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Ameris Bancorp (NASDAQ:ABCB)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Jan 29, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to the Ameris Bank Q4 Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Nicole Stokes, Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Grant, and thank you to all who have joined our call today. During the call, we will be referencing the press release and the financial highlights that are available on the Investor Relations section of our website at amerisbank.com. I'm joined today by Palmer Proctor, our CEO; and Jon Edwards, our Chief Credit Officer. Palmer will begin with some opening general comments, and then I will discuss the details of our financial results before we open up for Q&A. Before we begin, I'll remind you that our comments may include forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties.

The actual results could vary materially. We list some of the factors that might cause results to differ in our press release and in our SEC filings, which are available on our website. We do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, early developments or otherwise, except as required by law. Also during the call, we will discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures in reference to the company's performance. You can see our reconciliation of these measures and GAAP financial measures in the appendix to our presentation.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Palmer for opening comments.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Nicole, and good morning to everyone. 2020 certainly provided all of us a lesson in humility for humanity. And I'd like to begin by thanking all of my Ameris teammates, our customers and all of our stakeholders for their continued commitment, their loyalty and the great flexibility they all demonstrated during this unprecedented year. And what a year it's been. I mean, while 2020 was not what we had anticipated, I'm proud of our team, because they adapted quickly and remained disciplined and focused on the results. And Nicole is going to update you on the detailed financials in a few minutes. But before we get there, I did want to share a few highlights about the quarter and the year, and then spend some time discussing the plan and opportunities we have going into 2021. For the quarter, we earned $102 million, or $1.47 per diluted share on an adjusted basis, which is up over 53%, compared to fourth quarter last year. This represents 2.04% return on average assets and a 25.04% return on tangible equity.

As expected, our efficiency ratio increased slightly to 52.67%, which is right within the guidelines that we had given in terms of 52% to 55% in terms of our guidance earlier in the year. For the year 2020, we earned $300.5 million, or $4.33 per diluted share on an adjusted basis, which is up 14% over the 2019 results. This represents a year-to-date ROA of $1.56 and the year-to-date return on average tangible equity of $19.77. Our efficiency ratio improved during the year from over 55.67% last year to 52.17% this year. On the balance sheet side of things, I said last quarter that we anticipated some seasonal loan runoff in the fourth quarter that would bring our loan growth closer to our original estimates as we said throughout the year in terms of mid single-digits with full-year of 2020, and that's exactly what happened. We ended the year with a solid 6.5% loan growth, and that's exclusive of the PPP growth.

We continue to see strong deposit growth, and our total deposits are now almost $17 billion, with non-interest-bearing deposits now accounting for over 36% of total deposits. As for capital, we remain focused on capital preservation and growth in TCE and tangible book value. During the fourth quarter, we grew tangible book value by over 5% and over 13% for the year-to-date period, which is very meaningful. As reported last quarter, we do have a share repurchase program in place that's good through October 31st this year. We don't anticipate buying any purchases in the near future, nor did we buy any in the fourth quarter. But we do like having the option to repurchase if the right opportunity presents itself. As for the dividend, we remain comfortable where our dividends are today and do not anticipate any reduction at this time. Moving on to credit. John Edwards, our Chief Credit Officer is with us today and is available to take any credit questions after our prepared remarks, but I did want to hit a few highlights in terms of credit.During the fourth quarter, we opportunistically and selectively sold approximately $87 million of hotel loans, which greatly reduced our hospitality exposure. And as a result of that, we incurred a $17.2 million net charge-off.

And as far as the remaining reserve, we continue to believe all the heavy lifting that has been taken place and been completed, barring any further economic downturn or deterioration in specific credits. So this brings our allowance coverage ratio, excluding unfunded commitments to 1.46%, net of our PPP loans. Our annualized net charge-off ratio was 31 basis points of total loans compared to 10 basis points in 2019. Exclusive of the hotel note sale, the year-to-date annualized net charge-off ratio was 18 basis points of total loans. Our non-performing assets as a percentage of total assets decreased to 48 basis points compared to 82 basis points last quarter and mostly due to the $24 million decrease in non-accrual hotel loans that I referenced earlier that were included in that note sale, $32 million of mortgage loans recorded non-accrual in the third quarter, but have now been placed on the new Cares Act deferral programs and a net decrease in OREO of $6 million. And finally, the loans that remain on deferral at the end of the year were approximately 2.9% of total loans, which is down from approximately 19% of total loans at the end of the second quarter of 2020.

Quick update on COVID and PPP, I said on the last call that we opened up about half our branches in the lobbies in third quarter with minimal disruption. But unfortunately, with the rise in cases, we closed these lobbies again before the end of the year. And we really don't anticipate having them open until March where we start seeing some positive swings in the cases. But we've done a wonderful job of continuing to be able to serve the customers through the drive-throughs and digital channels or in the branch by appointment. And that being said, we are extremely pleased to be in the Southeast because I can tell you, many businesses here are back open, restaurants, retail shopping and certainly traffic continues to pick-up every day, so that's encouraging to see. But we all still need to remain diligent and careful. A quick update on PPP. During the fourth quarter, we started to see forgiveness and our PPP loans decreased by about $238 million. On the new round of PPP, our portal is open and so far we've received about 2,000 applications for approximately $220 million, just as an update. So approximately 80% of that is second draw request from customers who were also participants in the first round and 20% of applications are from new applicants. So our average loan size request has been around $130,000 for the second request and $30,000 for the first request. And this is obviously smaller than the first round as expected in terms of the loan amounts.

Now I'd like to talk briefly about the future of why our optimism is justified. When you look at the challenges we all face in 2020 and then you consider the success that Ameris had, it really makes me proud of the company and our teammates. And this year, we certainly not anticipated, but we were able to overcome the core challenges and adapt and improvise on our plans. And more importantly, we successfully delivered on top financial results. And as typical in the first quarter, we spent time and our Board retreat is actually virtual this time, but that's always an energizing program and process for us because it allows us to kind of reflect on our markets and our strategies and our talent and our goals. And as I mentioned earlier, we are fortunate being in some of the highest growth markets throughout the south of the east. We've got incredible talent, and we've got good core strength of our more rural markets, too. And this balance is really what allowed us to continue to grow safely and securely and most importantly, in a low-cost deposit environment. That's as far as funding is concerned.

So we continue to look for cost-saving measures to be able to fund the needed technology resources which are imminent. And we're already reaping the benefits from a lot of the investments we made in 2020 from our reallocation of expenses. But we remain focused on core deposit and loan growth, asset quality, operating efficiencies and capital preservation. And these are the strategies that you will see will continue to drive shareholder value.

I'll stop there and turn it over to Nicole to discuss our financial results.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Great. Thank you, Palmer. As you mentioned, for the fourth quarter, we're reporting net income of $94.3 million or $1.36 per diluted share. On an adjusted basis, we earned $102 million or $1.47 per diluted share. And that's excluding things like the servicing asset impairment, COVID-19 expenses, certainly will see and the gain on sale of bank premises. These financial results represent a 53% increase over fourth quarter of 2019 earnings. Our adjusted ROA in the fourth quarter was $2.04. That was a decrease from the $2.35 last quarter, but it was an increase from the $1.47 reported fourth quarter last year. Our adjusted return on tangible common equity was $25.04 this quarter compared to $30.53 last quarter, and again, an increase from the $18.45 reported in the fourth quarter of 2019. For the full year 2020, we're reporting net income of $262 million or $3.70 per diluted share. On an adjusted basis, we earned $300.5 million or $4.33 per diluted share. That compared to $222.9 million and $3.80 last year. So that brings our full year ROA to $1.56 compared to $1.52 last year, and our full year ROTCE to $19.77 compared to $18.74 last year.

As we stated, we've already -- we've previously emphasized our focus on capital and tangible book value growth. So for the quarter, we saw an increase in tangible book value of $1.23 to end the quarter at $23.69 million. And for the full year, we had an over 13% increase in tangible book value, up $2.88 from the $20.81 last year to $23.69 this year. In addition, our tangible common equity ratio increased 20 basis points to 8.47% this quarter. And as you remember, the asset growth from our PPP loans negatively affect that ratio. This quarter, that was about a 38 basis point impact.So excluding those PPP loans from our total assets, our TCE ratio would have been approximately 8.85% at the end of the year, which is very close to our stated target of 9%. We continue to be well capitalized and we really feel comfortable with our capital level.Talking about margin, we previously guided that we expected low to mid-single-digit margin compression going forward. So we were extremely pleased with the stable margin of 3.64% in the fourth quarter.

That was consistent with what we had in the third quarter. And while there were many moving parts in margin this quarter and a lot of hard work and effort from our bankers, that shows you our spread actually improved by 3 basis points this quarter. So on the compression side; we reversed $2.3 million of interest income on loans that were sold in the hotel note sale. And then we also felt compression from the excess liquidity up on the balance sheet of approximately 9 basis points. However, those negative impacts were offset by the accelerated accretion of PPP fee due to the early forgiveness. And again, there are a lot of moving parts, but those are kind of the three highlights that really netted out to that stable margin. During the fourth quarter, our yield on earning assets declined by 4 basis points, while our interest-bearing deposit cost decreased by 13 basis points and our total funding decreased by 7 basis points, hence the improvement in spread.

Our core bank production yields declined slightly to 3.86%. But on the deposit side, we continue to see success in growing non-interest-bearing deposits. Our total deposits grew $894 million and over 26% of that was in non-interest-bearing. Our non-interest-bearing now represent 36.27% of our total deposits. And that's compared to about 29.9% this time last year. We do believe this is affected by the excess liquidity in the market, and we believe this could return closer to the 30% in the long-term horizon. However, we do remain diligent of retaining these deposits through superior customer service, product enhancements and the technology improvements that we've got. So for the year-to-date, our margin declined 18 basis points from 3.88% to 3.70%, even with the large 150 basis point Fed cut in March. I think it's key to look at our yield on earning assets, decreased by 67 basis points, while our funding cost decreased by 65 basis points. We feel like we work quick to cut cost or to cut funding costs and our deposit cost.

Talking about provision, during the fourth quarter, we reversed $1.5 million of previously recorded provision expense. That decrease was primarily related to the improvement of our economic forecast, particularly levels of unemployment and GDP. And that was offset by increased qualitative factors that we added in our commercial real estate and construction portfolios. For the full year, we recorded $145 million of provision for credit losses, and that was compared to just $20 million last year. Our ending allowance for loan loss was $199.4 million compared to $231 million at the end of the third quarter and just $38 million at the end of last year. Including the unfunded commitment reserve, our total allowance was $233 million compared with $260 million at September 30 and $39 million last year. Non-interest income in the fourth quarter remained strong due to the continued elevated production in the mortgage division. Mortgage production was right at $2.8 billion for the quarter. And the gain on sale increased over 4%, up from 3.92% last quarter. We anticipate that gain on sale to decrease back to normal levels more in the three -- upper three range going forward.

