Dubuque-based financial institution reports record-setting quarter

A Dubuque-based financial institution on Monday reported the most profitable quarter in its history.

Heartland Financial USA reported net income of $45.5 million during the three months ending on Sept. 30, an increase of 32% compared to the same quarter in 2019.

Executive Operating Chairman Lynn Fuller put the quarter into a historical context during an earnings conference call Monday afternoon.

“I am very pleased to report that we had an excellent third quarter,” he said. “In fact, it was a record quarter — the best in our history.”

The record success came at a time when about two-thirds of Heartland employees are still working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to President and CEO Bruce Lee.

Despite dealing with unprecedented circumstances, these employees have been the key to the company’s success.

“The reason we’ve been able to do this is because our people have stepped up,” Lee said during an interview with the Telegraph Herald on Monday night. “They have gone above and beyond.”

Even so, Heartland leaders on Monday acknowledged that the impact of COVID-19 continues to loom large.

While only two of Heartland’s 113 banking centers are completely closed, just about one-fourth are fully open. The remaining three-quarters are operating with limited lobby access or exclusively offering drive-thru service.

Lee emphasized the importance of serving customers in a variety of ways as consumer habits evolve.

“We are serving customers in lobbies, drive-thrus or both, as well as digitally,” he said. “We have demonstrated our flexibility, closing and reopening bank lobbies as appropriate.”

The record-breaking third quarter came on the heels of a tough second quarter, during which Heartland reported a 33% decline in net income compared to the prior year. Through the first three quarters of 2020, Heartland Financial reported net income of $95.7 million, compared with net income of $111.3 million through the first three quarters of 2019.

While Heartland has successfully navigated the previous three months, Lee acknowledged that the impact of the pandemic is far from over.

He noted that Heartland operates in 12 different states. These states — and often separate communities within a given state — are experiencing different trends regarding the virus, forcing Heartland to adapt to conditions on a market-by-market basis.

The duration of the pandemic also remains a wild card.

“I think it is a big unknown (when this will end),” Lee said, “It creates a lot of stress. Right now, there is no finish line.”

Lee on Monday also highlighted Heartland’s efforts to support the communities it serves.

Earlier this month, Heartland subsidiary Dubuque Bank and Trust announced a $20,000 donation to Prescott Elementary School in Dubuque. Heartland announced at the time that each of its member banks donated $20,000 to a “high-need school in its community.” Heartland contributed additional funds, so total contributions exceeded $260,000.

In the spring, Heartland announced contributions totaling $1.2 million to support nonprofit organizations in communities across the company’s footprint as they contended with COVID-19. This included $200,000 benefiting disaster recovery efforts in the Dubuque area.

“I think that tells the story of our commitment to these communities,” Lee said.