In 2016 we passed the half-way stage in our four-year Strategic Plan – “Prepared to lead the sector in trust and profitability” – which we launched in 2015. Today we can say that the entity is making great strides in its main areas for action, and that we are very happy with our achievements to date.
Over the last two years, we have extended our commercial leadership, through a banking model based on proximity, quality of service, a wide range of products and services and robust technological foundations. We continue to work – as we always have – to forge stable and lasting relationships with those who place their trust in us. At the end of 2016, almost 30% of all Spaniards were customers of our entity, two percentage points higher than at the start of the Plan, and 26% consider us their main bank. With the completion of the BPI takeover bid, we have embarked upon a project that should enable us to extend our commercial leadership over the Iberian peninsula as a whole.
We are aware of the many challenges and opportunities in the digital world. We are continuing our commitment to innovation and new technology in our relations with our customers. Our ambition is to continue leading the sector’s digital transformation. The combination of our extensive branch network with our leading digital and technological offering is a key strength, enabling us to offer the highest quality service to our customers.
This progress helped us generate very positive results in 2016, despite the difficult conditions in the sector, with interest rates remaining at historical lows and weak growth in bank balance sheets. In parallel, we have continued to improve our non-performing loans ratio, which is now well below the sector average for Spain. CaixaBank also has exceptionally high solvency, as demonstrated by its EBA and European Central Bank stress test results. We comfortably exceeded the minimum regulatory requirements for capital and liquidity.
CaixaBank’s successful performance is founded on the way it carries out its banking business, founded on robust corporate values, including a clear commitment to society as a whole. We foster financial inclusion through the activity of MicroBank and our presence in 93% of Spanish towns with more than 5,000 inhabitants. We have also demonstrated our special sensitivity when managing the housing difficulties of many families, seeking solutions through debt management and social rental programmes. And, of course, we continue working closely with the Welfare Projects of the ”la Caixa” Banking Foundation, our main shareholder. Through the dividends received from CaixaBank and other investees, our Welfare Projects have a budget of €510 million for 2017, which will be invested in improving opportunities for the most disadvantaged groups.
CaixaBank’s successes cannot be explained without the contribution and fantastic performance of its people. We have a great workforce, which shares the entity’s values. And we invest continually in their professional development. Their commitment makes us optimistic and trust that we can continue leading the banking of the future.
Finally, I would once again like to thank our customers and shareholders for the trust they place in us. We look forward to sharing a future of creating value with all of them.