Business

Ulster Bank parent NatWest unveils £6.2bn profit - highest since before 2008 crash

Paul Thwaite succeeds Dame Alison Rose, who stepped down in the wake of the debanking row last year.

Ulster Bank's headquarters in Belfast. Picture Hugh Russell
Ulster Bank's headquarters in Belfast. Picture Hugh Russell Ulster Bank's headquarters in Belfast. It's parent company NatWest Group revealed an operating pre-tax profit of £6.2 billion in 2023, the highest profit since the £9.9 billion made just before the global financial crisis in 2007

Ulster Bank parent company NatWest Group has appointed Paul Thwaite as its permanent chief executive as it revealed its highest yearly profit since before the 2008 financial crisis.

Mr Thwaite succeeds Dame Alison Rose, who stepped down in the wake of the debanking row last year.

The board of NatWest said the new boss was an “outstanding candidate and the right person to shape the future of NatWest”.

Meanwhile, the banking group revealed an operating pre-tax profit of £6.2 billion over 2023, the highest profit since the £9.9 billion made just before the global financial crisis in 2007.

It also came in above analysts’ expectations of a £6 billion profit for the year, and was up by a fifth compared with 2022, with the bank benefiting from rising interest rates pushing up the cost of borrowing.

However, NatWest - which no longer breaks down individual figures for its Ulster Bank operations in Northern Ireland - said it had been affected by the more competitive savings rates environment.

Customer deposits, excluding one-off items, fell by £13.8 billion during the year, as more customers hunted around for a better deal on their savings. But it also saw more people moving money into fixed-rate savings accounts.

Its net interest margin – which shows the difference between what a bank pays out for deposits and earns from loans – fell during the final three months of the year, compared with the previous quarter, as it paid out more to savers.

Meanwhile, Mr Thwaite said he was “honoured” to be leading the bank and serving its 19 million customers.

He said: “It is an exciting time for our sector and our bank. I am confident we can shape the future of NatWest to deliver its full potential.

“This year we are focused on the things we can control; delivering profitable growth, becoming more efficient, more productive, and simpler to deal with, whilst managing our cost and capital efficiently.”

Mr Thwaite became NatWest’s interim boss in July. He was previously running the bank’s commercial business.

He stepped in after Dame Alison’s exit in the wake of the so-called debanking row around former Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s account with Coutts, a high-net-worth bank owned by NatWest.

She had worked at the bank for more than 30 years, and NatWest’s chairman Howard Davies described her departure as a “sad moment”, having “dedicated all her working life so far” to the business.