Net income in the retail mortgage division was $43.4 million compared to $61 million last quarter, but $11.6 million fourth quarter of last year. While pipelines remained strong and we continue to see the strong production in 2021 so far, we do realize that this could return to normal levels at some point this year and we're well prepared. Total non-interest expense continued to decline this quarter from $153.7 million last quarter to $151 million this quarter. Expenses in the retail mortgage division decreased $4.7 million, while expenses in the core bank and administrative functions increased $2.1 million. And I want to talk about those two separately. So the increase in core bank and administrative functions is really attributable to three things. There was a $1 million donation that we made to the newly formed Ameris state foundation, a $765,000 expense related to the early termination of our -- the law share agreement with the SEC; and then, $532,000 of OREO writedown. So despite the expense to terminate these loss share agreements, we do believe that exiting them will enhance our operational efficiencies going forward, both from a functional administrative perspective as well as the economic impact of clawback accruals and recovery sharing going forward.

We continually -- as usual, we prudently exam non-interest expenses, and we anticipate minimal increases in the core bank. And now moving on to the mortgage segment, we do anticipate decreases in the variable cost as production decreases back to normal levels. Although, I want to remind everybody that there's always that cyclical first quarter result, such as payment taxes. To time our efficiency ratio, we're pleased with our efficiency ratio this quarter and the overall progress we made here. Our adjusted efficiency ratio was 52.67 this quarter compared to 55.61 for the fourth quarter of last year. And for the full year, our efficiency ratio improved to 52.17, down from 55.67 last year. The additional mortgage revenue and the efficiency gain in the mortgage division significantly impacted its ratio during the second and third quarters.

We believe the ratio will stabilize in the 52% to 55% range in future quarters as we do not anticipate the level of mortgage revenue and efficiency to be sustainable long-term. On the balance sheet side, and this is really a focus. We are excited to say that we ended the quarter with total assets of over $20 billion at $20.4 billion, compared to $19.9 billion last quarter and $18.2 billion last year. So, as Palmer mentioned on the balance sheet, I want to give a little -- some details on that. We did experience a cyclical runoff. And if you remember to the third quarter, we said that we were anticipating that. So our total loans decreased a net $463 million during the quarter. But I really want to break that down and explain that we had expected decreases of $735 million, and that was offset by organic growth in the core bank of just over $280 million or 7.6% for the quarter.

Let's talk briefly about those decreases. Not to rattle off numbers, but I do want everybody to understand that, that $735 million of decreases were intentional, known and didn't really have -- it was not a surprise to us. So, those decreases included the $238 million of PPP reduction, $102 million of the continued indirect runoff, $87 million from the hotel note sale, an additional $87 million of the strategic runoff in the homebuilder line, $80 million of some cyclical mortgage warehouse lines as well as about $20 million in the cyclical ag line that is a typical fourth quarter event for us. In addition, we had $141 million of consumer loans that we transferred to the held for sale category. So again excluding that, I mean, we take that $735 million unit of runoff, that leaves us with $280 million to $300 million of organic loan growth, which, again, was 7.5% for the quarter, which we were pleased with.

For the full year, our net loan growth was $1.7 billion or 13%. That included PPP. If you exclude the PPP activity, net loan growth was $835 million or 6.5%, which was in line with our expectations of mid-single-digit loan growth. Additional information on the loan growth and the loan portfolio can be found in the investor presentation. So to wrap up, we are managing through this low rate environment and protecting our margin as much as possible. We continue to see strong non-interest income from the mortgage division and pipelines remained strong going into the first quarter. We, as always, are watching expenses and are finding ways to pay for new technology through a reallocation of resources, and we remain committed to preserving capital.

With that, I'll turn the call back over to Grant for any questions from the group.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Our first question today will come from Casey Whitman with Piper Sandler. Please go ahead.

Casey Whitman -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Good morning.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Casey.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Casey.

Casey Whitman -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Maybe I'll just start by continuing where you just left off the call with. Can you maybe just give us some thoughts around how you're thinking about loan growth in 2021? Given all the puts and takes with indirect auto still running off, but the southeast opening up and all the hires you've made, how should we sort of think about the range of growth that you guys could put up in 2021?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I'll take that, Casey. This is Palmer. We feel very encouraged by that. And when I look at the pipelines, which is really indicative of what the future production looks like; it's more than encouraging as we look into first quarter, which is traditionally a seasonal quarter where you have a little pullback. But there certainly remains headwinds in the economy and pay downs. But what we're seeing in terms of the pipeline and the sustainability of what we've got, whether it be the new commercial initiatives where we've got 10 new C&I lenders, or whether it be on the mortgage front, or when I'm looking at the pipelines now, we've got incredible volumes still coming through those pipelines. I think that it's going to be a strong first half of the year for us. And like I mentioned in my comments, too, I think the benefit we have is obviously being well positioned in the markets we're in. And as a result of that, we feel very confident in our ability to still continue to deliver on the growth side.

And if you look at applications and locks, just in mortgage alone, we're still above where we were in November and December. And it's almost double of where we were in January of last year. So, it's starting out pretty solid in terms of the activity. Obviously, refi activity should slow as rates go up, but the purchase activity continues to be robust. And I think we'll see a lot of opportunity there as it pertains more specifically to mortgage.

Casey Whitman -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Okay, got it. And maybe ask one more. Just can you give us an update, Palmer, on how you're thinking about M&A this year as we come out of the pandemic, it's been some time since lion. So, how should we think about your appetite at this point for additional M&A?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

I would tell you, as we've been very consistent saying all along in terms of the discipline here at the company, our first and foremost focus is always on organic growth and our ability to generate strong top-tier earnings, which we have proven over the last 18 months. We've had very little noise in our earnings over that period of time. And it's really allowed us and the market to see the earnings power of this organization without M&A. That being said, I do think there are going to be some opportunities, and we will remain opportunistic. And I think some of the opportunities that may present themselves have more to do with where we're headed in terms of the economy and where we're headed in terms of needs for technology.

So, I think the opportunity for M&A as we look out into 2021 will be robust for the industry. And what we want to do is remain in the position of offense and be able to be nimble and take advantage, if necessary, if we deem it appropriate for a potential target.

