Good or bad – it’s all a matter of perspective

Harley Kagan, Group Managing Director

For many people 2016 will be remembered as a landmark year.

Whether they voted to leave the EU or remain, whether they were happy to see Donald Trump become US President or were dismayed, whether they launched a new business, started a family or lost someone important to them, we all have reasons to look back over the last year with fondness or despair, or more likely a healthy mixture of the two. It’s all a matter of perspective.

2016 turned out to be a very good year for UTB and I was very pleased to see that many of the darkest predictions of the immediate fall-out of vote to leave the EU did not come to pass. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but as we stand today, UK growth forecasts are better than expected, interest rates remain low, unemployment continues to fall and inflation, whilst boosted by the devaluation of the pound, is also within the Bank of England’s target range.

[color_quote]For United Trust Bank, 2016 was another year of strong growth. Both our loan and deposit books raced through their half a billion pound milestones for the first time, the former increasing by over 46% to stand at nearly £640m. To achieve this in a year when we saw high degrees of uncertainty both before and after the referendum is tremendous and a very good indicator of the strength and resilience of our operation and the UK’s specialist finance sector. The Bank was also named Specialist Bank of the Year at the Bridging & Commercial Awards and was also placed 25th in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100, a league table of the fastest growing UK businesses.[/color_quote]

One of our success stories of the last year has been our launch into mortgages. Starting with second charges, the team has made an immediate and positive impact on the broker marketplace and this was recognised at the recent Loan Talk Awards where UTB was named ‘Best Newcomer’. This is a superb achievement for the whole team and I’d like to thank them, and the Master Brokers which have supported us, in getting this new venture off the ground to such great effect.

The Bank’s outstanding performance could not have been achieved without the dedication of our excellent staff and the UTB team also continues to grow. We took on another 30 people across the Bank in 2016 and are still recruiting. Many of you will know that we moved to Moorgate in 2015 to give us room to expand. We filled our new office space in less than two years and have just agreed terms on taking more space on another floor of Citypoint to keep up with the demand for desk space.

As we grow we remain focused on maintaining a strong culture within the Bank, providing the very best service to all our customers and committed to raising professionalism within the industry. Last year we launched our new company values programme and joined the Chartered Banker Professional Standards Board and we are working towards Foundation standard for all staff. We also offer a range of banking qualifications to all staff through the Chartered Banker Institute and so far over 25 staff have embarked on a qualification.

In business, there will always be a measure of uncertainty and the Brexit process will provide more than its fair share. With so much of our activity connected to the UK property market it’s a topic we’re always keen to examine and I’m delighted that John Stewart, former Director of Economic Affairs at the Home Builders Federation, has returned as a guest author to give his expert view on the market and the recent Government White Paper, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’. A recent Sunday newspaper headline suggested property prices were tumbling and whilst it’s true that pockets of prime Central London have seen some price decline, we believe the fundamentals which support property prices for the mainstream markets remain intact. John Stewart shares his informed opinions with Update readers and brings a welcome balance to some of the more sensationalist news stories. In these times of ‘fake news’ we will continue to bring real market insight from independent experts and help you to find the truth amidst any ‘alternative facts’.

I hope that your 2017 has got off to a great start and wish you success for the rest of the year.