Overview of financial results

Group results

Standard Bank Group Limited (SBG or group) headline earnings for the twelve months to 31 December 2021 (FY21) rebounded by 57% to R25.0 billion, driven by a recovery in client activity, an improvement in client balance sheets and real growth in our underlying franchise. Return on equity (ROE) improved to 13.5% (FY20: 8.9%). Revenue grew by 5% and pre-provision operating profit grew by 5%, both with double digit growth in the second half of the year (2H21 on 2H20). Net asset value grew by 13% and the group ended the year with a common equity tier one ratio of 13.8% (31 December 2020: 13.2%). The Board approved a final dividend of 511 cents per share. This equates to a dividend payout ratio of 55% for the full year.

Despite the pandemic-related disruptions, the group made significant strategic progress across several areas in 2021. The group’s three client segments delivered client franchise growth, expanded their leading market positions and delivered an improved client experience. Our Banking solutions recorded a strong recovery, with headline earnings up 62% year on year. Our Investment and Insurance solutions grew headline earnings by 11% and by 3% respectively, supported by assets under management and policy base growth. The group retained its position as the third largest asset manager on the continent. We made good progress in building out our new revenue streams and scaling our digital payments, platforms and partnerships. We continued to simplify our business and invest in our people, our systems, our digital solutions and our data management, all while maintaining good cost discipline. The Liberty Holdings Limited (Liberty) minority buyout, announced in July 2021, was successfully completed and Liberty delisted on 1 March 2022.

Standard Bank Activities’ (group excluding ICBC Standard Bank Plc (ICBCS) and Liberty Holdings Limited (Liberty)) revenue grew by 5% year on year and by 12% in the second six months of the year (2H21 on 2H20). Pressure on net interest income (NII) from negative endowment faded, activity-related fees continued to recover, and trading revenue remained robust. Revenue growth exceeded cost growth, resulting in positive jaws of 54 basis points. Credit impairment charges declined by 52% but remained above pre-pandemic levels. Standard Bank Activities recorded headline earnings growth of 59% to R24.9 billion and ROE recovered to 14.7% (FY20: 9.6%).

Liberty showed progress operationally but was negatively impacted by excess claims and a pandemic provision top-up. ICBCS benefited from attractive market conditions and client flows.

The group’s South African business, The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited, bounced back strongly. Headline earnings increased by 172% and ROE recovered to 12.5%. Revenue grew double digits, boosted by higher trading and other revenues up 31% and 67% respectively. Credit charges more than halved and costs were well contained to deliver positive jaws of 198 basis points. Our Africa Regions franchise delivered strong top line growth in local currency terms. Inflation and weaker currencies in key markets dampened translated earnings growth. Revenue growth from ongoing client acquisition, balance sheet growth and improved activity was offset by higher costs driven by inflation and investment in our digital lending and payment solutions.

Africa Regions headline earnings declined by 2% (grew by 6% in constant currency) and ROE remained accretive at 18.2%. Africa Regions’ contribution to FY21 group headline earnings was 36%. The top six contributors to Africa Regions’ headline earnings remained Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda.

Operating environment

From a global perspective, 2021 can be summarised as a recovery year. The global economy grew by 5.9%, a vast improvement from the 3.1% decline in 2020. Covid-19 restrictions were rolled back, demand increased, and economic activity bounced back. Equity markets rallied. New virus variants, supply disruptions, and policy uncertainty drove inflation fears and bouts of volatility. Climate change is a global threat, a message that was amplified during COP26 held in November 2021.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the recovery was more muted and differed across our countries of operation. Vaccination rates, while low, did start to rise in 2H21 as access to vaccines improved. Commodity-exporting economies benefited from high prices driven by strong demand. Oil-dependent economies grew, but at a slower pace. Interest rates increased in Ghana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia.

The South African economy grew by 4.9%. The recovery was disrupted by waves of infection, persistent electricity disruptions and social unrest. The unrest that took place in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng in July was a harsh reminder of South Africa’s societal flaws, including the unsustainably high level of unemployment. While the financial impact of the unrest on our business was limited, it disrupted our operations and knocked broader confidence. The fiscus benefited from commodity-related windfall tax collection, enabling the continued funding of social grants. There was some progress on structural reforms, namely electricity and spectrum, however implementation remains slow.

Overview of performance

Standard Bank Activities by client segment

Client segments is our primary axis of reporting. The client segments are responsible for designing and executing the client value proposition strategy.