Casey Whitman -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Make sense. Thanks Palmer. Thanks for the call and look for next event.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question will come from Brady Gailey with KBW. Please go ahead.

Brady Gailey -- KBW -- Analyst

Hey. Thank you. Good morning, guys.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Brady.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Brady.

Brady Gailey -- KBW -- Analyst

So, if you look at what Ameris did in mortgage last year, it's just amazing. If you back out the MSR impairments, there was $414 million of mortgage banking fees. It's unlikely that's repeatable this year. And you had volumes going down and gain on sale coming down. Any idea how much those fees to decline this year, what the magnitude could be?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think that's going to be specific to the mortgage operation of each individual bank. I will tell you, our operation is very different to most. And I think that's reflective, obviously, in the success we've had this year relative to our peers. And I think you'll find the same thing to be true as we go forward. Because, when you look at -- and you look at the same numbers, I do in terms of the MBA estimates, but if you drill down into those estimates, what you'll find is, is that the purchase activity will actually increase the refi activity, which is a drop off. So when you hear people saying it's going drop 50%, well, that's all, for the most part, due to the refi activity. I would tell you, our shop has never prided itself on refi activities, mainly in purchase activity. And relationships, we've got with builders and realtors that we've established over many years. So I think what you'll find is a lot of the shops that have gorged on the refi activities to the detriment of the relationships with others will probably end up some of those ones that falling out, and we'll be able to pick up some incremental volume.

And as I said, when you look at our pipeline and the lock pipeline, more importantly, for what we're seeing now in January, it's equally as strong as what we saw in some of the third and fourth quarter. So I think the first half of the year for mortgage, for our mortgage shop is going to be less impactful than many others, but that being said, we will certainly, just like others, see the pullback in the refi activity as rates increase. But all-in-all, I think from a materiality standpoint, it's hard to predict what the market will look like after the first half of the year. But I can tell you, the housing market is extremely vibrant. We see it both on the construction side and on the mortgage side. And we'll continue to capitalize on that.

And what really makes our story different too is, when you look at the growth markets we operate in with the preponderance of our mortgage activity. So I feel that, ours will not be -- I think a lot of people are anticipating this cliff dive. And I do not see that happening with our mortgage operation in the way, its setup. And you can see the margin this quarter, Roberto and his team does excellent job of maintaining the margin. In fact, it improves. So that's a big kudos to them. And the efficiency too that we have garnered through robotics and automation, that's really what's going to be the differentiator as we go forward with other mortgage shops is our ability to continue to generate volume with less expense, because right now, the expenses are inflated because people are drinking through a fire hose. But as that slows down, that's where you're going to see a lot of disparity, I think, between mortgage shops.

Does that answer your question, Brady? I know it's a long-winded answer. But I hope I gave you a little color.

Brady Gailey -- KBW -- Analyst

Yeah. No, that's great, Palmer. I wanted to ask next, about the sale of the hotel loans. It looks like, you just kind of took the allocated reserve and charge it off, so there's not much of a financial impact versus the reserves you had already built against those lines. So I get it. But still, it's an 18% loss, on those hotel loans. I mean, do you think that that loss content was real? And are you thinking about doing any other loan sales like that, for any of the other, kind of, COVID impacted lending areas?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I'll answer that. There's two parts to your question there. Number one, if we didn't think it was real, we wouldn't have done it for starters. And many folks on the phone that lived through the last downturn know good and well how that sector performed. And the way we look at it, we were able to do very selectively go through and call the portfolio and identify hotels that were struggling. And we looked at a lot of different factors, everything from the NSA in which it operated, to the operators themselves, to the flag, to the -- and a lot of these, as you know, were some of our non-performing loans, where we did not see a whole lot of upside. And when you look back to 2007, 2008 with hotels, and keep in mind back then, the hotels are still open and operating. Today, they're still struggling. And we see the hotel sector is continuing to be stressed. And when you take into account a typical hotel and -- business as you have to foreclose on it, just going through the foreclosure process, then you've also got on top of that, you've got deferred maintenance, you've got to do. The property taxes are passed so you've got to bring it current. You've lost the flag because it's been dark. The operator is probably gone by then.

And you look at the carry cost of that and the cost of capital associated with that. And then, when we look back at the, 2007, 2008 timeframe, you look at the losses that were incurred on that particular asset type. If I had told you back in 2007, 2008 that I could get $0.80 to $0.85 on the dollar for a hotel, you would tell me to jump all over it. And today, we feel like we have called the portfolio of those that we felt were stressed, extremely stressed. And do not anticipate any more sales. I think you'll find that there will be others that will be following suit because it's a -- right now, there are some sophisticated operators out there that have the ability to buy these and pay a fair price for them, instead of a distressed price. And as we look out into the future, I feel like these hotels and the economy in general, I think it's going to be much more of a gradual reopening, just as it was before it was kind of a slow decline initially. And we do not see that sector picking up dramatically in the near future. And as a result of that, we clearly identified this as an opportunity to capitalize on. So we did it.

Brady Gailey -- KBW -- Analyst

Okay. That makes sense. Then finally for me, just looking at the expense base, what sort of growth can we expect in expenses outside of mortgage banking? And I know that will kind of depend on what you do on the mortgage side. But maybe just talk about kind of core expense growth. And then I know, Palmer, you hired a lot of talented people in 2020. Will that continue in 2021?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

We got -- well, on the C&I front, we're probably going to look to hire about seven or eight more C&I-specific lenders. But one of the things that well, Matt and his team did an excellent job of last year is making sure that the existing talent we do have is also pulling its weight. And so we were able to reallocate some of those -- that overhead expense into new lenders, and we'll continue to be efficient with that process. But I do see us looking to hire another seven to eight more C&I lenders in the near future. And Nicole, you can comment on any of the additional overhead expenses.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure, Brady. We are very, very confident of non-interest expense. And we've closed additional branches in the fourth quarter, and we did have those three kind of events in the fourth quarter, again, that we probably -- we made a decision to make that donation and we made the decision to allow share. So we are trying to keep core bank expenses as flat as possible, especially really with potential margin squeeze and just everything, the uncertainty in the market. So we are very cognizant of finding for those places that we do need to spend money and we need to reinvest, finding a way to pay for it internally through a reallocation of resources. We are still following that same strategy on the core bank. And then we feel like the mortgage banking side, as mortgage banking origination pulls back, those variable costs will pull back as well.

