Comments from the CEO
A record-breaking year
After a trading intensive ending of a volatile year on the stock markets, we can summarize 2015 as our strongest year ever, both in terms of profit and growth. With 23,700 new customers in the fourth quarter and 96,400 for the entire year, we exceeded last year's record growth of 54,700 new customers by far.
Despite uncertainty on the market, net inflow increased by 25 per cent to a record-breaking SEK 25 billion. During the period October 2014 – September 2015 Avanza’s share of the total net inflow to the Swedish savings market was 8.8 per cent, significantly higher than our long-term target of 7 per cent. Bolstered by the robust customer growth and several key product launches during the year, we also strengthened our market shares in trading. During 2015 Avanza was the largest Swedish bank on the Stockholm Stock Exchange in terms of number of transactions, and became, for the first time, the largest Swedish bank by volume in the final quarter of the year. The market share on the Stockholm Stock Exchange and First North during the fourth quarter was a record high 13.1 per cent in terms of number of transactions. These developments serve as confirmation that we have succeeded in establishing Avanza as the leading trading platform on the market.
Operating profit increased by 64 per cent in spite of pressure in net interest income
Backed up by the strong net inflow of customers and capital, savings capital increased by 35 per cent over the full year. In tandem with the high level of trading activity, this contributed to an increase of 33 per cent to operating income. This comes despite a decline in net interest income in the wake of the reduced repo rate. During the fourth quarter, which saw both upturns and downturns on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, we recorded our best ever result for net brokerage. The increase in net brokerage for the full year amounted to fully 67 per cent. Corporate Finance also enjoyed a positive conclusion to the season with a high level of activity - this illustrates the power of our growing customer base, which serves as an excellent platform for a cost-efficient distribution of ownership.
Continued good cost control, with improved scalability and continued efficiency enhancements, entailed that the cost to savings capital ratio decreased by 16 per cent, from 31 to 26 basis points. At the same time, the operating margin for the full year increased from 43 to 53 per cent. For me, this represents clear evidence of the strength and scalability of our business model. We are also more well-capitalised than we have been for a considerable time, with a capital ratio of 18.3 per cent – compared with the requirement of 11.5 per cent.
Considering the developments outlined above, the Board of Directors proposes a dividend of SEK 10.50 per share, in line with our policy of distributing a minimum of 70 per cent of profits to our shareholders.
Sweden's most satisfied savers for the sixth consecutive year
Customer satisfaction is and will always be our main focus, and it was with great pleasure we, in December, received the Swedish Quality Index’s award for "Sweden's Most Satisfied Customers" in the savings category, for the sixth consecutive year. Moreover, Avanza earned the highest rating in all sub-categories, as well as setting new records in both satisfaction and loyalty. The results of the “Reputation Barometer” survey in November also show that Avanza benefits from the highest level of trust among all banks in Sweden. In my opinion, these achievements demonstrate that we have overseen the intense growth rate during the year without compromising on either quality or service, and that our work to create a better alternative for the savers in Sweden is bearing fruit.
As the country's leading digital platform for savings and investments, we aim to offer our customers the market's best digital experience in combination with the market's lowest fees. One hygiene factor is the operational reliability of our systems, which was elevated to 99.96 per cent during the year. Before summer, we launched a new mobile platform, meeting the increased demand from customers for mobile services. The new mobile apps had 279,000 users at year-end and, during the fourth quarter, a total of 53 per cent of all logins took place via mobile devices. In conjunction with the launch, we also lowered the minimum brokerage for trading in US shares to a market leading USD 1 per transaction. Savings in mutual funds are increasing in popularity. In 2015 we launched the first version of our Portfolio Generator, which enables our customers to create their own well-allocated, five star portfolio of mutual funds in just a few clicks. Also new for the year is Avanza Markets, offering brokerage-free trade in commercial paper with Bull & Bear certificates and Mini-Futures with high transparency and liquidity.
Focus areas in 2016
Our three focus areas for 2016 are maintaining strong growth rate, to further develop our digital decision support tools to appeal to broader customer segments, and additional efficiency enhancements to further improve scalability and quality. Consequently, we are further augmenting our digitalisation and our mobile platforms, as well as our offerings in pensions and Private Banking. From January, we will re-organize our Private Banking organisation, to be able to better support an ever increasing number of customers. Maintaining our competitiveness while continuing on the path of strong, robust growth, without compromising on quality, is essential in our mission towards better, simpler and cheaper alternatives for the savers in Sweden.
From 2016, we will change our long-term growth target for customer growth to at least 10 per cent of the customer base at the beginning of the year. A target that grows with time, unlike our previous static growth target.
Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude to all of our amazing employees for their hard work during the year. This will be my final Preliminary Financial Statement for Avanza and I look forward to putting all my energy into an exciting final six months as CEO.
Stockholm, 21 January 2016
Martin Tivéus, CEO Avanza