Huntington Bancshares Earnings Call Insights: Operating Services and Auto Loans

Huntington Bancshares Inc (NASDAQ:HBAN) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Operating Services

Ken Zerbe – Morgan Stanley: First guys, just in terms of operating leverage, obviously, you’ve not been hitting and I know it’s a big goal of yours, and Steve, you’re very, I guess, enthusiastic about hitting it this year. Maybe sort of, just two parts to this; one, what’s been the problem is terms of getting operating leverage so far despite your, I guess, efforts to get positive leverage? And then two, it seems that we’re kind of getting to the point where you’ve missed it in the first half. Going into second half, are you at risk of, I guess, taking more aggressive actions like cutting – just not doing any marketing in the back half of the year; something that doesn’t – is not necessarily in the right interest of the bank, but yet it allows you to hit your positive number that may not be sustainable going into ’14?

Stephen D. Steinour – Chairman, President and CEO: Well, Ken, we won’t do anything that impairs the long-term objectives and returns of the bank. Remember, we’re all long-term shareholders. We changed our structures to include ‘hold until retirement’. So we will not take decisions and actions that will result in long-term trade-off such as you are suggesting. The first quarter started off, as we talked before, with a lot of challenge. I think much of that induced by what was going on in Washington. Second quarter was better. We’ve said all along, we think the second half gets – will be better than the first half. We’re starting the quarter with a strong commercial pipeline. Activities picked up in the second quarter in trust, brokerage, capital markets, treasury management, a number of our areas that we expect will offset further decline in mortgage. As we related, we expect modest balance sheet growth and discipline around the NIM. So, we will deliver positive operating leverage in the second half. We’ve announced initiatives around continuous improvement; the hiring of a new executive to help us enhance our management of processes; and bring more economics through to the Company including the customer – ease of which, that customers do business with us. David, do you want to answer that?

David S. Anderson – EVP and Interim CFO: Yeah, I’d just like to quickly add to that. Ii you look at our fourth quarter expenses, we had about a $25 million increase in 2012, and that was really due to us really gearing up for regulatory. So we don’t expect to see that repeat it in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Stephen D. Steinour – Chairman, President and CEO: Did that answer your question, Ken?

Ken Zerbe – Morgan Stanley: It does, and I appreciate that. I guess, my one follow-up question. Just in terms of auto yields, have they changed noticeably over the last couple of months or so, and does that have any impact on your willingness to grow that portfolio faster than you would have, say, two months ago?

Stephen D. Steinour – Chairman, President and CEO: Well, our yields in the last couple of months are essentially the same as what they were previously. There’s been yield compression in that asset class over the last year and a half. As you’ve seen last year and continuing this year, we remain disciplined on the pricing side and despite overall increases in new car sales, our originations are flat year-over-year and that reflects this discipline. As we’ve said before, we are not playing to market share gain here. We will prepare – we showed last year, we led market share in Ohio, a slip a bit in order to maintain price. In our auto business, just to more fundamentally reflect on it, it is a lot about relationships. We do a lot with – on the wholesale side, and we have a single business unit that drives both retail and wholesale, and we’ve been at it for a long time.

Ken Zerbe – Morgan Stanley: So new loan yields have not gone up in the last two months? Just want to…?

Stephen D. Steinour – Chairman, President and CEO: No, new loan yields have not gone up, but they haven’t – I think your question was, have you seen any material change. I thought you’re implying reduction.

Ken Zerbe – Morgan Stanley: Okay. No, that helps.

Auto Loans

Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse: Sticking back on the auto loan topic, can you tell us what the new money yield was in the second quarter on your average indirect auto loan versus the 3.96% balance?

Stephen D. Steinour – Chairman, President and CEO: We were originating around 3.25% in the second quarter.

Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse: Then, second question, and sticking also back to operating leverage, can you help us quantify the run rate expense save quarterly from the curtailment of the pension plan?

Stephen D. Steinour – Chairman, President and CEO: Well, we’ve not shared that yet, but there’ll obviously be a run rate impact which we flagged in the comments. And you’ll pick that up with the gain in the Q.

A Closer Look: Huntington Bancshares Earnings Cheat Sheet>>