Existing Customer Hub
KBC Bank Ireland delivered a satisfactory performance in 2019 and we are continuing to make good progress in transforming how banking is done in Ireland, offering our customers innovative and competitive digital banking solutions. The Bank has grown in strength over the past few years and I am honoured to lead the next phase of the Bank’s development here in Ireland.
Irish economic growth remained strong in 2019 in spite of the dampening effects of Brexit related uncertainty on sentiment and spending. An increase in real GDP, estimated to be about 6%, reflects both continued robust increases in exports as well as an ongoing improvement in household spending and construction activity. These conditions led to solid gains in employment and incomes and prompted a continued decline in unemployment, which ended the year below 5%. The health of the Irish economy was also reflected in another surplus in the public finances.
In my first set of results as CEO of KBC Bank Ireland, the financial performance of the Bank for 2019 against this backdrop was satisfactory. KBC Bank Ireland reported an operating profit of €10 million before tax and impairment and a profit after tax of €32 million.
The Bank’s capital base has remained solid with a fully-loaded CET 1 Capital Ratio of 16.6% as at 31 December 2019.
In June, KBC Bank Ireland successfully closed the transaction announced on 12 April 2019 to sell its legacy performing corporate loan portfolio of circa €260 million to Bank of Ireland. The completion of this transaction further reinforces KBC Bank Ireland’s core business focus and strategy in Ireland, retail and micro-SME clients.
Our strong business performance continued in 2019 with consistent growth in new mortgage lending and current accounts. We added 38,000 new current accounts following the introduction of free day-to day banking, making it the strongest year since the launch of the product in 2013, and reached a milestone for our business by surpassing 300,000 customers who now bank with us.
We recorded mortgage lending of €1,122 million in 2019, the strongest year since the launch of the retail bank and grew our mortgage market share outperforming the market by 11.8%. This growth shows that people are actively seeking out KBC Bank Ireland as their alternative banking choice and I would like to take this opportunity to thank both our new and existing customers.
At KBC Bank Ireland, we are disrupting how banking is done in Ireland by providing the choice which people expect and deserve. Customer centricity is at the heart of everything we do and in 2019, we continued our focus on making banking easier and more accessible for our customers and the wider market.
We strengthened our value proposition for customers. First time buyers, switchers and movers continue to benefit from even more choice and better long-term value following the reduction to KBC Bank Ireland’s 2 and 10-year fixed rates and market leading fixed 1 and 10 year rates.
Overall, new mortgage lending for 2019 of €1,122 million was up 19% on 2018 as home buyers and switchers responded to these offers of better long-term value. To further support mortgage switching, we announced the extension of our switcher support for customers moving their mortgage to KBC Bank Ireland, with €3,000 available to help with the costs associated with switching before 30th June 2020. KBC Bank Ireland’s Current Account remains at the centre of the Bank’s offering.
In 2019, we introduced free day-to-day banking for KBC Extra Current Account holders who make a monthly lodgement of €2,000, with no requirement to maintain a minimum balance and such customers can also avail of our market leading Extra Regular Savings account. Irish consumers are responding to KBC Bank Ireland’s competitive current account offering, with 38,000 new current accounts opened in 2019, an increase of 6% when compared to 2018. And now over 7 in 10 of our customers are availing of free day to day banking.
In the first half of 2019, KBC Bank Ireland launched two new socially responsible investment (SRI) funds, a first of its kind in Ireland, offering more investment opportunities to socially conscious consumers.
Following the launch of the SRI funds in Belgium by KBC Group in November 2018, the funds were introduced to the Irish market in May. Take up has been strong and the funds now account for 9% of all investment sales. Sustainability is at the heart of KBC Bank Ireland and we will continue to look at new ways and how we can contribute with customers to improving our impact on the environment.
Throughout the year, we maintained our focus on growing our digital capabilities in response to customers demand for easy, secure, digital led solutions. We added Wena Pay™ making KBC Bank Ireland the only Bank in Ireland to offer digital wallets from five of the world’s leading technology companies; Apple Pay™, Google Pay™, Fitbit Pay™ , Garmin Pay™ and now Wena Pay™.
In September, the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) came into effect, introducing compulsory Second Customer Authentication (SCA) measures for accessing all online payments. As a digital-first bank, KBC Bank Ireland will continue to deliver rigorous, market-leading secure authentication across its digital banking services for customers. This is just one element of how we are constantly improving our digital capability for customers to make banking easier for them.