HEADLINE EARNINGS BY CLIENT SEGMENT

CHNW headline earnings improved by 127% to R6 890 million and ROE increased to 13.9% (FY20: 6.3%). Robust balance sheet growth, particularly home loans in South Africa and unsecured loans in Africa Regions, supported net interest income. A growing client franchise, increased client activity and higher client spend supported non-interest revenue. Credit charges declined by 36% as client repayments increased and collections strategies bore fruit. Client experience scores improved.

BCC delivered headline earnings of R5 284 million, an increase of 25% on FY20, and an ROE of 24.5% (FY20: 19.4%). Net interest income growth is reflective of strong balance sheet growth which more than offset negative endowment headwinds. Non-interest revenue growth emanated from the recovery of trade and client transactional volumes in FY21. Credit impairment charges declined by 37%, driven primarily by lower charges in South Africa.

CIB headline earnings increased by 43% to R13 397 million and ROE improved to 19.6% (FY20: 13.8%). Revenue grew by 5% to end the year at a record high. Prior year fair value equity losses reversed, and market volatility provided trading revenue opportunities. A lower average balance sheet, driven by ZAR strength and client repayments, combined with competitive pricing led to a 4% decline in net interest income. The absence of new non-performing loans, combined with the successful restructuring and repayments of previously impaired advances, led to a net impairment release.

Standard Bank Activities by solution

For the purposes of our secondary reporting axis, we group products and services into banking, insurance and investments.

HEADLINE EARNINGS BY SOLUTION

Banking solutions

Banking solutions headline earnings improved considerably, up 62% period on period. The franchise grew clients and balances, and transactional and account activity improved relative to FY20.

The group has leading market shares in mortgages, card and deposits in South Africa. In addition, the group holds top 3 positions (based on deposits) in Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Loans and advances

Gross loans and advances to customers grew by 9% driven by strong growth in home loans and double digit growth in vehicle and asset finance (VAF) and personal unsecured and business loans. Appetite to grow our card portfolio remained limited. Low interest rates drove strong demand. In South Africa, gross loans to customers grew by 6%. We pro-actively adjusted affordability criteria and managed risk appetite to take advantage of opportunities presented. CHNW disbursements reached record levels in 1H21 and our portfolio risk profile improved. In Africa Regions, a larger client base, our innovative digital scoring capability (now available in nine countries) and digital onboarding (now available in seven countries) drove growth. The CIB lending portfolio, including high quality liquid assets, grew year on year driven by an uptick in origination and corporate demand, in 2H21.

In 2020, we extended R130 billion in client relief to our CHNW and BCC customers. By 31 December 2021, the CHNW active client relief portfolio had reduced to R225 million and the expired client relief portfolio was performing well, with more than 85% making full or partial payment. The BCC active client relief portfolio had reduced to R434 million and the expired portfolio was performing in line with expectations.

Total provisions increased by 3% relative to 31 December 2020, largely as a result of additional provisions raised on the VAF and card portfolios. As at 31 December 2021, stage 3 loans represented 4.7% of the portfolio and provisions held against these loans increased to 52% (31 December 2020, 5.5% and 46% respectively).

Deposits and funding

Total deposits grew by 9%, underpinned by double digit growth in current and savings account balances as well as call, term and other deposit. Retail-priced deposits grew by 11% reflective of the success of targeted campaigns. Wholesale-priced deposits grew by 9%. Africa Regions deposits from customers grew by 14% (CCY), underpinned by a larger client base. Deposits placed with our offshore operations in the Isle of Man and Jersey totalled GBP6.5 billion as at 31 December 2021 (31 December 2020: GBP5.5 billion).

The group continued to leverage our Sustainable Bond Framework and issued Social Bonds equating to R3.5 billion earmarked for mortgage loans in the affordable housing target market, with a focus on women borrowers, and a R1.4 billion Green Bond earmarked for renewable energy assets.

Revenue

Revenue grew by 5%, supported by net interest income growth of 2% and non-interest revenue growth of 8%. Net interest income growth resumed in 2H21 on the back of higher average balances and higher margins. Negative endowment equated to R1.9 billion in the year (FY20: R 7.4 billion). Net interest margin increased by 3 basis points to 373 basis points.

Net fee and commission income increased by 4% as client activity levels and transactional volumes improved relative to FY20. In South Africa, the negative impact of pricing adjustments to ATM and cash transaction fees, the discontinuation of cheques as well as the continued migration to digital channels, was more than offset by client growth and higher transaction volumes. Digital transaction fees recorded double digit growth as we expanded our digital functionality and clients embraced our innovative, convenient digital solutions. Growth in our active merchant account base and point of sale devices combined with higher spending drove higher card acquiring and issuing turnover respectively.

