Thank you Howard for the update and I’m looking forward to continuing to work together on delivering on our purpose-led strategy.
2022 presented another year of acute macroeconomic challenges, and during this heightened uncertainty, it was as important as ever to be guided by our Purpose to champion people, families, and businesses to help them thrive.
We delivered a strong financial performance last year reporting a pre-tax operating profit of £5.1 billion and a return on tangible equity of 12.3%.
Income was up around 30% and costs were down nearly 3%.
Lending across our three franchises grew by 6.7% year on year, as we continued to support our customers and the economy responsibly, including £45 billion of gross new mortgage lending and £24.5 billion of new climate and sustainable funding and financing.
Crucially, our all-weather balance sheet, with high levels of capital and liquidity, and a diversified loan book means that we are well positioned to navigate economic uncertainty - particularly in light of the recent market volatility.
I, and my Executive team, continue to monitor the market movements closely to ensure that we are well placed to continue supporting our customers.
Yet, despite not seeing significant signs of financial distress or changes in behaviour amongst our customers, we know that people, families, and businesses across the country are struggling.
We responded quickly and meaningfully to support our customers and colleagues to navigate cost of living challenges. So far, we’ve carried out around 700,000 free financial health checks, launched a new cost of living hub and a benefits calculator, frozen standard published tariffs on business current accounts for 12 months, and provided £10 million of hardship funding through our charity partners to help the most vulnerable in society.
We also provided around 60,000 colleagues with a one-off £1,000 cash payment to support with the rising cost of living. I would like to thank our colleagues for their continued hard work in supporting our customers during such a volatile and uncertain period.
Our customers are at the heart of everything we do – and we will continue to ensure our services meet their needs. As with many industries, customers are moving to mobile and online banking because it is faster and easier. 90% of our retail banking customers’ needs are now met digitally and we have invested in our mobile and digital services to support them.
But we also recognise our responsibility to provide services that work for all of our customers – including those who have challenges moving online. As a result, there are today more ways to bank with us than ever before, with over 16,000 points of presence for our customers. Bank branches are, and will continue to be, an important part of our services. We are continuing to invest, with £20 million invested in our existing branches whilst providing continuous alternative services, such as our ongoing collaboration with the Post Office, a dedicated support line for over 60s and support for our most vulnerable customers from customer care experts such as our Community Bankers.
Our values are at the heart of how we deliver our Purpose-led strategy, and that strategy is working. We are continuing to make strong progress to deliver long-term sustainable value and deliver across core priorities of climate, learning and enterprise.
Addressing climate change is one of the biggest issues of our generation and supporting our customers in their transition to net zero is a key strategic priority for the bank.
In 2022, we became the first UK bank, and one of the largest banks globally to date, to have science-based targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. These underpin the initial iteration of our Climate Transition Plan, which outlines the steps we aim to take to at least halve the climate impact of our financing activity by 2030, and achieve our net zero climate ambition by 2050.
We provided £24.5 billion of Climate and Sustainable Funding and Financing last year, against our target of £100 billion by 2025, and are determined to ensure our capital is being used to support our customers’ transition to net zero, whilst reducing the financing of the most harmful activities.
And to support our customers, we are offering financing options and practical tools to incentivise the transition to net zero. Our Green Mortgages are providing cheaper finance, and through collaborating with CoGo, and through our Carbon Planner, we are helping Retail and Business customers track and understand their carbon emissions.
Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and we are committed to supporting the next generation of founders to help them thrive. Building on our position as the leading high street bank for businesses, and through initiatives like our 13 free accelerator hubs across the country, we now have the highest market share among businesses younger than two years old, and continue to provide expert support for high growth companies as well as those wishing to scale up.
We know that £250 billion could be added to the economy if women matched men in starting and scaling business. And in March, we were the first European financial institution to issue a social bond specifically designed to lend to women-led businesses – which is a further demonstration of our unwavering commitment to increasing the number of female-led businesses in the country.
We are also a learning organisation and are actively committed to breaking down the barriers for people to succeed. Through schemes such as our MoneySense and CareerSense programmes, we are championing learning and ensuring young people develop financial literacy and employability skills. And our Digital Apprenticeships are supporting those aged 16-24 to develop a career whilst continuing with their education.
We have also been delighted to collaborate with footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford MBE and the National Youth Agency to provide NatWest Thrive, a unique and innovative programme for young people to develop their self-belief as well as their money confidence.
The growth of the economy is inseparable from the growth of our nation’s children, and businesses play a vital role in driving the change needed to ensure that children, families, and communities up and down the country are empowered and equipped to meet their potential.
I am very proud of our new market-leading partner leave policy, which supports all eligible colleagues with significantly more time away from work to help their partner look after their new child, whether the child has arrived through birth, adoption, or surrogacy.
And just last month, we had the pleasure of hosting the first meeting of the Princess of Wales’s Business Taskforce for Early Childhood at our London office.
Future Growth Drivers
These actions – driven by our Purpose – are not just the right thing to do but are also key to building a more profitable organisation.
Our fundamental strategy remains the same and we are creating ever closer and deeper relationships with our customers at every stage of their lives – support that starts earlier, reflects their values, and meets their changing needs.
As we look to the future, our all-weather balance sheet, and financial strength means that we are well positioned to respond to new and emerging social, commercial, and economic trends that are shaping the future of our customers’ financial lives.
This means seeking new opportunities to drive growth through three targeted areas in 2023, and beyond:
First, we will increase our personalised engagement with customers as their lives and finances become increasingly complex.
Secondly, our customers are spending more time on digital platforms, and so we need to ensure our services are embedded into our customers’ daily lives.
And thirdly, we have a huge role to play in supporting our customers to transition to net zero and providing them with tangible support to tackle the climate challenge head-on and transition to a more sustainable low carbon economy.
To close, this year has once again shown the importance of being a purpose-led bank. But it has also shown us what it takes to be purpose-led. We champion the potential of the people, families and businesses we serve – when things are going well, and when things are tough.
As we look to the future, we do so with confidence. Against a volatile economic backdrop, we continue to demonstrate the strength and resilience of our business, delivering a strong financial performance whilst proactively supporting our customers, communities and shareholders, and laying the foundations to grow.
Thank you, with that I will pass back to Howard...
Chairman speech - Annual General Meeting 2023