Ulster Bank has reported pre-tax profits of £18m for 2019 with profitability hit by investment and the refund of interest to businesses.
The bank said it had seen a 12% increase in new corporate lending, and an 8% growth in new small business lending.
It had total income of £189m, with £153m operating costs, while profit before impairments and tax was £36m.
The bank said the figures reflect most but not all of the profits generated in Northern Ireland by Ulster Bank, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group.
The bank has 44 branches in Northern Ireland.
Mark Crimmins, head of Northern Ireland for Ulster Bank, said: “This has been a solid year for Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, with a strong underlying business performance allied to significant and visible investment in the bank to enable us to provide even-better service to our customers.
“Despite a challenging external environment and subdued borrowing appetite from businesses, we increased corporate lending in 2019 by 12% and saw a 8% increase in small business drawdowns. Supporting customers to own their own home also continues to be a strong priority for Ulster Bank, and in 2019, for instance, we opened more than 10,000 Help to Buy Isas to help customers save for a deposit.”
Ulster Bank recently announced the creation of over 100 new contact centre jobs and a multi-million pound refurbishment of its Belfast headquarters as it shifts its contact centre from Danesfort in south Belfast.
But it said the investment — along with a voluntary refund of interest to some businesses — had hit profitability.
However, the bank said its underlying performance was “solid in a challenging environment”.
Royal Bank of Scotland also announced it will undergo a rebrand in the first major decision by new chief executive Alison Rose, changing its name to NatWest Group plc.
Bosses said the move was because 80% of customers bank with the NatWest brand, rather than through RBS branches, adding that it will have no impact on customers or staff.