As the rollercoaster of Brexit politics and uncertainty played out, Triodos took affirmative action to ensure the stability of the UK business as our existing passporting arrangement from the Netherlands looked to be coming to an end. We secured a new UK banking licence to operate Triodos Bank UK Ltd as a subsidiary company, effective from 1 May 2019, ensuring the continuity of services to our UK customers. We remain 100% owned by Triodos Bank N.V. and will operate as one European bank.

The UK economy saw underlying GDP growth slow in 2019 as weaker global growth and Brexit-related uncertainties weighed on businesses and consumers. We still managed to grow our total loan book to GBP 976 million (EUR 1,152 million), an increase of 12% on 2018 and grow overall customers numbers to 61,000, up 14% on the previous year. Customer deposits increased to GBP 1,156 million (2018: GBP 1,073 million).

Triodos Bank UK Ltd has a healthy liquidity surplus, with a Liquidity Coverage Ratio at 506%, a long way above the regulatory minimum of 100%. Capital or Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio finished the year at 20.3%, significantly above the UK regulatory minimum capital level of 12.51%.

Among the many highlights of the year was the launch of a new Creative Growth Finance fund to support the UK creative sector, lending to RSPB to help install renewable energy projects across its nature reserves and significantly expanding our funding support of SMEs who struggle to access conventional finance. Our specialist smaller loans team also increased the number of impactful loans to sustainable businesses. We remain committed to diversifying our lending to increase social, cultural and environmental impact.

The unexpected drama of Brexit was only matched by a spectacular increase in the urgency of the debate about climate change and environmental issues – with the UK at the heart of the Extinction Rebellion movement and seeing huge uptake in the school climate strikes. In this context, we are a very important part of the UK’s banking landscape.

We joined a number of businesses highlighting the gravity of the climate emergency and hoping to encourage urgent action and debate. We launched a retail marketing campaign ‘Change your Bank, Change the World‘ to inspire people to consider new research revealing the volume invested into fossil fuels by mainstream UK banks since the Paris Climate Agreement. Our campaign was backed by celebrity customers of the bank and NGOs, such as Friends of the Earth.

Much of our growth in customer numbers came from our personal current account that is still relatively new in the market. It has been rated by Ethical Consumer magazine as the most sustainable personal current account in the UK, an inspiring alternative to the dominant, large banks. Strong media coverage through the year delivered some important messages and challenges within it – particularly regarding the myth of ‘free’ banking and the democratic power of money.

Our investment funds, managed by Triodos Investment Management, were recognised in a number of UK awards including ‘Best Sustainable Investment Fund’ at the Investment Week Sustainable & ESG Investment Awards and for ‘Best ESG reporting’ in the Environmental Finance awards. In the UK, sales of the funds were approximately GBP 20.8 million (2018: GBP 16 million).

Meanwhile direct impact investment opportunities were made available to everyday investors on our crowdfunding platform. We raised over GBP 8 million in 2019 for a number of high impact organisations, including community benefit societies and social enterprises.

To grow our community we undertook marketing activity at the Hay Festival, Abergavenny Food Festival and the Festival of Economics. Support was provided to the launch of the Thriving Places Index, a groundbreaking new system measuring our true prosperity. To support broader work on diversity and inclusion, several UK co-workers joined in support of local PRIDE events.

Our work with the UK Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fair Business Banking developed a launch event for the UN Principles for Responsible Banking at the Houses of Parliament and continued a push to progress the debate around the social purpose of banks. We supported the UK Department for International Development’s National Conversation initiative with an event hosted in Bristol. Their report ‘Investing in a Better World’ was published in November and featured Triodos Bank as a case study.

In 2020, we will continue to manage our smooth transition to the new subsidiary operation and some new ways of working, including with our new UK Board. The focus will be working with our trusted partners and on mission impact and delivery - including a celebration of our 25th anniversary of operating in the UK. Thought leadership on a range of topics will progress our Change Finance agenda. We hope that COP 26 taking place in Glasgow in November will provide a platform to further promote the role of responsible banking.

Bevis Watts
CEO, Triodos Bank UK

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