2021 was a year of highs and lows – for ING’s customers and staff alike. The much desired return to the office in the fall turned out to be very short-lived. The coronavirus began to surge once again towards the end of the year and many gatherings and celebrations had to be cancelled. ING had planned a series of smaller end-of-year get-togethers to celebrate the achievements of its staff, who had been so committed to serving customers throughout these challenging times. “I am convinced that these small gestures, rightly baptised Happy Weeks, are what make ING a great place to work and repeatedly earn us labels such as TOP Employer and Happy Trainees,” commented Mrs Dierick. The Bank was awarded the label Happy Trainees in 2021 for the eighth consecutive year.
There were also economic challenges including supply chain pressures, the persistent low-interest-rate environment in euro, rising energy prices and inflation. Still, already in 2021, ING identified positive signs of economic recovery, like increased lending volumes and a strong growth in fee income.
Diversifying sources of income has been a priority in the low-interest-rate environment and net fee income increased by 22.5% in 2021. Paired with a solid commercial and financial performance, the Bank achieved record income levels of EUR 338 million. ING recorded an underlying net result of EUR 120 million (+ 33%) and managed to keep the cost-income ratio at 53% (improvement of 4% compared to 2020). ING’s solvency ratio remained strong at 24%, well above the regulatory minimum, as did its return on equity (11%).
The coronavirus pandemic has also had an influence in the way customers interact with their bank, turning to mobile for their daily banking needs: in 2021 93% of ING’s customer had adopted My ING and almost half accessed it via a mobile device. ING reviewed it’s servicing model for Retail Banking in 2021, adapting the opening hours of its branch network and reinforcing centralized teams for specific needs: personal banking for investment needs, business banking for SME and self-employed, and a contact center for servicing and support.
For the second year in a row, ING won "Best Private Bank in Luxembourg" at the Global Private Banking Awards 2021 (Professional Wealth Management and The Banker), a testament to ING’s efforts in continuously training staff to guide customers through the various portfolio management, lending and estate planning solutions available. The strong performance of mortgages and asset management in 2021 led to higher income than in 2020 in Private Banking.
ING Solutions Investment Management (abbreviated ISIM), the Luxembourg management company of ING, continued its strong growth spurt surpassing EUR 30 billion in assets under management last year. It currently manages out of Luxembourg funds that are distributed in 5 European countries. ING Lease, a subsidiary of the bank, kept a stable portfolio and solid financial performance in 2021.
Despite the health crisis, Wholesale Banking reported a record performance in 2021 across all its activities: lending, payment and cash management and securities services. The financial result benefitted from the evolution of exchange rates (USD and GBP).
ING’s balance sheet grew considerably in 2021 to EUR 23.3 billion following large deposit inflows in Wholesale Banking. Lending to clients rose by EUR 0.3 billion, or 4%, higher than the growth realised in 2020. For Retail and Private Banking, mortgage loans grew by EUR 0.2 billion to a year end level of EUR 3.5 billion. ING remained resilient throughout the still peculiar year 2021. The increased costs linked to investments in risk management and tech were compensated by savings in other areas.