We have just closed the door on a very busy year in Sparebanken Møre. The profit after tax of NOK 574 million confirms that we have once again delivered a very solid annual result.
At a time when there are many predictions about the future of banks and technological developments increase the chances of customer loyalties changing, we believe it is more important than ever to offer good customer experiences. As a local bank with 30 branches in 24 municipalities in the county, we believe we can do precisely that.
Important social responsibility
While a number of industries can look back on a busy period and good results in 2016, the low oil prices presented challenges for oil-related industries. Even though Sparebanken Møre's exposure is low and the quality of our portfolio in this sector is high, there is no doubt that as a regional bank we have been affected. Laying the groundwork for jobs, value creation and good living conditions in our county is an important part of our corporate social responsibility. This work affected the Bank throughout the whole of last year.
It has been our experience that in such situations relationships and local knowledge are very important management tools. We know the people and local communities and we know the companies and the industries. We can easily visit our customers if something needs to be discussed or we can invite them in for a chat. This is knowledge that allows us to see more than just the figures. Customers constantly tell us how much they appreciate this.
Last year was also characterised by structural changes in the banking sector and new payment solutions, regulations, and competitors have seen the light of day. There is little doubt that technological developments are a key driver of change and development in our industry, and nor is there any doubt that it is the actors who successfully apply technology effectively that manage to position themselves as leaders.
We need to survey customer needs constantly and develop in line with society as a whole, and as a self-owned savings bank that makes local decisions we are able to change tack quickly. The time when good digital solutions were something one chose to focus on is long gone. User-friendly, digital banking services have become a matter of course for customers and are a key prerequisite if we are to remain competitive.
It is what we can offer in addition to this that gives us our identity and helps create extra value for the customers' experiences in their contact with us.
A new survey conducted by PwC shows that 60% of good customer experiences are due to competent employees. This is no great surprise, but at the same time it confirms the importance of having the right people in place. Skills are a high priority in Sparebanken Møre and 2016 was a very busy year for our in-house training academy, Møreskolen.
Among other things we were a driving force behind, and contributors to, the new national authorisation scheme for credit that was introduced in January this year. Just after New Year, we became the first bank in Norway to carry out the first ordinary knowledge test and so far this year 46 of our colleagues can now call themselves authorised credit advisers. We set clear skills requirements for each employee and have over time systematically built up a strong knowledge culture. The feedback from the staff clearly shows that they are motivated and understand the value of further developing their skills. This is an important prerequisite for both speed and development.
2017 will be a special year for me. After 20 years as the chief executive of Sparebanken Møre I will be retiring on 1 April. At the start of my last year as the CEO, it is therefore very satisfying to be able to say that the Bank is well-equipped for both the opportunities and the challenges that will come along.
Of course, changed customer behaviour and new competitors and framework conditions could make things challenging for local and regional banks in the future. However, I seriously believe that it is the quality and expertise of those who work in the Bank that will ultimately be decisive.
Tailored advice, local knowledge, and personal service are important parts of our DNA today. And they will continue to be. We must maintain the advantages that provide the basis for our existence and we must continue to convert them into good experiences for our customers.
Olav Arne Fiskerstrand