SocGen targets rise in profits at its domestic retail bank in 2020

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PARIS (Reuters) - French bank Societe Generale said on Tuesday that it planned to increase profits at its domestic retail banking arm in 2020 thanks to automation and focusing on wealthier clients.

SocGen, as the bank is known, told investors it expected that revenue in its domestic retail network will first remain unchanged or fall by 1 percent in 2019 because of persistently low interest rates, while costs will rise between 1 percent and 2 percent as the bank implements automation processes.

As a result of this year’s transformation, SocGen now expects costs to start falling in 2020, while it sees revenues rising, boosting return on net equity to between 11.5 percent and 12.5 percent, the bank said in a presentation to investors.

Major European banks have found it tough to keep up their levels of profits, as years of record low interest rates in the region have hit returns on retail banking. Most banks such as SocGen have grown more dependent on the volatile investment and corporate banking business.

A general market downturn in 2018 has badly hit SocGen, so the bank’s chief executive Frederic Oudea has launched a broad transformation plan to make its investment and corporate banking arm safer and its retail bank more profitable.

Reporting by Inti Landauro and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta