Building on the strong economic climate with high financial market activities and business volumes, SEB achieved its best result so far. The efforts to improve productivity and establish a more competitive long-term cost-base are gradually yielding result. In last year's buoyant business climate, revenues were up by SEK 4.5bn, or 13 per cent, whilst costs increased by 2 per cent. Return on equity reached 20.8 per cent.
Improved pro-activity towards customers strengthened SEB's position as a financial advisor where commissions, including net life insurance income, generated nearly 50 per cent of total revenues. Strong markets and intensified customer activities led to higher operating profit in all divisions. Profit growth was particularly strong within Merchant Banking, Eastern European Banking and Life, with operating results increasing in the region of 40 to 65 per cent.
Several steps were taken during the past year to realise the full potential of SEB's attractive platform with a diversified business-mix around the Baltic rim. SEB has narrowed its strategy to a full universal banking offering in Sweden, the Baltic countries and Germany and a more focused offering in other markets.
SEB has laid out a roadmap to integrated businesses and common support functions. A Group-wide programme to improve operational excellence, the SEB Way, has been launched. It includes installing streamlined processes, sharing knowledge and encouraging a culture of continuous improvement.
Strengthened customer offerings and increased efficiency are key priorities in order to facilitate further profit growth. This work will continue in 2007.