Brady Gailey -- KBW -- Analyst

All right. Great. Thanks for all the color, guys.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from David Feaster with Raymond James. Please go ahead.

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everybody.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

I just wanted to start on production. Just curious, you guys had a nice pool of new hires announced a couple of months ago. Just curious how much they're contributing at this point? And then I guess, as they continue to ramp up, would you expect kind of production to accelerate in growth, hopefully, to accelerate throughout the year? And then, just kind of the pulse of the hiring market more broadly. Are you guys seeing new opportunities still?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, absolutely. And to answer your question more specifically; when you look at our pipeline for the kind of the core bank, which typically, we'd like to keep that over $1 billion. I would tell you that right now, just about a third of that is specific to the C&I initiative that we have with the 10 new lenders. And when you look at that particular line of business or asset class, everyone look at it, C&I, by definition is a longer build. So it does take longer, unlike a CRE loan where you get immediate growth. So there is a ramp-up period, getting the individuals on board, giving them to move over business and getting them up and running. So we've been very pleased. When you look at the breakdown of that pipeline, what we're seeing is about a 60% of it is still coming out of Atlanta. And then you've got another 20% coming out of Florida and another 20% coming out of Carolina for the most part. But I think we'll continue to see that grow because a lot of the hiring opportunities that we have seen as of recent have come out of the -- quite frankly, the Carolinas and Florida. So I think what you'll see is, those areas will continue to grow and kind of catch-up with Atlanta, so we're excited with that.

And in addition to that, when you look at the seven or eight new lenders that we look to hire, we'll probably be adding those proportionately through those three states. But we're encouraged by what we see. But, then again, you need to be patient when you're building C&I, because if you start seeing erratic growth there, you probably -- it should create pause for you. But they're focused on middle market, established companies. These are relationships, not transactions. And so, I'm very encouraged by what we see. And I'm glad we made the investment last year, because, to your earlier point, it does take time for that investment to start ramping up. But we're encouraged by the production and the productivity we've seen so far. And when this economy opens up a little bit, I think that it will accelerate that opportunity.

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. And then just -- again, you guys did a great job using hires and team lift-outs to do some geographic expansion through some new branching and new markets. Just curious, where are you interested? Is that still attractive to you and doing some market expansion, is it more attractive to do at de novo with some hires versus potential M&A? And just following up on the M&A commentary, just could you remind us some of your geographic priority sizes that you're interested in and financial metrics? And even if -- what kind of deals you'd be interested in?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. It's kind of a dual approach. I mean, if you look at it from the organic standpoint with Ameris, we are already operating in some of the top growth markets in the United States. So I would tell you what we need to focus there and do focus is, capturing additional market share. Then, if you look at expansion beyond that -- of our core branch footprint, you look at where our loan production offices are. We've got a meaningful office in the Mid-Atlantic. I could see us expanding there and other types of loans and branching, in terms of getting out of our existing footprint.

But, right now, when you look at Florida and you look at Georgia, and look at the Carolinas and parts of Alabama that we're in, in a meaningful way, there's plenty of opportunity there. And so, the phase two of that would be to look in some of the secondary markets, and I'd say secondary, that's where we would have primarily LPOs. Then the second strategy would be through M&A, where you would be an entry into a new market as a result of an acquisition perhaps. But I would tell you that's kind of the order of the priorities at this point.

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. And what kind of size range for a transaction would you be interested in?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think, we've said all along and been very consistent, probably anything -- nothing smaller than $3 billion.

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. And then, just on the fee income front, just curious, where are we in the process of reinstating some of the waived fees? And, I guess, how do you think about fees going forward? I mean, the counter-cyclicality of mortgage has obviously been a huge help. Just curious, how you think about the other lines. Are there anything that you'd be interested in expanding into, new lines coming in? Or even thoughts on expanding the -- like the premium finance and just the scalability of some of your other fee income lines?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Premium finance has been a homerun for us this year, is a very stable, steady source of income. And if you do it right, it's got very low-risk in terms of credit risk. That is an area we will continue to grow. And we're focused primarily on a lot of the smaller agencies there, which I think there's a lot of opportunity to go after that business. And we've got a major focus on that for 2021. The Wealth Group, which for us includes private banking, trust and investment management. That's where I see some additional opportunity, and even along the lines of potential acquisition type of opportunity to develop there, because that's good fee income. It, too, is an investment, and it takes time. But that may be an area where there'll be opportunities, as we go forward to look to expand upon that fee income.

From just a core service fee income, when you look at the bank and these related to accounts, I think across the board, you're reading a lot of the reports that I'm reading that show that there's been an increase there. And I think, that will continue as the economy opens back up. We all saw and experienced to pull back, and we're obviously a lot more sensitive to fees. But, I think, you'll start seeing the service fee income for banks increasing as we go forward and the economy opens back up.

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful. Thanks everybody.

Operator

Our next question will come from Jennifer Demba with Truist Securities. Please go ahead.

