NatWest is sounding the alarm on the cost of living crisis

NatWest posts surprise profit boost but warns rest of year will be clouded by cost of living crisis

NatWest posted a surprise rise in profits but warned the rest of the year would be clouded by the cost of living crisis.

The bank’s profit in the first three months of this year was £1.2bn, up from £885m a year earlier, as it benefited from rising interest rates. Chief executive Alison Rose said the bank had identified vulnerable customers and referred 2,100 people to Citizens Advice in the past year.

The banking group serves around 19 million customers in the UK and Ireland. Rose said: “Inflation is real, rising energy costs are real and we certainly see that impacting how much people have to spend.”

A sign of the times: NatWest shares slipped 2.2%, or 4.9p, to 218p as it warned inflation would hit consumers

“We focus on how we practically help people. The main concern I have is that a lot of people are very worried about this and have huge anxiety about it, so we’re trying to be proactive.

NatWest shares slid 2.2%, or 4.9p, to 218p as it warned inflation would hit consumers.

Rose also hinted at further branch closures as customers shift to online banking. The bank said it would release £38million of cash held back during the pandemic, while rivals such as HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays had to put money aside to deal with a weakening economy .

Rose said: “We have no exposure to Russia or Ukraine. Some of these other banks do, so they would have had to set aside provisions for operations and exposure there.

NatWest was the last major UK bank to report first quarter results this week. HSBC’s profits fell 30%, while Lloyds fell 14%. Barclays announced a 7% increase in profits.

But there were problems for Deutsche Bank. German authorities raided its Frankfurt headquarters for suspected money laundering.

Deutsche said it reported the issue and “cooperated” with police and prosecutors.