After coping for more than a year with COVID-19, individuals, businesses and societies are now slowly moving towards post-pandemic life.
In the first few months of 2021 societies have had to balance between managing ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and preparing exit strategies from the crisis.
We haven’t overcome the virus yet and will need to be prepared for setbacks. At the same time, we have many reasons to be optimistic. The vaccine roll-out is progressing, societies are opening up and expectations for economic growth are positive.
At Nordea, we are actively supporting and driving a sustainable recovery together with our customers. I am proud of the feedback we have received for our efforts.
High levels of customer and business activity led to very strong first-quarter results. We continued to gain market shares across the Nordic region.
Mortgage lending volumes grew by 6%, year on year, which is the highest growth rate since 2016. Lending to small and medium-sized businesses increased by 7%. Assets under management increased by 33% to EUR 372bn, driven by market recovery and strong net inflows.
Our operating profit increased by 75%, year on year, mainly driven by a 21% increase in total operating income. Net interest income grew by 9%, which is the highest growth rate in ten years. A combination of strong revenue growth and cost discipline drove our cost-to-income ratio down to 48%, compared with 57% a year ago.
Our capital position is very strong, among the best in Europe, and we are well positioned to both support our customers and pay out dividends to our shareholders.
Our dividend plan was confirmed by the Annual General Meeting in March. The Board was authorised to decide on a dividend payment of a maximum of EUR 0.72, to be distributed after September 2021, in line with the European Central Bank’s guidance.
We have taken many steps in the right direction, and remain determined to continuously improve our performance by focusing on our three key priorities: to create great customer experiences, drive income growth initiatives and optimise operational efficiency.
We are well on track to meet our financial targets for 2022: a cost-to-income ratio of 50% and a return on equity above 10%.
I am confident that we are moving towards brighter times and steadily beating COVID-19.
Nordea will enter the post-pandemic future in a position of strength. Our direction is clear: to be a strong and personal financial partner, a more profitable bank, and a safe and trusted contributor to society.
/Frank Vang-Jensen, President and Group CEO
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