Jennifer Demba -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Thanks. And I think most of my questions have been covered. But, Palmer, when you think about expense reduction opportunities, how do you think about branch rationalization right now, given you seem to be operating pretty well with the lobbies closed.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we are. And I think as an industry, we've all benefited from being forced, quite frankly, to step back and look at that whole operation, the retail delivery operation, and banks, traditionally a very slow to move and adapt to change. And I think it's more of a herd mentality. And I think the herd is moving. I think that will help a lot of folks that have been reluctant to make some of these changes. But when we look at our numbers, and we had a board meeting yesterday and we're going through a lot of even the teller transactions. Teller transactions are still about where they were before. And what that tells you is that the drive-throughs are sufficiently servicing the customer base. And you compound that and combine that with digital technology and effective new account opening process and the user experience, that's what we're all about here is investing in that heavily over the next year or two.

Because that's what it's going to all come down because if you're trying to divert traffic or customers to another line or a way to come into a company, you need to make sure that, that way is equally is easing or appealing to them as the other walking in a branch. But I think that what we've found, just from -- and we've been pretty proactive in our branching in terms of branch closures and opening the drive-throughs, but I think what you'll find, as many branches will continue to keep the drive-throughs open but the lobbies will remain closed. And then you look at the talent within those branches, a lot of that talent can be utilized for us as we've grown so quickly in other areas like the call center. We've got a number of those same branch folks. They're dedicated to our PPP program right now and will be dedicated forgiveness for that. So I think a lot of that talent can be utilized other places without having to higher talent elsewhere.

So I think at the same time, you can look through processes and efficiencies and allow you, if you're growing, to absorb a lot more of those costs for efficiencies rather than just adding additional overhead. But branching in and of itself, I'm still a believer in having branches, but I think it can be a much more efficient footprint and a much more efficient use. We've touched on earlier the need for wealth management and mortgage, and turning them more into a destination center for an experience rather than just a transaction. And that's kind of the approach we're taking to our whole branch network as we look through it.

Jennifer Demba -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question will come from Kevin Fitzsimmons with D.A. Davidson. Please go ahead.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, everyone.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Nicole, I understand that the margin did better than that prior guidance of low to mid single-digit compression. Just wondering, if we can pivot and look forward now. So is that still the outlook from here? And I know there's a lot of different factors. I'm assuming that's just the core margin you're talking about ex-accretion and ex-PPP fee accretion as well.

So maybe if you can kind of start there on what you're thinking about the core margin, what you're thinking about accretion contribution? I know it came in this quarter. I know that's a tough thing to predict, but just where you think that might be? And then if you could touch on PPP fees in terms of what fees, how much fees you have remaining? And is it reasonable to assume the round one fees get mostly taken up or recognized in the next two quarters? Thanks.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Sure. So I'll take the last question first, that actually is going to lead right into the answer to the first one, if that's OK. So we have about $41 million remaining of the original PPP kind of round one, about $21 million. And I think that is -- we said that we expected -- while we are amortizing demand over the contractual maturity, which was two years. For all of our internal modeling, we were using a one year horizon, so that would really kind of be the end of the second quarter. So I think that it's a very logical assumption to assume that -- that $21 million or most of the $21 million. There will be some that extend out. But the majority of that will come in, in the next two to maybe 2.5 quarters. So knowing that we do have that coming in on the margin, and that is what helps protect it a little bit in the fourth quarter.

Kind of moving forward to what margin going forward, there's several things that are going to affect that and then have already started to effect it. So loan growth, liquidity, PPP forgiveness and deposit cost. So, we just talked about the PPP forgiveness and the potential there. One grows; we'll talk about that in connection with excess liquidity. So, we have about $1.5 billion of excess liquidity on the balance sheet at the end of the year. And we always have excess liquidity at the end of the year. We have cyclical deposits that come in. So, if I'm looking at how do I -- how do we use that liquidity, or how do we put that to use. So, we have about $0.5 billion, $500 million of cyclical runoff of deposits. We've already had about $300 million of that run off in January. We expect another $200 million in the first quarter. That's kind of our -- again, we have a lot of public funds that come in right at the end of the year, and that goes back out in the first quarter.

So, then we are estimating -- we're kind of guiding $200 million to $500 million -- I'm sorry, $300 million to $700 million is our expectation for PPP round two. So assuming that comes in at $500 million. And then, we've got about $300 million identified in the bank and through premium finance. So that really leaves us about $200 million of what I'd call excess liquidity. And that is where we think we have some additional opportunities for some strategic runoff on the deposit side, with either some rate reductions, or run off on the deposit side. Looking forward, our -- I think I've given guidance before in our CD pricing; we still have some opportunity there. We have about $500 million of CDs that repriced in the first quarter. They're currently at $112 million. Last quarter's production was about 30 basis points. So, if we can keep our production in that 30 basis points, we've got some improvement there. Second quarter, we've got another $0.5 million. That's at 70 basis points. And then, we have about another $400 million in the third quarter. So, we do have some offensive play there on the deposit side, and we are still looking at -- we have some -- we're to the point now of just some specific money market and now accounts that are outside of the norm. I think our Board rates are about as low as they can be.

So, depending upon that liquidity and how we are able to deploy that, and the execution on that deposit cost, the first quarter margin compression we're thinking to be in the five to seven basis point range. I hope to beat that again, but that's kind of where we anticipate it coming out. That was a long in detail, but I hope that answered your question.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

No, that's great. And just to clarify, so that includes PPP fees, that five to seven down or does not?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

It does.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

It does include that. Got it.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

It does include that. And so depending upon how much of that comes in the first quarter versus the second quarter that could vary. That could get us down to -- if more of it comes in, maybe we hit in at the three to four. But if less of it comes, then maybe we're in the seven.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Got it. Okay, very helpful. Thank you very much. Just one quick follow-up question. The consumer portfolio, that $119 million that was transferred to held for sale. What is that portfolio? And why was it shifted over there?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So that is -- it's kind of an ancillary product that we bought several years ago. We're funding to a third-party, and we getting out of that line of business. And so we have gotten bids on that. And so it's held for sale. We anticipate that potentially sell it in the first quarter. And that was an intentional decision for us to sell that.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Great. Okay. Thank you very much.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Great.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Kevin.

