Nationwide takes fight to the banks as profits leap 155% and mortgage lending soars by nearly £4billion in just six months

By Matt West

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Nationwide reported a huge rise in half year profits today, up 155 per cent on a year earlier to £322million, as Britain's booming housing market saw the mutual's mortgage lending hit a five year high.

The building society said mortgage lending surged 37 per cent to £14billion in the six months to the end of September, £13.2million for every working hour and £3.8billion higher than a year earlier.

Government initiatives such as Help to Buy and the year-old Funding for Lending scheme have helped fuel a housing market revival this year with average prices up 5.8 per cent in the last twelve months, according to the building society’s own house price index.

Big as the banks: Nationwide said its results showed building societies could take on the banks and win

Big as the banks: Nationwide said its results showed building societies could take on the banks and win

Nationwide said it had seen a rush of current account customers switching to the customer-owned group which also helped drive its robust first-half performance.

The building society said it opened more than 214,000 new current accounts, up 16 per cent on year earlier and equivalent to more than 1,100 new accounts a day, while 54,000 customers had switched to the group.

 

Its share of all new UK mortgage lending rose to 15.4 per cent from 14.4 per a year earlier. Net lending - loans, less repayments - leapt 75 per cent to £5.6billion, equivalent to 81.8 per cent market share.

Graham Beale, chief executive of Nationwide, hailed an ‘excellent’ first half and said the group was on track for a ‘strong performance for the rest of the financial year’.

He admitted the sector was being helped by access to cheap finance through Funding for Lending, as well as economy-boosting measures under quantitative easing.

 

5 FAVOURITE CURRENT ACCOUNTS

Pile of money

Bank Incentive
1 First Direct £100 to switch
2 Nationwide Free travel cover
3 Santander 3% cashback
4 Barclays Choose add-ons
5 Halifax Earn £5 a month

But he added that the group was also successfully attracting customers from its High Street banking rivals, with its share of the current account market increasing from 5.2 per cent to 6 per cent.

Nationwide insisted its results were evidence that mutuals can be successful in retail banking, amid fears that the woes at the Co-operative Banking Group had tarnished the sector's reputation.

'There are some rather silly things being said. When you look at our numbers from any angle we are more than a match for the established banks,' he added.

‘We are making tangible progress in growing our market shares and continue to demonstrate that we offer a real, consistent and viable alternative to the UK banks. In short, we are a really serious competitor,’ Nationwide said.

Mark Dyason, director of independent UK mortgage broker, Edinburgh Mortgage Advice, said: 'It’s great to see another one of the big lenders returning to significant profitability. It just goes to show that Nationwide’s mortgage proposition is very strong indeed, and it will no doubt continue to be so in the future.

'These new profits should enable the Nationwide to give even more support to first time buyers. That's the market they want.They are already doing well on that front, with 30,400 first time buyers recorded in the latest figures. That’s one in five of all first-time buyer mortgages, so it’s a big chunk of the market.

'Nationwide haven’t signed up for Help To Buy 2 yet. So maybe it’s time for them to decide what they are doing on that front.

'But from a mortgage lending perspective, and for borrowers, these latest numbers are very good news.'

Its half-year profit boost is also putting the group ahead of plans agreed with the regulator to plug a hole in its balance sheet, according to Mr Beale.

Earlier this year, the Prudential Regulation Authority demanded Nationwide hold more capital as a buffer against financial crises, including bolstering its leverage ratio, which measures its capital as a percentage of its assets, to 3 per cent by the end of 2015.

Nationwide said it now accounted for more than one in five of all first-time buyer mortgages in the UK, but said it would not be signing up to the Government's latest phase of the Help to Buy scheme.

The mortgage guarantee scheme allows buyers to borrow up to 95 per cent of the property price - an area Nationwide insists it has already been active in since November 2011.

‘We're already there and offering these loans,’ said Mr Beale.

Ian McGrail, director of independent mortgage broker, FirstMortgage.co.uk said: 'Nationwide operate at high loan-to values, offering 90% products for second hand properties.

'They have always been highly competitive with their rates, and this has rarely had an impact on the quality of service that they provide.

'As a lender, they have been actively involved in 'minewhome' and Help To Buy 1, both schemes that have proved helpful and attractive to first time buyers who might otherwise have struggled to raise a deposit. Many first time buyers therefore find Nationwide are a good fit for them.

'Nationwide have also offered reduced fees on a number of their products, again exclusively targeted at the first time buyer market. It's no surprise to see that they have put in a strong performance. They are an example of a lender that is actively keen to lend.'

The building society failed to bring its bad debts and provisions down, standing broadly flat at £323million, with a further hit from the performance of its £20billion portfolio of commercial property assets, which saw a rise in impairment charges.

The group also revealed it was putting aside £71million relating to new consumer credit legislation after a review of its documentation and processes uncovered ‘a small number of areas which require further inquiry’.

Nationwide is currently on the hunt for a new chairman after Geoffrey Howe announced last month that he would be retiring after eight years in the role.


Mr Howe will stand down at the annual meeting in the summer of 2015.

The comments below have not been moderated.

if you're after a scoop DM, ask Nationwide how it treats it's customers who get into financial difficulties: that's where the 'friendly' Nationwide becomes just like all the other 'capitalist' banks. Struggling to repay your loan/credit card? Ok, we'll take you court and secure our debt against your house. Now I've seen this article, I realise why they've been suddenly been taking this legal action the last 9 months: it must help them show how suddenly healthy their books are.

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I know several people who failed their credit check and couldn't get an account, for no obvious reason! They're picking and choosing the richest customers!

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Just the same as any bank since the credit crunch. I know employees of all the major high street banks, and they all get told by their management not to give accounts to anyone who doesn't fit their particular criteria, that includes blatantly lying to people about why they can't offer them an account. My favourite was a girl in NatWest who told a solicitor friend of mine that there was a law against opening her a bank account (she had bad credit rating); to which my friend said "Which law?" but alas, the woman couldn't remember which one.

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Yep, but they will still hit you with a £15 charge if you are one penny overdrawn or miss a DD payment.

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"Nationwide said its results showed building societies could take on the banks and win." --- Of course they can, they don't have any shareholders to worry about.

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If they've made such huge profits and they have no shareholders, why do they not pat me interest on my current account?

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Nationwide said mortgage lending surged 37 per cent to £14billion in six months. Thank goodness though that this isn't a housing bubble forming

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NOT surprised! THEY PAY little or no interest on accounts. And the bigwigs at the top want more for giving THERE CUSTOMERS NEXT TO NOTHING! THEY should have made a bigger percentage of profit!

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Why aren't savers getting a better deal then, after all it's their money your playing with.

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Nationwide these days act more like a PLC than a mutual. Rubbish returns for investors compared to others, along with taking away the things such as free overseas cash withdrawals that were genuinely useful (the travel insurance is useless for my needs), large salaries and perks for their directors, and so on.

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Well, so come on then Nationwide. As there are no shareholders can us savers receive some better interest rates please? If nothing changes soon my money will be finding a new home with a competitor....

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I recommend the Santander 123 account. I've had over £500 in cashback and interest in the past 12 months.

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