The stock in focus this month is CYBG (CYB). CYBG is a full service UK bank previously owned by NAB. After years of underperformance CYB was demerged in 2016.
It operates under the brands Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and more recently B Brands. Despite serving nearly three million customers and having a branch network of over 200 branches and business banking centres, CYB struggled to grow its footprint nationally and has been largely confined to Scotland and the north and midlands of England.
This led to a major strategy shake-up. In June 2018 CYB purchased Virgin Money, an iconic brand with strong credit card and mass mortgage product capability in different geographical markets. The combination with CYB’s retail and SME customer base made strong strategic sense.
The complementary nature of the business means that substantial cost savings are targeted with expectations of annual net cost savings of 200 million pounds by 2022, enabling the Bank to significantly reduce their cost to income ratio.
The other exciting opportunity for management is to lever the other aspects of the Virgin group to enhance the experience for Bank customers and to begin to build an ecosystem which incorporates the other Virgin brands that UK consumers are using including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Media.
However, in the short term there are macro factors impacting the UK economy, specifically regarding Brexit and the political and economic uncertainty this is creating.
After talking to CYB and other UK focused firms, most businesses in the UK are in a holding pattern until this situation is resolved. With the new PM in place, this resolution, while still unknown, is closer to happening.
While any solution will probably lead to short term volatility, the long runway for the process means that authorities and policy makers are prepared to provide the support the system needs to overcome these short term issues. We therefore see this as an opportunity to purchase businesses at a good level for the longer term.
- CYB will change its name and branding to Virgin Money from late 2019.
- The newly combined entity will have 9 billion pounds of deposits and 7 billion pounds of lending.
- The flagship product, the Virgin Money personal account, will launch in the third quarter of this financial year.
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