Nationwide books £100m hit from coronavirus as profits plunge

Nationwide reported a 40% fall in profit as it booked a hit of more than £100 million from the coronavirus pandemic.

The building society said that underlying profit before tax dropped to £469 million in the year ending April 4. It was £788 million the year before.

It came on underlying income of just over £3 billion, down around 4%.

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The company had already been seeing pressure on its profits from its investment in technology and payouts for payment protection insurance (PPI) before booking a £101 million hit from Covid-19.

“While the coronavirus impacted our profitability in the last few weeks of the year, there was pressure on margins even before it hit,” said chief executive Joe Garner.

The business has allowed its mortgage holders to apply for payment holidays to help them through the economic downturn.

On a call with reporters on Friday morning, Mr Garner said that many people will have applied for a holiday out of caution.

“Probably the very first people to apply would be those who are really on top of their financial position and we know there are a lot of people who have taken them as a precaution, and will go back to paying in full at the first opportunity,” he said.

Around 280,000 customers have taken a payment holiday with Nationwide, a “vast majority” of which are for mortgages.

The building society has also promised that no-one will lose their home in the next 12 months because of the impact of coronavirus.

The crisis has also enabled people to save more.

While some current account holders are struggling, having seen their income reduced, others are able to put more away because they are spending less by staying at home.

“People who are working and are being paid as normal, they’re just able to spend less,” said Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s chief product and marketing officer.

“People have very front of mind now about why it’s important to save,” she added.

While the property market has taken a serious hit, having dropped by around half according to government statistics, the market is starting to stabilise, Nationwide said.

People are also starting to think about how working from home changes where they want to live.

“We can see people start to factor in that ‘maybe if I’m going to be working from home more, that’s going to influence my choice of home’, and that means different things for different people,” Mr Garner said.