Rabobank is making progress on its strategic objectives despite challenging market conditions. In 2019, they posted a net profit of EUR 2.2 billion.
Chairman of the Managing Board Wiebe Draijer
“2019 was a dynamic year. We had to deal with international political and economic instability and persistent low interest rates. The consequences are apparent in our results. Yet even in this challenging environment we can report a net profit of EUR 2.2 billion and that we made good progress on our strategic objectives. Interest income was down slightly. We managed to further reduce costs. Our capital position has improved and remains solid. We completed the sale of non-core activities and invested in future-proofing the bank.
We have made good progress on contributing to major societal themes. We have invested in more sustainable housing and in the energy transition. Together with our subsidiary and residential area developer BPD, we are developing new build properties to tackle bottlenecks in the rental market. Our efforts to make the international food chain more sustainable are taking shape, partly through the AGRI3 Fund which Rabobank initiated and the work of Rabo Foundation in Africa. We help our private customers in the Netherlands achieve greater financial self-reliance and reduce debt problems. These initiatives are fine examples of how the cooperative Rabobank expresses its mission to Grow A Better World Together.
We are proud of the transition our bank has made in the past few years. This is starting to show in our daily operations. Customer satisfaction and our employee engagement are rising, the balance sheet has been optimized, our cost levels are lower and we are working more efficiently. We have significantly expanded and improved our digital service offer to both private and commercial customers.
This was all made possible thanks to the efforts and active commitment of our employees and many of our members. Thank you all for that.”
Net profit in 2019 is lower than the record level of EUR 3 billion we posted over 2018. The interest rate environment significantly impacted our results and contributed to the impairment of our equity stake in Achmea by EUR 300 million. The sale of RNA resulted in a one-off positive result of EUR 342 million. In the past year loan impairment charges were substantially higher than the historically low level of previous years. At 23 basis points impairment charges have reverted to a normalized level.
Costs were down by 4% and the cost/income ratio improved from 65.9% to 63.8%. Structural factors driving cost development will include substantial investments in digitalization and the IT infrastructure and costs related to regulation and supervision, including CDD and AML activities. Nonetheless Rabobank aims to further improve the cost/income ratio to a percentage in the low 60’s in the coming years. The long-term ambition is for a percentage in the mid 50’s. Achieving this level is conditional on, among others, normalizing interest rate levels.
Rabobank’s capital position further strengthened: the common equity tier 1 (CET 1) ratio is 16.3%, which is well above the regulatory requirement and Rabobank’s ambition of at least 14%. The increase of 0.3 percentage points is partly attributed to retained earnings and the sale of non-core activities. Our strong capital position enables Rabobank to absorb the future impact of, among others, Basel IV. The return on equity amounted to 5.3% (7.3% in 2018).
The loan portfolio increased by EUR 6 billion in 2019, excluding the sale of the RNA portfolio, due mainly to growth in international Food & Agri and at leasing subsidiary DLL. Underlying deposits from customers rose by EUR 11 billion with the most evident growth in domestic retail banking.
Looking ahead to the year 2020 Draijer says: “The impact of the low interest rate caused by central bank policy and monetary stimulus measures are hitting us harder. We would certainly welcome a monetary policy aimed at normalizing interest rates. The economy is unpredictable and the effects of climate change are affecting us all.
The sale of non-core activities in North America (RNA) and Ireland (ACC loan portfolio) and the remaining retail activities in Indonesia gives us space to grow our core activities. We see opportunities in Food & Agri where we have been a strong player for many years in the Netherlands and around the world. This position provides a strong foundation to achieve more economies of scale and increase our market share. We see the lease market as another opportunity. The shift from ownership to usage based models provides interesting opportunities for our subsidiary DLL, which is well-positioned in this market.
Rabobank gives its role as gatekeeper to the financial system once again highest priority in the coming year. We are joining forces with the other leading Dutch banks to work together in the public domain. Only then can we truly take a stance on financial crime and illicit finance. In the past year we made considerable investments in people and resources to further reinforce our role as gatekeeper of the financial system. Once again, this year we will devote considerable attention to the associated challenges including risk management, transaction monitoring and customer due diligence.
After a year in which many Dutch farmers took to the streets for their futures, we wish to emphasize that Rabobank is and will remain their partner. We continue to support the agricultural sector on its road to more sustainable land use and natural balance. At the same time, we are conscious of the challenges to the future prospects of the farmers themselves. In the coming year we will make further active efforts to support this transition.
We will continuously improve our core and at the same time will spread our wings. We want to make a meaningful contribution to major societal transitions both as a cooperative bank and as part of our growth in the Netherlands and in the international food & agri business. At the same time, we have a duty to safeguard the revenue model of our cooperative way of providing services. To this end we will seek closer connections with our members. We will work together on solutions that benefit our customers, society and the world around us.”
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