Awards for Excellence 2022: Best bank in Singapore – UOB
Best Bank: UOB
UOB combined a strong year with a sense of vision about its future.
Last year, we recognized UOB’s fastidious ability to support its small and medium-sized enterprise client book through Covid, and over the past 12 months we have seen that forbearance and client knowledge translate into an impressive bounce. UOB’s S$4.1 billion ($3 billion) net profit was up 40% year on year, with return on equity up to 10.2% and records across the board: net fee and commission income up 21% to S$2.4 billion, record wealth management fees, 10% loan growth.
Underpinning it all was asset quality with a 37 basis-point improvement in credit costs on loans, to just 20 basis points, and non-performing loan ratios steady at 1.6%. Senior managers believe that despite new geopolitical and inflationary pressures, most of their clients are out of the woods now and no important further impairment is expected. UOB played the pandemic about as well as it could have.
There is a great deal else happening – a conversation with UOB involves so much more discussion of sustainability than it ever used to, with programmes of real substance underway – and its digital presence is going from strength to strength in Singapore and across southeast Asia.
On that point, although UOB’s acquisition of Citi’s consumer finance businesses in four southeast Asian markets does not yet factor into our regional categories until it is approved and bedded in, the sense of ambition in that acquisition deserves comment. It will double UOB’s retail base in four markets and move its existing strategy five years ahead of schedule. It was a bold move and it looks like a smart one.
UOB chief executive Wee Ee Cheong has made one of the biggest calls of his career with the Citi acquisition.
DBS had a record year and was in most respects exceptional, but its censure from the regulator for its digital outage weighs against it this year.