Trading revenue remained above pre-pandemic trend, growing by 7% year on year to R14.8 billion. The South African trading business recorded a strong performance, driven by structured trades and foreign exchange client sales. This more than offset a decline in Africa Regions, which came off a high base in FY20. Other revenue recorded double digit growth as improved economic conditions drove higher dividend and investment income. Other gains and losses benefited from the partial reversal of prior year equity revaluation losses.

Credit impairment charges

Credit impairment charges declined by 52% to R9.9 billion. Customer risk profiles, collections and forward-looking assumptions improved. Charges on the client relief portfolio declined (particularly in CHNW), as positive repayment behaviour drove higher cures. CIB recorded a net release for the period. CIB client provisions were released as loans were successfully restructured and/or repaid. The credit loss ratio decreased to 73 basis points (FY20: 151 basis points).

Cost growth was well contained at 4%, resulting in positive jaws of 54 basis points and a banking cost-to-income ratio of 57.9%. Annual salary increases, higher performance-related incentives, and higher marketing costs were offset by lower professional fees, lower premises costs (as we rationalised our footprint) and lower depreciation. Discretionary spend remained tightly managed. Information technology costs increased by 3% following strict prioritisation and adoption of a “save to invest” philosophy. This, coupled with efficiencies delivered through our simplification journey and a conscious focus on reducing our dependency on third parties, allowed for investment to be prioritised in the acceleration of our cloud capabilities. Technology staff costs increased by 10% as we bolstered our skills base in key areas such as cloud, cyber security and data science. Inflation in certain Africa Regions countries drove up costs in CCY.

Insurance solutions

Standard Bank Group’s insurance business recorded a healthy growth in policies and gross written premium which supported revenue of R4.4 billion (up 5% year on year). The group is a significant player in the long-term insurance sector and the largest provider of credit insurance to the market. Our simple, digitally enabled funeral product continued to resonate with customers. We have sold over 1 million policies since its launch in 2020, now insuring over 4 million people’s lives. Overall claims increased on the back of pandemic-related credit and funeral claims, and higher short-term claims driven by increased economic activity and weather-related claims. Retrenchment claims remained lower than expectations at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority of insurance headline earnings are generated in South Africa. The Africa Regions insurance businesses are starting to deliver strong growth.

Investment solutions

Including Liberty, we are the third largest asset manager on the continent, with combined assets under management (AUM), administration and custody of R1.4 trillion. The group’s AUM excluding Liberty grew by 12% year on year, supported by positive market performance. In addition, AUM grew across all three regions – SA (+9%), African Regions (+14%) and International (+17%). Revenue grew by 2%, dampened by the stronger ZAR. In South Africa, AUM growth was strong on the back of a healthy market performance and increased sales through our Standard Bank Financial Consultancy business. Melville Douglas won the coveted Raging Bull Award for the best Offshore Management company in 2021. In addition, our Nigeria pension fund business continued to retain its leading market share and our Ghana institutional business continued to record strong net client cash flows.

Central and other

This segment includes costs associated with corporate functions and the group’s treasury and capital requirements that have not been otherwise allocated to the business units. The segment costs amounted to R631 million (FY20: R901 million).

Other banking interests

ICBCS’ operational performance improved, underpinned by favourable market conditions and increased client activity. In FY21, ICBCS recorded a profit of USD87 million (FY20: USD125 million, including a USD37 million insurance recovery). The group’s 40% share of earnings equated to USD35 million or R500 million post translation (FY20: R881 million). The stronger ZAR was a drag on translated earnings. In January 2022, ICBCS received a net insurance settlement of approximately USD230 million before tax, relating to a previous loss following a fire at a client’s oil refinery site and their subsequent bankruptcy. The group’s share thereof equates to R1.2 billion (post tax).

Liberty

The financial results reported are the consolidated results of the group’s 57% investment in Liberty, adjusted for Standard Bank Group shares held by Liberty for the benefit of Liberty policyholders which are deemed to be treasury shares in the group’s consolidated accounts.

Liberty’s normalised operating earnings for the year ended 31 December 2021 (excluding the Covid-19 pandemic impact) amounted to R1 349 million (FY20: R724 million). The improvement was driven primarily by the South Africa Insurance Operations. New business margin and value of new business improved but remained below pre-pandemic levels. Mortality experience exceeded expectations resulting in excess claims of R1.2 billion and an additional Covid-19 pandemic reserve of R1.8 billion (both post tax). Liberty recorded a headline loss of R112 million (FY20: loss of R1.5 billion) as excess claims and an additional Covid-19 pandemic reserve were partially offset by a recovery in the Shareholder Investment Portfolio. After adjusting for treasury shares, the group’s loss amounted to R419 million (FY20: loss of R0.7 billion). Liberty Group Limited remains well capitalised, with a Solvency Capital Requirement cover ratio of 1.72 times as at 31 December 2021.