Operator

Our next question will come from Brody Preston with Stephens, Inc. Please go ahead.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Hey I just wanted to ask, Nicole, just more specifically on expenses. You've all have done a good job sort of growing the core bank with core C&I and CRE this quarter, the growth was pretty strong. But sort of excluding the foundation contribution and the FDIC termination expense, you're running pretty flat on core expenses.

And so I guess given all the new hires, and given the growth trajectory moving forward, I was wondering, if you could speak to specific things that you've done to help sort of offset some of the investments that you've made, just because you're growing the core bank, but the core expenses aren't necessarily following suit?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. So, we've done several things there. One, we did the various optimization. So, we closed additional branches in October 1st. We had one additional branch that has closed so far in January. So, that's kind of the branch optimization update. And certainly -- and we said when we did that, that we were going to use those resources to pay for some of these other things. All of the new hires, they really came in kind of in the third quarter. And so fourth quarter, they are -- those expenses are in our fourth quarter run rate. We've also implemented some things on the technology side and some innovation side. We started using some robotics and some AI. We started that in mortgage, and we probably could have made a better decision there, because we did that first quarter of last year, not knowing what was about to happen.

And so that certainly helped drive the efficiency in the mortgage division. Not only did they have the increased production, but they also had an improvement in their efficiency ratio because of that technology. So we started to deploy that through other areas of the bank. And then we also -- we've done some -- and I think every company has done this at some point in their history where they just open it up to employees and say help us, and we're going to help you benefit. So kind of doing some cost initiatives there were asking people, if you're doing things, if that makes sense, right in hand and let's find out why. Look, there's a better way to do things, don't be afraid to raise that question. And we've had a history of cost saving. I remember when our efficiency ratio was in the 70s. And when we said, we were going to get to 60. Then we said, we were going to get to 50s. So it's almost become part of our culture. A word that we use a lot is discipline. And if you need to spend money, let's figure out a way to pay for it.

And then I think as we've also and definitely had the message of, if we're going to have margin compression and the uncertainty in the market, now is the time to really, really look at where we're spending. And so, that -- it's just kind of a culture as well. And just looking at and deciding where are we going to spend our net dollar and where do we get the best return on that investment dollar.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

And Brody, echo some of Nicole's comments there, she's right on in terms of, we've gone through and continue to go through -- and I think that's one of the challenges all companies will have as they need to continuously do it, not periodically do it, is look at your lines of business, look obviously for inefficiencies that you can eliminate. But, also look at the materiality of what you're doing there. And could it never get into a scale and size and provide a meaningful return.

The held for sale portfolio, as you mentioned, that's a fine portfolio, but in and of itself, it's never going to move the needle. It's never going to be that material to what we do. And you look at the resources that are associated with maintaining that portfolio relative to where we can make reinvestment in other parts of the company with a higher return on investment capital, that's really what we're looking at as we go through dissect each sector of the company. So, I think you'll find more and more activity like that and continued activity from Ameris as we kind of go through and find this kind each year in the company. And that's how we came up with a decision on hotels and here we came decision on the held for sale. That's how we come on the robotics for the mortgage. And you'll see that kind of mentality throughout the company as we go through the remainder of the year.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you. And so, just as I think about growth in that core expense -- the core banking expense. From here, assuming that you'll continue to make some tweaks, but would it be safe to assume kind of a mid- single-digit growth rate from here, just given the long growth trajectory?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, very low-single-digits.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. Okay, thank you for that. And then, I guess just one last one on expenses. Assuming that we kind of get mortgage production to go back down more toward 3Q 2019, 4Q 2019 levels at some point here in the back half of 2021 and into 2022, would it be safe to assume that the expenses with that will head back toward 3Q 2019 and 4Q 2019 levels as well?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. It could even be a little bit better just based, if you think back to 3Q and 4Q of last year, we were still in the middle of the Ameris and Fidelity integration. So we still have some dual systems, and we also didn't have the robotics in place. So, they've done a tremendous job improving their efficiency ratio. So, that's definitely where we expect a variable cost. But then often, we'll see the rest of some of that efficiency.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then, I'm sorry if I missed it, but you had a big ramp-up in cash this quarter. I wanted to know some of that transitory? Or if it wasn't, what you plan to do with it? Just because when I look at the securities book, it's running at 5%, and I think it was at 9% sort of after the LION deal closed. And so, I wanted to ask you envision building this book at all in the near term?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

That's a great point. So we do have the excess liquidity. And just historical Ameris, we have some excess deposits that typically come in through our municipalities and also through some of our ag. So we have about $500 million of excess liquidity that we anticipate will run out just deposits that come in the fourth quarter and basically go back out in the first quarter.

We've already had about $300 million of that runoff in January. We anticipate another $200 million. So when I think about excess liquidity, I see about $1.5 million of excess liquidity. About $500 million of that will be those excess deposits to run off, we've got about $500 million earmarked for the new PPP round, about $300 million for the bank and premium finance growth. And then that really raises about $200 million to either have -- if we can have additional loan growth, but obviously be the preferred methodology that we need to keep it safe.

I'm looking at John through that message to make sure that it fits within our credit criteria. But then also, we can -- we have some opportunities from what we would call strategic runoff from certain deposit accounts. Again, we run off just about all of our non-core funding. Our funding were -- almost 97% of our funding is core bank deposits. So we've run off just about everything else we can, but we've got about $200 million that we could potentially run off or just reduce the rate.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. Understood. So it doesn't sound like you feel a need to build in the securities portfolio at all?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Not necessarily right now.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. Under...

