Jason J. Tyler
Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer at Northern Trust
Thank you, Mike. Let me join Mark and Mike in welcoming you to our fourth quarter 2021 earnings call.
Let's dive into the financial results of the quarter starting on page 2. This morning, we reported fourth quarter net income of $406.4 million. Earnings per share were $1.91 and our return on average common equity was 14.5%. Results for the quarter included a severance charge of $6.1 million, a pension settlement charge of $3.4 million, a $13 million gain within other operating income relating to property sales and net one-time tax benefits of $13.9 million, primarily relating to a lower net tax impact from international operations.
Let's move to page 3 and review the financial highlights of the quarter. Year-over-year, revenue was up 9% and expenses increased 2%. Net income was up 69%. In a sequential comparison, revenue was up 2% and expenses were up 4%, while net income was up 3%. The provision for credit losses reflected a release of $11.5 million in reserves in the current quarter compared to a release of $13 million in the prior quarter and $2.5 million in the prior year. Return on average common equity was 14.5% for the quarter, up from 8.8% a year ago and up from 13.7% in the prior quarter.
Let's look at the results in greater detail, starting with revenue on page 4. Trust, investment and other servicing fees, representing the largest component of our revenue, totaled $1.1 billion and were up 8% from last year and flat sequentially. Foreign exchange trading income was $77 million in the quarter, up 12% year-over-year and up 16% sequentially. The year-over-year growth was driven by higher volumes, partially offset by lower volatility, while the sequential increase was due to higher volumes as well as higher volatility. The remaining components of noninterest income totaled $119 million in the quarter, up 28% from one year ago and up 8% sequentially. Within this, security, commissions and trading income was up 11% from the prior year and down 1% sequentially. The year-over-year growth was driven by higher core brokerage revenue.
Other operating income totaled $72 million and was up 46% from one year ago and up 16% sequentially. The increase compared to the prior year was primarily driven by the previously referenced $13 million in gains from property sales, distributions from investments in community development projects and higher banking and credit-related service charges, partially offset by lower miscellaneous income. The sequential increase was primarily due to the gains on property sales, also partially offset by lower miscellaneous income. Net interest income, which I'll discuss in more detail later, was $371 million and was up 7% from one year ago and up 4% sequentially.
Let's look at the components of our trust and investment fees on page 5. For our Corporate & Institutional Services business, fees totaled $625 million and were up 5% year-over-year and down 1% sequentially. Custody and fund administration fees were $458 million and up 9% year-over-year and down 1% sequentially. The year-over-year growth was primarily driven by favorable markets and new business, partially offset by lower transaction-based fees. The sequential decline was driven by lower transaction-based fees and unfavorable currency translation, partially offset by favorable markets and new business.
Assets under custody and administration for C&IS clients were $15.2 trillion at quarter end, up 11% year-over-year and up 3% sequentially. The year-over-year growth was primarily driven by favorable markets and new business. The sequential performance was primarily attributable to favorable markets. Investment management fees in C&IS of $113 million were down 9% year-over-year and were flat sequentially. The year-over-year performance was driven by higher Money Market Fund fee waivers, partially offset by new business and favorable markets. Fee waivers in C&IS totaled $50.9 million in the fourth quarter compared to $49.9 million in the prior quarter and $11.4 million in the prior-year quarter.
Assets under management for C&IS clients were $1.2 trillion, up 13% year-over-year and up 3% sequentially. The growth from the prior year was driven by favorable markets and client flows. The sequential increase was primarily driven by favorable markets. Securities lending fees were $19 million, up 8% year-over-year and down 6% sequentially. Average collateral levels were up 16% year-over-year and down 1% sequentially.
Moving to our wealth management business, trust, investment and other servicing fees were $486 million and were up 13% compared to the prior year and up 1% from the prior quarter. Fee waivers in wealth management totaled $30.2 million in the current quarter compared to $26.7 million in the prior quarter and $12.2 million in the prior-year quarter. Within the regions, the year-over-year growth was driven by favorable markets and new business, partially offset by higher fee waivers.
For the sequential performance, the growth within the regions was primarily driven by new business. Within global family office, the year-over-year performance was driven by favorable markets and new business being more than offset by higher fee waivers. The sequential decline was mainly related to higher fee waivers. Assets under management for our wealth management clients were $416 billion at quarter end, up 20% year-over-year and up 12% on a sequential basis. Both the year-over-year and sequential increases were driven by client flows and favorable markets.