Having successfully completed the buyout of the Liberty minorities, we have turned our attention to integration.

Profit attributable

There were no material headline adjustable items in FY21 and profit attributable to ordinary shareholders amounted to R24.9 billion.

Capital & Liquidity

The group’s capital position remains strong and provides the financial resources to continue to support our clients and drive our growth aspirations. As at 31 December 2021, the group’s CET1 ratio (including unappropriated profits) was 13.8% (31 December 2020, 13.2%) and total capital ratio was 16.9% (31 December 2020, 16.1%).

The Prudential Authority announced the reinstatement of the pillar 2A capital requirement effective from 1 January 2022. We continue to analyse the potential impact of the Basel III reform proposals on our capital adequacy ratios, the more significant of which are due to be implemented from 1 January 2023 with a phase-in period for certain aspects.

The group’s fourth quarter average Basel III liquidity coverage ratio amounted to 144%, well in excess of the temporarily reduced minimum regulatory requirement of 80%. Financial markets have largely normalised and as a result the South African Reserve Bank has withdrawn the temporary liquidity relief measures implemented in April 2020. The minimum liquidity coverage ratio will increase from 80% as at 31 December 2021 to 90% from 1 January 2022 and to 100% by 1 April 2022. The group’s net stable funding ratio was 122%, in excess of the 100% regulatory requirement.

During 2021, the group successfully raised Basel III compliant Additional tier I capital of R3.5 billion and tier II capital bonds of R3.2 billion.

Prospects

In 2022, global growth is expected to remain above trend and financing conditions are expected to tighten. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting global real GDP growth of 4.4% and 3.7% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Pent-up consumer demand should fuel spending and support trade. In many sub-Saharan economies, debt levels are high, and there will need to be a balance between fighting inflation and supporting the economic recovery. A broad hawkish bias is expected, with interest rate increases expected in Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia and possibly Angola.

South Africa’s economic rebound is expected to continue, albeit at a slower rate (SBG Research forecasts 2022 real GDP growth to be 2.0%) as policy stimulus fades and terms of trade retreat from the recent record highs. Inflation is expected to moderate, supporting a gradual rate hiking cycle. We expect three further 25 basis point increases over the course of the year. Persistent idiosyncratic risks remain, particularly electricity disruptions and high levels of unemployment. If structural reforms were accelerated, it could boost confidence, investment and drive faster growth.

ICBCS, as an emerging markets and commodities business, has exposure to certain entities which are being impacted, directly and indirectly, by the developments in Ukraine and Russia. ICBCS is responding to developments in line with its contingency plans. At this stage, given the uncertainties and fluid nature of the developments, it is not possible for ICBCS to assess the impact on its 2022 result.

In 2022, we expect higher average interest rates to support margins, which, together with higher average balance sheets, will support net interest income growth. Non-interest revenue will continue to grow as our larger client franchise and higher activity-related fees offset potentially lower trading revenues. We will maintain a continued focus on costs, in line with our “save to invest” principle, with the objective of delivering positive jaws. CIB’s credit impairment charges are expected to normalise. BCC’s credit loss ratio is expected to move down into its through-the-cycle range. The group’s credit loss ratio is expected to remain at the lower end of the group’s through-the-cycle range of 70 to 100 basis points. Deliberate resource allocation to higher ROE businesses, and further capital optimisation, will support a further recovery in group ROE.

The risks we face as a business are varied and complex, including climate risk. After extensive consultation internally and externally, we have a board-approved climate policy which will be published shortly. The policy includes short, medium and long-term targets and is aligned to our commitment to net zero by 2050. We recognise Africa’s social, economic and environmental development challenges and the need for a just transition and are purposeful in delivering a positive impact.

Together, Liberty and Standard Bank, represent a formidable competitor on the continent, with over 1.4 trillion in AUM and R73 billion in gross written premium across our short and long-term businesses. In 2022, our focus will be on integration. We have a plan and will be executing against it with urgency.

We are sincerely grateful to everyone across the Standard Bank Group, including our colleagues at Liberty, who have continued to serve our clients with excellence in challenging circumstances. We have come through this crisis stronger, more resilient, more agile, and more competitive than ever.

2022 has started with strong business momentum. We are confident we are on track to deliver against the 2025 targets laid out at our Strategic Update in August 2021.

The forecast financial information above is the sole responsibility of the board and has not been reviewed and reported on by the group’s auditors.

Sim Tshabalala

Group Chief Executive Officer

 Thulani Gcabashe

Chairman

11 March 2022