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

That will be our last resort, I guess. We just don't want to give the -- risk at this point with the rate environment right now.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

And if there's an opportunity to call, too, obviously, because we have that in London.

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

That's right.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. Palmer, you mentioned -- just on the mortgage real quick. You mentioned the mix of Ameris being traditionally stronger toward purchase. And so I just wanted to ask what that mix was purchase versus refi in 2020?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

We were running around 58%. Traditionally, we have run in the 90s, high-90s. And so I think that's what you'll see it migrate toward. And as I mentioned, we saw this during the last mortgage wave is that as refis pulled back, and then that's when core mortgage companies like ours actually garnered market share because when people pull out the business or close up shop and wait for the next wave to come, that's where we end up picking up incremental volume in terms of primarily purchasing if there is any refi left. But right now, we've got capacity in terms of the efficiencies that we put in place in the robotics to layer in additional production.

And right now, I'll tell you, too, there's fluid is, the market is, and as full as the pipelines are with a lot of these originators, there's still some movement out there. And I think we've got opportunities in some select markets that will be focused in on to bring in additional talent and production.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

That was on the way to offset some of that run off. And once again, our focus when we're looking for originators, it's people with a strong purchase background, not a refi background.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay, understood. On the hotel sale, I wanted to ask, it looks like you might not have had an existing mark on this, just given the specific reserve for the quarter was $14 million. But were there any maybe at a small reserve -- were there any specific reserves set aside for any of those loans before you sold them?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, there were -- because there were some TDRs in that mix and nonaccrual loans in that mix. By the end of the third quarter, we had both the FAS 5 and some more 14 reserves associated with that portfolio.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. And then Nicole, the production yields, 3.86% at the core bank, you've seen a steady sort of -- it's not surprising, but a steady decline here the last couple of quarters in that production yield. Where do you see those going in the first quarter?

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I would anticipate and certainly post that they stay stable at this point. Again, the best offense for that or defense for that is a deposit costs to continue to watch those as well. So -- but the trend so far is still flat.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. And then just two left for me. When you look at your customer base, you guys have done a pretty good job on NIB historically, but I said like the core C&I portfolio is not a relatively large portion of the loan book. And so I wanted to ask, when you look at your customer base, where does most of your noninterest-bearing deposits come from?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

From -- believe or not, they come from our commercial base, even albeit small in the core, that's what the majority of the costs coming down.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

...which is -- of the growth of what we're investing in here and especially the change in the treasury management side, I think it's for all banks, they enhance their treasury management feature that helps accelerate the potential for additional deposits fund.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you. And then Palmer, I heard you response early on M&A, but I just wanted to ask again about the size of potential targets and your thoughts around any potential mergers of equals?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I would tell you that same answer I gave before, that if we looked at the target, it wouldn't be any smaller than $3 billion. And anything we do, we've got a pretty good thing going here at Ameris as you can see, we've had a wonderful year. Anything we do needs to be accretive. And anything we do is to be meaningful. And if you go down the line of an MOE type of discussion, one plus one would always need equal three to even consider or something like that. And you have to have the -- because what we don't want to do is get in a situation where we're doing some of this pulling back on our financial performance. So we've always prided ourselves on being a top-tier performer. And so we had to find somebody on a equal mindset that set on making sure that we retain the same level of performance. But right now, the nice thing that we've been able to show the market and show ourselves to in the -- aside from M&A, we don't do M&A. We've got tremendous earnings power here at this company. And if we do M&A, it would be just icing on the cake for us.

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Understood. Thank you very much for taking my questions. I appreciate the time this morning.

Operator

Our last question today will come from Christopher Marinac with Janney Montgomery Scott. Please go ahead.

Christopher Marinac -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Hey, Palmer and Nicole. Just a follow-up on the mortgage margin, I know the comments earlier, just curious if the history of Ameris and Fidelity before that. If that margin really is not relevant in terms of history, but it's a new paradigm for you, given the changes you're making, which means that perhaps the downside, there's some, but not as low as it had been historically?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Like a lot of the things, I think, it's an enhanced discipline. I think that both Ameris and Fidelity have always run good mortgage shops. But I think the focus there that Robert Odom and his team has put in place to -- and granted, margins are not going to hold, as well as they have, as we know as we move forward. But he has done excellent job of maintaining those margins. And I think as long as the volume is there, that helps keep those elevated. When the volume pulls back, obviously, you'll start seeing margins pull back. But it is a new focused discipline that we have, and we're seeing that throughout the company. And so while there is a controlled in place or discipline in place, it's just more enhanced now. And I think that's what delivers that improved margin and just efficiency that he's garnering throughout his operation.

Christopher Marinac -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Great. Thanks for that. And are there still opportunities to hire more producers on the mortgage side?

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So as I touched on earlier, we've got opportunity there. And we'll be making that happen in short order. We've got some upcoming opportunities. So we'll see continued growth in that -- or new hires in the mortgage shop.

Christopher Marinac -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Great. Thanks very much for all the time this morning.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

This will conclude our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Palmer Proctor for any closing remarks.

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thank you, Brandon. Once again, I want to thank everybody for listening in to our fourth quarter and full year 2020 earnings call. As we look forward to 2021, Ameris is extremely well positioned for the future. And we look forward to talking to you next quarter. Thank you.

Duration: 64 minutes

Call participants:

Nicole S. Stokes -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

H. Palmer Proctor -- Chief Executive Officer

Casey Whitman -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Brady Gailey -- KBW -- Analyst

David Feaster -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Jennifer Demba -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Brody Preston -- Stephens, Inc -- Analyst

Christopher Marinac -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

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