Dubuque financial institution notches record quarter

Lynn Fuller

A Dubuque-based financial institution opened a new fiscal year on a record-setting note.

Heartland Financial USA on Monday reported net income of $50.8 million in the three months ending on March 31 — its highest-ever quarterly total. It also represented an increase of 153% compared to the same, three-month stretch during the previous year.

“We are off to a great start to 2021,” said Executive Operating Chairman Lynn Fuller. “We set a new record for net income in the first quarter.”

Heartland reported total assets of $18.2 billion at the conclusion of the quarter, up from $13.3 billion at the same point the previous year.

Much of this growth has occurred in the West and Southwest regions of the U.S., which are collectively home to about 60% of Heartland’s total assets. Fuller said Heartland will continue to keep a close eye on growth opportunities.

“We continue to have a very deep pipeline of acquisitions across our footprint with a number of active opportunities currently in process,” he said. “I anticipate acquired growth (this fiscal year) similar to what we experienced last year.”

Heartland officials on Monday also noted a growing sense of confidence in the economy.

“I have been back on the road meeting with clients and bankers, and I’m encouraged,” said President and CEO Bruce Lee. “Commercial clients are optimistic and looking ahead to strong growth in the second half of the year.”

Lee, however, cautioned that such clients still are experiencing some headwinds, including rising raw material costs, supply chain disruptions and difficulties hiring skilled labor.

The banking experience, for clients and employees alike, also is approaching a return to normalcy, Lee noted. He said that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, coupled with loosening restrictions in many states, has allowed banks to reopen facilities and reintroduce services.

“Across the country, we are opening more branches to full-service banking and we are meeting more customers face-to-face,” he said.

Not all states are created equal, however. Of the 12 states in which Heartland operates banks, Lee said, Wisconsin and Illinois have the most restrictive policies, a reality that has slowed efforts to open branches in those states.

Lee noted that Heartland’s corporate employees, including many in Iowa, will begin a phased return to the workplace during the second week of May. In the early stages, these returning employees will be separated into two groups, which will alternate between working in the office and working from home.

Officials emphasized the importance of employee safety as they navigate their return to work. As the company’s footprint expands, its workforce has continued to grow.

Heartland had the equivalent of 2,131 full-time employees at the close of the first quarter, up from 1,817 at this point last year.