NOVATO -- The holding company for Bank of Marin today reported it earned 9.6 percent more in the first three months of 2012 than during the same period last year and 46 percent more than in fourth quarter.

With quarterly net income of $4.9 million, Bank of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ: BMRC) earned a diluted 91 cents per share during the period and announced its 28th consecutive quarterly shareholder dividend of 17 cents per share. That dividend will be payable to shareholders of record up until May 3 and distributed May 11.

The bank attributed strong credit standards and loan quality as a driver of growth, with no additional loan loss provision required over the $2.5 million established for the prior quarter.

Part of that provision was designed to help mitigate the asset risk associated with more problematic loans obtained during the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-assisted acquisition of Napa’s Charter Oak Bank last year. Chief Financial Officer Christina Cook said that efforts to resolve those assets were proceeding smoothly.

“It took us a while to absorb what was going on in Napa,” said Russell Colombo, president and CEO of Bank of Marin. "Now is the time to put some numbers up and start growing."

After adding a branch in Sonoma and a commercial banking office in Santa Rosa last year as well, Mr. Colombo said that the bank will be announcing a new staff member who will help develop those markets.

Total deposits at the bank grew $42.7 million -- 3.5 percent -- since the end of 2011. Non-interest-bearing deposits increased to 32.9 percent of total deposits from 28.8 percent a year ago.

The risk-based capital ratio grew to 13.6 percent for the first quarter, up from 13 percent during the same period last year. Gross loans at the bank remained at approximately $1 billion after reaching that amount at the end of 2011, with assets exceeding $1.4 billion.

Non-performing loans totaled $14.4 million as of March 31, equaling 1.4 percent of the company’s loan portfolio. That amount representing a $2.4 million increase from the end of 2011 and a $5.4 million increase from one year ago, though the bank noted that the estimated value of collateral for newly identified problem loans suggested no credit loss exposure. Loans that were past due 30 to 89 days decreased significantly -- by $20.1 million versus one year ago, to $1.8 million.

Describing the first quarter of 2012 as “a very good start,” Mr. Colombo said that he expected a growing relationship with wine and related industries in its new markets will help to drive growth for the now 17-branch bank. Further growth will be supported by improvements to efficiency, with a goal of improving a ratio that affords the bank one dollar of profit for every 55 cents it spends.

“We’re at a 55 percent efficiency ratio -- which is good -- but we need to stay ahead of the game,” Mr. Colombo said.

The bank has automated its wire process and moved deposit capture to the branch level as part of its efficiency efforts, and is eyeing the appointment of a chief information officer, Mr. Colombo said.