We continued to roll out our business banking offering in 2019 providing choice through new product development. We partnered with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) as part of the Government of Ireland’s ‘Future Growth Loan Scheme’. Through this partnership we will support capital expenditure and promote business investment for development, expansion and improvement through low cost lending.
KBC Bank Ireland continues to proactively engage with those customers who may be experiencing financial difficulty. By engaging with the Bank, customers have been able to find solutions which resolve their individual financial circumstances.
Our dedicated support unit will continue this work and engage with approved independent third parties to find solutions for those affected customers who may find themselves in financial difficulty.
We continued to drive our sustainability programme in 2019 which aims to make a positive impact on the lives of our colleagues, customers and communities.
Our programme focuses on four main areas: Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, Environmental Responsibility and Health & Wellbeing and is driven by employees. It is their commitment that makes a real difference to society.
In the past year, in collaboration with employees we commenced a programme of engagement around our Green responsibilities.
We launched ‘Team Blue Goes Green’- a KBC Group wide environmental initiative, that saw over 95% of our employees participating in green initiatives and activities that help improve our environment. We will continue with this programme in 2020, providing further opportunities
to engage and drive change around the environmental agenda.
We are proud to have been one of 47 companies to sign the first dedicated pledge by Irish businesses to reduce carbon usage launched by Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI). By signing this pledge, we have committed to reducing our Scope 1 & 2 greenhouse gas emission intensity by 50% by 2030.
Great work continued with our chosen charity the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI).The ASI works across the country in the heart of local communities providing dementia specific services and supports and advocating for the rights and needs of all people living with dementia and their carers.
Over the past three years, we have raised over €300,000 in funding and provided 1,200 volunteering hours for the ASI. In total, 25 KBC Bank Ireland staff participated in the ASI dementia Learning initiative. Employees through this programme gain a greater understanding and awareness of dementia, its impacts on customers and how we can be more supportive of those living with dementia.
Since joining KBC Bank Ireland in April 2019, I have engaged extensively with each of the business areas and met with many of our colleagues, customers and stakeholders. I am excited to lead the Bank as we embark on our journey to further solidify our commitment to this market.
I am committed to ensuring that we embed Responsible Behaviour within our culture so that we can genuinely obtain and retain the trust of all stakeholders which is core to the KBC Bank Ireland Strategy. Maintaining the right balance between the best interests of customers, employees, stakeholders and society as a whole is a key commitment for the future.
We have implemented a programme which clearly outlines the values that underpin how we engage with customers and employees and the responsibilities for all levels of management and staff within the Bank.
Through our Responsible Behaviour programme we seek to promote a culture of responsiveness in addressing the needs of customers and employees in a timely way. A culture characterised by respect which embraces diversity and where we ‘speak up’ when we have concerns or feel that something can be done in a better way. It is in this way that we can focus on delivering the right results for all of our stakeholders.
I would like to again acknowledge our errors in relation to the administration of tracker mortgages and I offer my sincerest apologies to those affected. I am committed to taking on board the lessons learned on behalf of our customers. We are fully engaged with the Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB), which was established in 2019 with the aim of rebuilding trust in the banking sector and promoting fair customer outcomes. KBC Bank Ireland has been actively working with the IBCB on its key programmes that cover a variety of themes from financial education and transparent communications to services for bereaved and vulnerable customers.
I am fortunate to build on the work done by my predecessor Mr. Wim Verbraeken in transforming KBC Bank Ireland during his time here. I would like to thank Ms. Dara Deering, former Executive Director and Head of Retail Banking who left the bank in August for her commitment over the years in managing and transforming the Bank here in Ireland. I would like to thank Mr. Tom De Witte for his role on our Executive Committee in Ireland. Mr. De Witte takes up a role for KBC Group but has joined the Board of KBC Bank Ireland providing further continuity through this appointment. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mr. Robert Power for the role he has played as an Independent Non-Executive Director since 2010 and to Mr. William Hueting for his service. I would like to welcome Mr. Michael O’Donovan and Mr. Tom De Witte who joined as new Non-ExecutiveDirectors in 2019.
Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Luc Popelier as Chairperson of the Bank for his support and the commitment that he and KBC Group give to KBC Bank Ireland.
Over the last 6 months we have welcomed both Ms. Lavinia Morris, Chief Operations Officer, and Ms Jo Reynaerts, Chief Commercial Officer as new members of the Executive Management Team. Their management experience and diversity will bring great benefits to the bank. I wish them every success in their new roles.
I am proud of KBC Bank Ireland’s success in 2019 and look forward to building on this in 2020 as we continue to create a new vision for banking in Irish society.