Handelsbanken continues UK growth as profits and lending rise

Handelsbanken, Ilkley (Picture: James Hardisty)
Handelsbanken, Ilkley (Picture: James Hardisty)
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Handelsbanken is continuing to expand in Yorkshire and the North East, as its UK business revealed 47 per cent profits growth.

The Swedish bank, which opened its fifth UK regional office in Leeds this year, said operating profit rose to 2.2bn Swedish kronor (£180.5m) in the 12 months to June 30.

Income rose 35 per cent for the same period, with loan losses of just 0.02 per cent.

In the bank’s second quarter between April and June, lending in the UK rose 14 per cent year-on-year to £14.6bn.

Within this, business lending was up 11 per cent to £9.9bn, while household lending increased 20 per cent to £4.7bn.

Across the group, the bank recorded its highest quarterly results to date, with operating profit up six per cent to 5.26bn Swedish kronor.

Pre-tax profit rose two per cent to 10.2bn Swedish kronor the six months to June 30.

Handelsbanken operates in has grown rapidly in the UK in recent years, as other high street providers struggled with reputational issues following the financial crisis.

It now has 197 branches throughout the UK, 17 of which opened in the last 12 months, including in Scunthorpe.

The Yorkshire & North East regional office, which is led by Simon Lodge, oversees 33 branches, 22 of which are in Yorkshire.

Handelsbanken operates a traditional branch network, based on local decision-making and long-standing relationships.

Mr Lodge told The Yorkshire Post there was customer appetite for relationship-based banking.

He said: “People like our customer service model, with the local relationship managers.

“We’re still winning new customers, predominantly in the SME and private client areas, where relationships are very important.”

The bank does not carry out extensive marketing campaigns, instead relying on word of mouth and reputation to attract clients.

Handelsbanken is based on steady growth and a transparent approach to lending and investment, Mr Lodge said.

“We’re stable, we’re consistent and on the back of that, we’re continuing to see people coming our way,” he said.

“We’re going down the same route, we don’t change our focus, we don’t change our strategy.

“That consistency is what customers like.”

Mr Lodge said the bank is “very positive” about the regional economy and its prospects.

He said: “If you look at Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford and Hull - everywhere has lots of infrastructure projects.

“We could do to see more of those; it will be interesting to see where the devolution debate goes.”

While there are some global concerns, they are unlikely to hit the home market substantially, he said.

“We see a lot of global issues but I’m not sure they’re hitting our markets particularly hard at the moment,” he said.

“We’re not isolated from them in Yorkshire but we are luckily a little more removed than maybe in some places.”

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The new bank tax will not deter Handelsbanken from operating in the UK, its head of Yorkshire & North East England has said.

Earlier this month, Chancellor George Osborne announced the current bank levy against balance-sheet assets would reduce to 0.1 per cent by 2021, while a new eight per cent surcharge on UK profits will be added from January 2016.

The British Banking Association (BBA) said the new charge would “reinforce fears that Britain is becoming a less attractive place for banks to do business”.

However, Mr Lodge said Handelsbanken’s UK business - which operates as a branch of the Swedish bank rather than a UK-based subsidiary - said the fee is “just part of the price of doing business”.

Earlier this year, HSBC it may move its headquarters out of the UK because of regulatory costs associated with the current British banking system.