A personal message from Alan Hughes, Chairman of Unity Trust Bank
2019 was a very good year for Unity: your Bank’s pre-tax profit rose by a healthy 34% to £9.1 million Unity’s highest ever; our lending, all of it to firms and organisations that deliver social benefits, rose by 31% to £478 million, also a record; the ‘net-asset’ value of the Bank rose to £3.80 per share, up from £3.36 a year ago.
Total shareholders’ equity increased to £85 million, up from £75 million a year ago. Our ‘Return on Equity’ ratio (after-tax profits as a % of average shareholders’ equity) rose to a healthy 9.9% in 2019, up from 8.8% a year ago. Further details, including key performance trends, is in our 2019 Annual Report and Accounts, available from our website: www.unity.co.uk/financial-profile/
Unity was founded 35 years ago by trade unions for the common good. This remains our purpose today. Our 2019 Social Impact Report is published alongside our Annual Accounts. It describes the way we help to create a better society. This too is available from our website: www.unity.co.uk/social-impact-2019.
At the time of writing this the outlook is unusually uncertain. External unknowns include the worsening health situation; the instability and disruption in international trading relations; the terms of future trade with the EU and the disruption those changes will bring; what to expect from the new UK Government; the limitations of monetary policy with interest rates back at the lower bound of 0.25%. This combination of much heightened risks causes us to take even greater care with the Bank’s assets, people and customers. It does not affect our purpose.
Your Directors’ priority is to continue to serve and support customers through any short-term disruption and to protect the sustainability of your Bank into the future, whatever the head-winds. We will continue to pursue growth, but only our ‘safe-growth’ that is particularly important for these uncertain times.
Unity’s reputation and social impact is growing. We believe it will increase further as we become better known. We are investing in our services and technology to make Unity easier and more convenient for customers.
Dividend and AGM
We do not seek excessive returns but to be a force for good that benefits all those who share an interest in us or deal with us. For shareholders this means a dividend policy that is progressive: for regular dividends that grow in line with the Bank’s performance, whilst protecting its future sustainability. 2019’s result helps us to do this. We believe the right balance between our dividend policy and the current highly uncertain context is still to pay a dividend from 2019’s excellent performance, but to maintain it at 4.25p per share to conserve resources. This will be our recommendation to you at the AGM in May.
Employees will receive a profit share of 7% of salary in recognition of their contribution, also in line with last year.
Our 2020 AGM will be on Thursday 14 May 2020. Our CEO Margaret and I hope many of you will be able to attend, either in person or virtually, which we will arrange for. We look forward to hearing your views and answering any questions you may have. (A formal notice will follow.)
Finally, I could not send this letter without mentioning the terribly sad news of the sudden and untimely death of Ed Sabisky earlier this month. Ed served as a director of Unity since 2014. He was a force of nature. He made an outstanding contribution to Unity as well as being a considerable asset to Unite as its Finance Director. All our thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time.
Thank you for your support. Without it we could not help our socially minded customers deliver the benefits they do.
Alan Hughes, Chairman
17 March 2020