The Major Australian banks have posted record profits before tax of $28.5 billion in 2010 compared to $22.6 billion in 2009, an increase of 26 percent. The results reflect a healthy local economy and prudent management of risks by the bank, as well as a modest increase in wealth management earnings due to improved share market returns.
While international competitors continue to deal with the impact of public sector deficits, increased unemployment and weak property markets which weigh on the economic outlook, the majors are capitalising on buoyant conditions in Australia and the region.
Despite record profit levels, the results do not represent record returns to shareholders. Return on equity of 15.9 percent is up on the 2009 return of 13.7 percent, but has not returned to pre crisis levels of in excess of 20 percent.
With the increased capital requirements being imposed on banks, the achievement of 20 percent plus return on equity will be a challenge.
Looking forward the key focus for the majors in 2011 will be finding the sources of growth in a market weighed down by regulatory change and increased government scrutiny.