2018 saw KBC in Ireland go from strength to strength with almost 79,000 new customer accounts opened across the year.
2018 saw another strong performance by the Irish economy reflecting robust increases in exports and domestic spending. This translated into healthy gains in business activity, incomes and employment. In turn, this prompted a further notable drop in unemployment and an increase in net inward migration while there was also a further improvement in the public finances. Persistently favourable developments in recent years sustained positive financial market sentiment towards Ireland.
2018 also saw KBC in Ireland go from strength to strength with almost 79,000 new customer accounts opened across the year. This marks a new milestone of over 286,000 customers attracted to our competitive offering and innovative approach to products and services, and we are thankful for their support. The KBC Challenger brand continued to gain recognition and traction within the Irish marketplace as a bank that is working to change the way the people of Ireland bank by providing instant, accessible financial products and services. We have embedded ourselves within the local communities where our 16 Hubs are present. KBC was also the first bank in Ireland to offer 24/7 customer service, which has proved hugely popular and convenient for our customers.
The financial performance of the Bank for 2018 was strong as it reported an operating profit of €76 million before tax and impairment costs and a profit of €162 million. KBC Group too had a strong year and for the full year, the net result amounted to €2,570 million.
As a digital-first, customer-centric bank, KBC continued to invest in digital innovation throughout the last 12 months. By being digital-first with physical hub locations, we are offering customers the best of both worlds. Over the past two years, we have focused on the implementation of our strategy and as a result we continue to lead the market with a range of pioneering, digital-first solutions. Our aim is to offer meaningful competition by providing the people of Ireland with the bank choices they deserve and the financial support they need.
As the challenger we have also evolved to meet the new needs and expectations of Irish consumers by making financial services instant and accessible.
Customers can benefit from KBC’s market leading digital wallet and we have just launched the first phase of our multibanking approach at the beginning of this year. Our ambition is to change the way that Irish people bank and our momentum in digital has helped drive digital engagement and strengthen KBC’s position as leaders in retail banking.
We are very proud of the hard work and dedication of the KBC Ireland team in putting customers first and developing best in class ways to bank. Our staff continue to be recognised by customers for their service, dedication and commitment and I would like to thank each and every one for their role in creating a truly digital-first, customer-centric bank.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the management team and Mr. Wim Verbraeken who has led the organisation over the past years as it transformed itself into a relevant retail bank in the Irish market. I am convinced that both the customers and the employees of KBC Bank Ireland, as well as all other stakeholders, will benefit significantly from our decision to strengthen and invest in the KBC franchise in Ireland.
I would like to thank Mr. John Malone for his significant contribution and service to the Bank as an Independent Non Executive Director over the past number of years and welcome those who joined as new Non Executive Directors across 2018 including Mr. Kevin Cardiff, Mr. Philippe Debaillie, Mr. Marc Wittemans and Mr. David Browne. I would also like to acknowledge the key role that all of our Non–Executive directors play in guiding the overall performance and strategic direction of the organisation. I look forward to 2019 and the further growth and strengthening of the KBC franchise here in Ireland.