NatWest reports 40% profit jump as bank refers customers to debt experts


NatWest has reported a 40% jump in first quarter profits but warned of the UK’s “uncertain” economy amid the cost of living crisis, saying it had already referred more than 2,000 customers to debt experts at Citizens Advice.

The banking group – formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland – beat expectations after reporting a jump in pre-tax profits to £1.2bn compared with £885m a year earlier. That was compared to analyst forecasts of a 15% drop in profits to £755m.

Its strong first quarter results – the first reported since the UK government stake in the group fell below 50% last month – was supported by mortgage borrowing, higher interest rates and a rebound in consumer spending as Covid restrictions were eased.

NatWest was also able to release £38m of the cash it originally put aside for potential defaults on loans during the pandemic, despite what it said was “significant uncertainty in the economic outlook”.

That contrasts with action taken by banking peers such as Lloyds and Barclays, which were forced to take higher provisions for defaults in light of the cost of living crisis in the first quarter, amid fears that customers could fall behind on loan payments after inflation hit 7% last month.

“The world has changed considerably during the last three months,” said NatWest’s chief executive, Alison Rose, noting the impact the Russian invasion of Ukraine was having on the UK economy.

“We are also very aware of the challenges and concerns the cost-of-living crisis is causing for many of our customers up and down the country. NatWest Group is focused on providing practical help and support for the people, families and businesses we serve”, Rose added.

NatWest said it had identified vulnerable customers and had referred 2,100 people to Citizens Advice in the last year.

The bank’s results come just a day after NatWest executives avoided a shareholder rebellion over a pay policy that could net the chief executive as much as £5.2m a year.

NatWest defended the proposals, saying that while the bank was aware the policy could court controversy, the changes would bring executive pay closer to levels offered by rival UK banks.

The resolution passed with nearly 93% voting in favour of the policy on Thursday.

Commenting on the first quarter results, Rose said: “Despite the challenging environment, I am pleased with our performance as we continue to execute well against our strategy, driving sustainable growth and returns.”

Source: The Guardian