In a very competitive market with low margins, we are delighted with the results achieved last year. We have focused strongly on development and improvement over time, and it is satisfying to see that we are succeeding.
Strong financial position
In recent years we have seen a major change in the Bank's general conditions. The authorities have laid down increasingly stringent and complicated requirements for banks' capital and liquidity. We share the view that financially sound banks are both vital and positive. At the same time we know that this will not happen by itself.
In order to meet the new requirements, it has been a priority area for us to ensure that the relationship between revenues and expenses is developing in the right direction. Sparebanken Møre has been operating cost-effectively for many years, and also in 2014 we achieved our internal targets by a good margin. In addition, the levels of losses and commitments in default were record low. That we were named the most creditworthy Norwegian bank by DNB Markets in November is recognition of the good work that has been carried out at all levels. The reward is an even more secure bank, which will bring benefits to the customers, ourselves and society.
However, it is not just our general conditions that have changed. Customer behaviour is also developing rapidly. We can no longer talk about the impending digital revolution; it has arrived – here and now. It is absolutely vital to our competitiveness that we identify ourselves with and adapt ourselves to the new customer requirements. Therefore during last year we implemented several measures to ensure that we can provide solutions that are future-oriented, automated and effective, both for the customers and ourselves.
Online meetings, BankID on mobile devices and the new online bank are among the solutions that have been placed on the agenda. Our work in the area of digital solutions is continuing apace this year, in order to ensure that we meet the needs of modern banking customers in the best possible way in the future as well.
At a time when there is a strong focus on automated solutions, we have a clear strategy that Sparebanken Møre will be proficient at digital solutions – while we will also be the best at providing personal service. For us it is not a goal to be a bank that is exclusively based on self-service solutions. We can continue to provide personal advisory services through 30 branches and over 400 capable experts in the Bank. This represents a key part of our identity, and also our great strength.
It means that neither new machines nor new technical solutions can replace what is and will be our most important resource going forward, namely the employees. Competitors may in principle provide the same technological solutions that we do, but cannot match the way in which we use our knowledge. I am convinced that our strong internal culture has been the key to achieving our good financial results. We will take care of it, and develop it further in the years ahead.
Driving force for development
The local communities in which the bank operates are the largest owners of Sparebanken Møre, and it is a deeply embedded aspect of our culture that these communities should benefit from the Bank's good financial results. It is proposed that NOK 136 million be allocated to local communities for 2015.
For many this figure is so large that it may be difficult to relate to. For us as corporate citizens it means that we can continue to be a driving force behind, and a participant in, the community of which we are a part, within culture, sports, talent development, education, research and business development.
Last year we saw that a football team wearing the Sparebanken Møre logo was once again victorious in the cup final. As the main sponsor of Molde, Aalesund and Hødd we have brought the gold cup home with us to Møre og Romsdal in as many as five of the last six years since 2009! It is undoubtedly positive for the Bank to be associated with teams that perform so well. However the motivation for our involvement is based on supporting the clubs' vital social responsibilities. They make a very important contribution to the local community, in the areas of volunteer work, recreational sports and the business sector.
We live in a county in which the economic outlook remains positive. Nonetheless there is little doubt that the coming years will be demanding. The banking market is very competitive and a high level of involvement, activity and flexibility are prerequisites for success. Thanks to our competent and committed employees we have positioned ourselves in the best possible way to deliver good banking services to individuals and businesses with connections to the county in 2015 as well.
Behind our record results stands an organisation that from its inception has developed and renewed itself to tackle new challenges, new requirements and new needs. And we will continue to do so. It is a work that calls for our unflagging commitment.