Bank of Ireland UK has reported an underlying profit before tax of £50m for 2020, down from £166m in 2019, after what it called an extraordinary year.

The Bank of Ireland UK supports about 2.5 million customers and includes an established financial services partnership and foreign exchange joint venture with the UK Post Office. 

It also has a long term partnership with the AA, which has been extended until 2028, as well as a UK mortgage business and a UK car, asset finance and leasing business, under the Northridge Finance and Marshall Leasing brands.

Bank of Ireland recently announced that it would close 15 of its Northern Ireland branches, leaving 13 open. 

It said today the outcome of its Northern Ireland strategic review responded to demand for digital banking and a smaller modernised branch network.

During the year, Bank of Ireland said its new gross lending came to £4.8 billion, down from £5.9 billion in 2019 which it said reflected focus on higher margin products while it maintaining lending quality.

New residential mortgages amounted to £3.1 billion for the year to the end of December, down from £3.6 billion in 2019.

The bank said efforts to support customers during the Covid-19 pandemic included a total of 70,000 payment breaks, while it also fast-tracked payments to all SME suppliers during thee pandemic. 

It was also involved in the £295m UK government-backed Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) funding to businesses.

Ian McLaughlin, Bank of Ireland UK's chief executive, said that 2020 was an extraordinary year. 

"We held our focus on improving the customer experience we provide, supported our customers through Covid-19 and Brexit and enhanced our relationships with our key brokers and partners." Mr McLaughlin said.

The bank CEO said that it completed a full review of its UK operation and have embarked on a multi-year restructuring programme.

"We are making good progress by taking the actions necessary to improve our return on capital by growing our lending in selected products, leveraging our areas of expertise and will continue to drive efficiencies through digital and operational improvements," he said. 

"Although the UK market remains highly competitive and challenging, we have a clear strategy for dealing with these challenges, and will execute our strategy with determination and pace. I very much look forward to unlocking the future potential for the business," he added.