In 2015, faced with a complicated external environment while adhering to the targets and tasks set by the Board of Directors, the Management focused on the market, made structural adjustments, promoted reforms, and controlled risks. which resulted in stable growth in operating efficiency, overall controllable risk, and further structural adjustments and the Bank have maintained sound operating performance overall. Our net profit for the year reached RMB277,720 million, up by 0.5% from the previous year. In spite of the growth slowdown from a static view, given the macro background of a new normal in economical and financial development, the Bank’s operating results were in line with expectations and were hard-earned in a dynamic and dialectical perspective.
The operating results were achieved on top of a high base in light of mounting growth-related difficulties. The larger the total profit, the harder the growth will be. One percentage point growth in the Bank’s current net profit is equivalent to 1.7 percentage points five years ago or 7.3 percentage points a decade ago. Net profit of 2015 exceeded the aggregate of the 8 years after 2000. In addition, from the perspective of other indicators, pre-provision profit grew by 7.6% compared with last year; cost-to-income ratio declined by 1.24 percentage points to 26.69%; and capital adequacy ratio rose by 0.69 percentage points to 15.22%, which was higher than the regulatory requirement. This progress demonstrated our robust profitability and sound growth potential while also creating favorable conditions for structural adjustment and transition.
The operating results were attained in the context of virtuous interaction with the real economy. We persisted in improving our own operating performance through promoting the enhancement of quality and efficiency of the real economy, we focused on utilizing increments and revitalizing existing credit, and enhanced structural adjustments, striving to optimize business structure and foster new growth points in the course of economic transformation and upgrading. In 2015, we granted actual new loans of RMB2.76 trillion, including new RMB loans of RMB880.8 billion, up by 9.1% compared with last year; relending of recovered loans reached RMB1.88 trillion. In addition, non-credit financing business, including bond underwriting, equity financing and entrusted loans amounted to RMB1.36 trillion, functioning as a major funding source for supporting the real economy. In terms of arrangements for financing business, we actively strengthened support for key and critical projects with loans totaling RMB816.8 billion. As part of this, we seized upon the opportunities presented by the “three strategies”, namely the “One Belt and One Road”, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei coordinated development strategy, and the Yangtze River Economic Belt Strategy. During the year, we provided loans of USD42.7 billion to support 170 “Going Global” projects. We also integrated offline specialized operations with online standardized operations by utilizing internet-based thinking and big data technology, in a bid to flexibly serve “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” as well as consumption expansion and upgrading. Loans to small and micro enterprises saw a net increase of RMB161.7 billion or 9.4%, higher than the average growth rate of all loans. Personal consumption loans and residential mortgages grew by RMB436.5 billion, accounting for 55.4% of all loan increments.
We achieved these results while resisting the pressures of risk accumulation, maintaining stable asset quality and controlling various risks. In 2015, financial risks emerged in multiple fields and threatened to spread under the pressure of downward trends in the economy, declining corporate profits, and tumbling capital markets. The Bank prioritized credit risk control and prevention and adopted innovative measures to intensify dynamic risk monitoring and pre-warnings, thus effectively mitigating risk in existing credit and strictly controlling risks in credit increments. By the end of 2015, NPL ratio rose to 1.50%, an increase by 0.37 percentage points compared to the bank’s own NPL ratio at the beginning of the year, but it is still within a controllable range. Compared with peers domestically and internationally, our NPL ratio is at a relatively superior level. At the same time, we further optimized full-coverage investment and financing risk management mechanisms across markets and products for various emerging financial risks in asset management and agency investments, substantially strengthened comprehensive management of underlying assets, and normalized stress tests. As a result, we effectively avoided risk contagions caused by stock market fluctuations and exchange market volatility. To repel recurring illegal fundraising, financial fraud, and other external risks, we engaged in thorough special reviews and targeted rectifications involving emerging risks, to fend off and effectively curb the rebounding of fraud cases and risk incidents.
We achieved these results while stepping up structural optimization and building new momentum. We adhered to innovation-driven growth, actively created conditions for accelerating business transformation, and improved the implementation of business strategies involving retail banking, asset management and investment banking with new ideologies thus creating multiple growth drivers and establishing new growth potential. In terms of retail banking, financial assets of personal customers reached RMB11.6 trillion. We issued 750 million bank cards, including 109 million credit cards, ranking first in Asia Pacific. The number of private banking customers recorded was 62,000, up by 44.8%, with assets under management exceeding RMB1 trillion for the first time. As to asset management, balance of wealth management products amounted to RMB 2.62 trillion, up by 32.0%, leading industry peers in terms of scale; assets under custody stood at RMB11.5 trillion, up by nearly 100%, and maintaining a leading position amongst industry peers. Amount and volume of precious metal business registered was RMB1.25 trillion and 159,000 tons, representing an increase of 21.4% and 38.1%, respectively. Total assets under management and the number of customers of ICBC Credit Suisse Asset Management surpassed RMB900 billion and 13 million, respectively. ICBC-AXA realized premium income of RMB23.54 billion, an increase of 52.8%, and its total assets exceeded RMB66 billion. With continuously optimized business structure and enhanced influence in the investment banking field, we were ranked by Thomson Reuters as the No. 1 M&A financial advisor in Asia Pacific by number of deals advised and globally by the number of overseas acquisitions made by Chinese enterprises. Internet-based finance is another of our strategic focuses. We have essentially established the framework for an internet-based financial platform in line with the newly issued development strategy for the e-ICBC internet-based finance brands and their upgrading. We also stepped up growth of all businesses with new strategies and new concepts, propelled the formation of online and offline integrated service patterns, and catalyzed the rapid growth of internet-based financing, online payment and other operations, achieved a smart transformation of offline outlets as well as significant improvements to customer service efficiency and quality.
In 2015, our stable growth amidst a complicated business environment was widely recognized by the market. We were awarded “Best Emerging Markets Bank” by UK’s Euromoney, becoming the first Asian financial institution to win this global award. At the same time, for the third consecutive year, we were ranked the 1st place among the Top 1000 World Banks by UK’s the Banker and the Global 2000 listed by the US magazine Forbes, and 1st place on the sub-list of commercial banks of the Fortune 500.
Seasons change and all things grow according to their own cycle. Banks are no different in their operations. In 2016 as the external economic situation remains complicated and volatile and various risks continue to accumulate, our management team will focus on development strategies and operation goals set by the Board of Directors and will strictly adhere to the key themes of transformation and upgrading. By adopting a strong work ethic and clear vision, we will do our utmost to stabilize quality and growth, prepare for and leverage our potential to achieve further growth in the future, and reward the support and trust of our shareholders and society with stronger operating results!