Co-op Bank eyes return to profitability from this year

Nick Slape

Co-op Bank unveiled a “resilient” annual performance today that saw a reduction in income and further losses, but said it also anticipates a return to profitability from this year.

The Manchester-based bank achieved total income for the 12 months to December 30, 2020, of £307.3m, compared with £358.9m in 2019.

Pre-tax losses were reduced from £152.1m last year to £103.7m for 2020.

The group said it had achieved or exceeded performance targets and is on track against plan. Updated guidance anticipates a return to sustainable profitability from 2021 onwards, it said.

It has supported customers through COVID-19, with growth in SME customers and strong residential mortgage lending. Net core residential lending was £841m, including new mortgage completions of £3.4bn, and the bank announced net SME lending of £263m, including £253m of Bounce Back Loans and £33m of CBILS lending drawn down. It said it is now supporting more than 90,000 small businesses.

The bank also granted more than 20,500 payment deferrals to support customers with mortgage, loan and credit card payments.

Chief executive Nick Slape said: “Our priority has been to provide customers with the support and reassurance they have needed during this period and to navigate a challenging retail banking market and uncertain economic conditions.

“Thanks to the commitment and co-operative values of our colleagues, we end the year having delivered a resilient financial performance that is in line with our plan at this stage in our transformation, and having completed a number of key milestones including separation of IT systems from the Co-op Group, improved digital journeys for our customers, and the issuance of £200m of MREL-qualifying debt.

“We have met or exceeded the financial performance guidance targets we set ourselves in 2020 and our progress positions us well for a return to profitability in the near future and to continue supporting customers as we move through and beyond this global crisis.”

He said: “The performance in mortgages and the continued growth of our SME franchise has been particularly pleasing, with net residential lending up five per cent at improved margins and our SME business going from strength to strength.

“The transformation of our SME banking business has attracted new customers, meaning we now support over 90,000 small businesses, many of whom are charities, non-profit organisations and co-operatives.

“We continue to improve the service we offer SME customers, delivering our Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) investment plan, with new credit card and savings products, and more to come in 2021, including a new mobile app and same day on-boarding for new customers.”

He added: “As we face into continued difficult times for many people and businesses, we remain committed to providing the support required as well as continuing to make a positive impact on the environment and the world around us.

“This matters now more than ever and we are proud of our record as a beyond carbon neutral bank since 2007, saying no to financing fossil fuels and companies with a poor environmental impact, together with the values and ethics of the co-operative movement that sit at our heart.

“As we look to the future, our commitment to ethical banking will remain central to our strategy, and we intend to link part of executive pay to ESG targets from 2022 onwards.”

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