Moving to page 6, net interest income was $371 million in the quarter and was up 7% from the prior year. Earning assets averaged $149 billion in the quarter, up 13% versus the prior year. Average deposits were $136 billion and were up 18% versus the prior year, while loan balances averaged $40 billion and were up 20% compared to the prior year. On a sequential quarter basis, net interest income grew 4%. Average earning assets grew 3% and average deposits grew 5%, while average loan balances were up 4%. The net interest margin increased 1 basis point sequentially.
Turning to page 7, expenses were $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter and were 2% higher than the prior year and up 4% from the prior quarter. As mentioned earlier, the current quarter included $9.5 million in charges related to severance and a pension settlement, while the prior quarter included a $6.9 million pension settlement charge. Also, recall that last year's results included a severance charge of $55 million and an occupancy charge of $11.9 million.
Excluding these items, expenses were up 7% versus the prior year and up 3% sequentially. Excluding severance charges, compensation expense was up 7% compared to the prior quarter and was up 2% sequentially. The year-over-year growth was primarily driven by higher cash-based incentive accruals, as well as higher salaries. The sequential increase was primarily due to higher salaries, partially offset by lower equity-based incentives. Excluding the previously mentioned pension settlement charges, employee benefits expense was up 3% from one year ago and up 10% sequentially. Both increases were impacted by higher medical cost and lower payroll withholding.
Outside services expense was $224 million and it was up 8% from a year ago and up 6% from the prior quarter. Revenue and business volume expenses accounted for just over a third of the year-over-year growth. The remaining year-over-year growth, as well as the sequential growth within the category, included higher technical services, consulting and data processing-related cost, reflecting investment in the business, as well as the timing of engagements. Higher legal services cost also contributed to the sequential increase, but were down compared to the prior year.
Equipment and software expense of $196 million was up 11% from one year ago and up 6% sequentially. Both the year-over-year and sequential increases reflected higher software support and amortization costs. Excluding the prior year charge, occupancy expense of $52 million was down 6% from a year ago and down 4% sequentially.
Other operating expense of $79 million was up 9% from one year ago and down 3% sequentially. The year-over-year increase was driven by higher business promotion expense, partially offset by lower miscellaneous expenses. The sequential decline was impacted by higher costs associated with the Northern Trust sponsored PGA Golf Tournament in the prior quarter, partially offset by increases within other business promotion spend and miscellaneous expenses within the category.
Turning to the full year, our results in 2021 are summarized on page 8. Net income was $1.5 billion, up 28% compared to 2020 and earnings per share were $7.14, up 31% from the prior year. On the right margin of this page, we outlined the non-recurring impacts that we called out for both years. We achieved a return on equity for the year of 13.9% compared to 11.2% in 2020.
The full year revenue and expense trends are outlined on page 9. Trust, investment and other servicing fees grew 9% in 2021. The growth during the year was primarily driven by new business and favorable markets, partially offset by the impact of money market fee waivers. Net interest income declined 4%. Average earning assets during the year increased by 16%, while the net interest margin declined 20 basis points, driven by lower average interest rates. The net result was revenue growth of 6% in 2021 compared to 2020. On a reported basis, expenses were up 4% from the prior year. Adjusting for the expense items noted in both years, expenses were up 6% from 2020.
Turning to page 10, our capital ratios remain strong with our common equity tier 1 ratio of 12.1% under the standardized approach, up slightly from the prior quarter. Our tier 1 leverage ratio was 6.9%, down slightly from the prior quarter. We declared cash dividends of $0.70 per share, totaling $146.8 million to common stockholders. The current environment continues to demonstrate the importance of a strong capital base and liquid balance sheet profile to support our clients' needs, and we continue to provide our clients with the exceptional service and solution expertise they come to expect.
As we began 2022, our focus is on balancing a variety of factor in the months ahead, with the prospect of higher interest rates benefiting our revenue, but conversely, the higher levels of inflation and the competitive labor market impacting expenses. We are relentlessly focused on strengthening our competitive position within each of our businesses, investing in our workforce and technology, all while delivering attractive returns.
Thank you again for participating in Northern Trust fourth quarter earnings conference call today. Mike, Mark, Lauren, and I'd be happy to answer your questions.
Elle, will you please open the line?