ULSTER Bank’s parent group NatWest has upgraded expectations for the year as the company's mortgage book grew and the chief executive said the bank is seeing "no signs" of families in added financial distress.
The banking group told shareholders on Friday that it expects to make £12.8 billion in total income for the financial year, up from £12.5bn in previous forecasts.
The lender no longer publishes full identifiable accounts for its Ulster Bank operation in Northern Ireland. That followed its decision to transfer the Belfast-based Ulster Bank Limited business to its immediate parent, NatWest bank. The transfer took place in May 2021.
In the wake of increased interest rates for mortgage holders, NatWest announced on Friday that its retail arm lent £11bn in new mortgages in the three months to the end of September, nearly £3bn higher than this time last year and up 12 per cent compared to the previous quarter.
It comes as the economy has been put under extra strain since the start of the year, with mortgage rates rapidly increasing in a bid by the Bank of England to try to control inflation.
Yet boss Alison Rose said that while customers are worried, their pain is not yet showing up in the bank's books.
"At a time of increased economic uncertainty, we are acutely aware of the challenges that people, families and businesses are facing up and down the country.
"Although we are not yet seeing signs of heightened financial distress, we are very conscious of the growing concerns of our customers and we are closely monitoring any changes to their finances or behaviours," she said.
"The bank's strong capital and liquidity mean we are able to help those who are likely to need it the most, through support for our community partners, proactive outreach to our customers or targeted lending packages for the most impacted sectors."
The bank said that it had passed on around 25 per cent to 30 per cent of the increased interest rates to savers since the last quarter of 2021.
Total income reached £3.23bn in the third quarter of the year, up from £2.7bn a year before and just surpassing expectations.
Pre-tax operating profit hit £1.1bn, up from a little under £1bn a year earlier.
Ms Rose added: "In a challenging environment, NatWest Group continues to deliver a strong financial performance; supporting our customers, responsibly growing our lending and making significant investments to transform the bank."