Abbey eyes greater banking presence

Abbey National set its sights on more of its rivals’ business today after achieving the latest stage in its three-year turnaround plan.

Abbey National set its sights on more of its rivals’ business today after achieving the latest stage in its three-year turnaround plan.

The group said the year ahead would see it take further steps towards becoming a full-service retail bank, with greater presence in areas such as investments, business banking and specialist buy-to-let mortgages. It is currently known for its strength in mainstream mortgages and savings.

The Spanish-owned banking group, which trades on the high street as Abbey, said its recovery continued in 2006 with trading profits for the year up 24% and statutory profits ahead 18% at just over £661.7m (€1bn).

It said mortgage net lending and estimated market share more than doubled whilst bank account openings were up 17%. Cost savings since the company’s acquisition by Banco Santander in November 2004 are now at £290m (€437m), just short of the £300m (€452) targeted with one year to go in the turnaround.

During the year, 2,000 full-time jobs were taken out of the business, leaving Abbey with around 17,000 staff serving 712 branches.

Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said: “Abbey made strong progress in 2006. We’ve accelerated revenue growth and have continued to successfully reduce costs across the business.

The bank is well on track to meet its three-year plan targets.”

He added that Santander’s own banking platform was ready to be introduced across the Abbey business by the end of this year, allowing it to push strongly into new areas.

It began the drive at the end of the last year when Abbey launched a new buy-to-let mortgage range, in line with its strategy to grow in higher margin areas. In the first half of this year, Abbey plans to launch a new credit card range.

Mr Horta-Osorio added: “The year ahead will see Abbey’s development and further transformation into a full service retail bank. We have a strong management team in place and we are engaging with our people across the bank.”

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