NAB profit soars above $6b for FY21 as investment in digital continues to pay off

Australia's black and red bank managed to keep expenses low and investment levels steady, allowing it to more than double last year's net profit.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

National Australia Bank (NAB) has posted net profit of AU$6.36 billion for the 2021 full year, more than doubling what it recorded last financial year.

Full-year cash earnings came in nearly 39% higher than last year to AU$6.56 billion.

Meanwhile, investment levels hovered just below AU$1.3 billion, which were similar levels to FY20. This helped the bank limit FY21 cost growth to 1.8%, which NAB said was consistent with its 0-2% target for the year.

"Execution of our strategy is delivery good momentum with lending up 6% in FY21, while FY21 expense growth of 1.8% is consistent with our target of 0-2% (excluding large notable items) and reflects a balance between cost discipline and investing for growth. We continue to target lower absolute costs over 3-5 years relative to the FY20 base of AU$7.7 billion," NAB boss Ross McEwan said.

The company outlined that during the full year it managed to continue to simplify, automate, and digitise the banking experience. This included finalising the acquisition of 86 400 to accelerate the growth of its digital bank brand UBank, and increasing the use of data and analytics to personalise the customer and colleague experience.

Quickbiz for small business lending was also introduced to enable application through to cash disbursement within 20 minutes, which NAB said resulted in a 7% year-on-year increase in SME business lending.

NAB added it simplified and streamlined its home lending policies, rolled out digital application and decisioning tools, and enhanced the ability for customers to self-serve via the NAB app.

"These initiatives are delivering quicker, better outcomes for customers and colleagues during a period of significant increase in application volumes and approximately 30% faster unconditional approval times," the bank said.

"Our Simple Home Loans digital application platform has been a key driver of those outcome, enabling simple lending to be originated far more seamlessly. Applications eligible to be submitted through the platform have risen to approximately 80% for our propriety network over FY21, with rollout to broker and business and private banking channels planned for FY22."

As the bank continues to focus on digital initiatives, earlier this year, NAB announced plans to close more of its physical bank branches across the country as more customers choose to bank online. While the bank did not disclose how many branches would be closed, it noted that "in some areas" branches would no longer exist. Instead, the company plans to focus its attention on its digital platform.

NAB executive retail Krissie Jones said that NAB would place 280 additional staff into assisting customers with phone and digital banking enquiries and operations roles.

An additional 134 new small business bankers are also being recruited to be based in regional locations, including Warragul, Victoria; Albany, Western Australia; Lismore, New South Wales; Rockhampton, Queensland; Toowoomba, Queensland, she added.

Looking ahead, the bank said the target for next year would be to keep levels of costs and investment spend "broadly flat". It outlined the key focus areas of spend for FY22 would include progressing work on a single mortgage factory, continued cloud migration, uplifting its merchant offering, enhanced use of data and analytics, and ongoing investment in cyber and financial crime prevention.

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