.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. But we're not looking for a lot of movement in either case. Okay. Fair enough. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. I'll step out.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] The next question comes from Brody Preston from Stephens Incorporated. Please go ahead.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Just one quick follow-up for me. You mentioned some of the negative cap rate dynamics occurring in rent-regulated multifamily right now as a reason why you're sort of avoiding the space. Just wanted to know if you could give us a sense as to what you're seeing in terms of cap rate moves in that asset class on your end.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. In the most recent reports out within the last week, our quote in cap rate is getting as high as 6% and that is a giant jump of cap rates, so a material diminishment of value. I don't know yet. I don't think the market has stabilized. That may turn out when we look back a year from now. That may -- the 6% may have turned out to be high or low as we will do a multi-family deal today. So, we're going to do it under pretty disciplined credit characteristics.

So, we're not going to be the last dollar out. We're going to stress it. We're going to look at the rent mixes, and -- so, it's not that we're out of the market. We don't want to send that signal. They are very prudent operators of multi-family housing, and we think they're going to be good in the long run, but the sponsor matters a great deal to us. The leverage matters a great deal to us. So if you get the sponsor and the leverage right, we'll be in that.

And we don't know, there may be an opportunity over time as other lenders leave that space to be a very discriminating, very thoughtful lender and to be paid for doing so. I will say that thus far we have not seen that in the market rates. So, the deals that are getting done even though there are fewer, they're still very thinly priced. So, we have our eye on it. We're very thoughtful about it. We do not have a concentration in that asset class today. We don't want to build one. But that's different from saying that we won't do a deal. We'll certainly do a deal tomorrow to the right bar or the right leverage point, and we have the capability and the personnel that know that market and know how to do that -- do that at the right risk trade-off.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] There are no more questions in the Q&A. This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Christopher Maher for any closing remarks.

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thank you. With that, I'd like to thank everyone for their participation on the call this morning, and we look forward to providing additional updates as the year progresses. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 54 minutes

Call participants:

Jill Hewitt -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Christopher D. Maher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Joseph J. Lebel -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Michael J. Fitzpatrick -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Frank Schiraldi -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Russell Gunther -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Sean Tobin -- Janney Montgomery Scott LLC -- Analyst

Collyn Gilbert -- KBW -- Analyst

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc. -- Analyst

Erik Zwick -- Boenning & Scattergood, Inc. -- Analyst

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

More OCFC analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo