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OakNorth's Agile Expansion: Charting a New Era of Profitable Growth and Strategic Market Penetration in 2023

In this blog we discuss the following:

  • Insights into OakNorth's Financial Figures for 2023

  • Understanding OakNorth's Strategy

  • USA Focus: Results So Far and Future Opportunities

  • Forward-Looking C-Innovation Analysis for OakNorth

Introduction to OakNorth's Financial Results for 2023

As the banking sector evolves at a breakneck pace, it's imperative to spotlight the institutions leading the charge through innovation and strategic foresight. In 2023, OakNorth has not just participated in this evolution; it has thrived, setting new benchmarks with its financial achievements. Demonstrating exceptional agility and acumen, the UK-headquartered digital bank has declared a noteworthy pre-tax profit of £187.3m, which denotes a significant year-on-year growth of 23%. This financial vigor is complemented by a total comprehensive income that impressively peaked at £140.7m. These figures herald OakNorth's relentless pursuit of excellence and strategic growth, particularly underscored by its foray into the lucrative U.S. market.

Insights into OakNorth's Financial Figures

OakNorth's performance in 2023 speaks volumes about its operational efficiency and growth trajectory. Let’s distill the insights from the financial highlights:

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  • Pre-Tax Profit: The leap to £187.3m in pre-tax profits is a clear indicator of OakNorth's profitable strategies and efficient cost management. The ascending trend over the past seven years, culminating in a 23% surge from the previous year, underscores the bank’s success in capitalizing on its strategic initiatives and prudent financial controls.

  • Operating Income: A striking 34% increase to £296.8 million, significantly bolstered by enhancements in the net interest margin. This surge is not only a testament to OakNorth’s strategic financial management but also reflects the synergistic impact of its subsidiary, ASK Partners. ASK Partners, a strategic acquisition by OakNorth, has continued to demonstrate robust business performance within the OakNorth Group. In the past year, It contributed a noteworthy £21 million of post-tax income after accounting for non-controlling interests. This subsidiary, known for its expertise in bespoke property finance and its solid market position in providing structured finance solutions, has been instrumental in diversifying OakNorth’s income sources and enhancing its profitability profile.

  • Total Loan Facilities: An expansion to £5.3bn in total loan facilities reveals the bank's growing influence and trust in the market. The steady year-over-year increase, including a 14% hike from the preceding year, reflects OakNorth's expanding portfolio and its ability to attract and retain high-quality borrowers.

  • Net Interest Margin: The impressive net interest margin, which has risen by 15% to stand at 8.4%, is indicative of OakNorth's strategic lending practices and asset-liability management. This metric exemplifies the bank's skill in optimizing its interest income against the interest paid, a testament to its strong pricing strategy and risk assessment frameworks.

  • Deposits: As of the end of 2023, the bank’s deposit book grew to an impressive £4.6 billion, up from £3.6 billion the previous year. This remarkable growth in deposits signifies a 27.8% increase year-over-year, illustrating the bank’s continued ability to attract and retain depositors. OakNorth's maintenance of over 94% of deposits under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) reinforces the message of security and trust it has cultivated among its customers.

These financial highlights, encapsulate the strategic acumen of an institution that has adeptly balanced robust growth with enduring sustainability. OakNorth’s financial achievements, especially its notable net interest margin, are testament to the bank’s nuanced grasp of yield management within a highly competitive and ever-shifting market landscape. Significantly, this year's achievements mark a sustained period of profitability for OakNorth, which has now been consistently profitable for 7 of its 9 years since establishment. This enduring success is a profound statement of the bank’s enduring operational excellence and the effectiveness of its strategic financial planning. OakNorth stands as a prime example of stability and profitability, showcasing the potential of a modern digital bank to maintain long-term success in the evolving world of finance.

With a strategic eye on further market penetration, particularly in the U.S., and the unveiling of the new 'Enclosed Growth' logo, OakNorth signals its unyielding commitment to strategic market expansion and branding evolution. OakNorth's financial figures paints a picture of a bank that is not just growing but growing wisely, with foresight and focused ambition.

Understanding OakNorth's Strategy

OakNorth's success can be attributed to its precise and calculated approach, targeting high-value loan segments and reducing the need for a broad-based audience that many FinTechs chase. This approach, as highlighted by the new "Enclosed Growth" logo, suggests a focus on cultivating depth and expertise within its niche.

Here's a view of their main strategic pillars we have identified at C-Innovation:

1. Market Entry and Licensing: Beginning as a fully licensed entity from the start granted OakNorth a competitive edge, enabling compliance and trust from the get-go. Its Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) licenses serve as a foundation for regulatory compliance and customer confidence.

2. Product Diversification: The rapid rollout of new products within six months is indicative of OakNorth's agility and responsiveness to market needs. The suite of offerings, encompassing both lending and savings accounts, was engineered to cater to a variety of customer segments, thus strengthening their market position.

Explore OakNorth's 2023 expansion success: growth insights, strategic USA focus. Subscribe for exclusive digital banking content

Source: OakNorth: SME Lending in Modern Banking. 2023. C-Innovation.

3. Strategic Alliances: By forming strategic collaborations with financial powerhouses like Monzo and Aviva, OakNorth has broadened its reach and enriched its service portfolio. These partnerships allow for cross-pollination of ideas and customer bases, fostering innovation and expanded market share.

4. PaaS Model Implementation: The adoption of a Platform as a Service (PaaS) model has been transformative for OakNorth. This not only diversifies revenue streams but also encourages product refinement through feedback loops from diverse user bases. It serves as a catalyst for continuous improvement and positions OakNorth as an industry trailblazer.

5. International strategy: It points towards a holistic and expansive approach to growth beyond its home market in the UK. This strategy is characterized by its ambitious aim to engage with banks and financial institutions across different geographies, specifically targeting those areas where high growth potential is identified. The emphasis on the US market is part of this broader vision.

In developing this strategy, OakNorth focus on leveraging its analytical and technological strengths to offer bespoke banking services tailored to the unique needs of different international markets. By aiming at banks and institutions outside of the UK, OakNorth is looking to capitalize on its core competencies in credit analysis and risk assessment to provide value in markets that are potentially underserved by traditional banking models.

The new "Enclosed Growth" logo represents more than just a visual rebranding; it is a manifestation of OakNorth's strategic redirection towards intensified and sustainable expansion within its targeted market segments. This emblem symbolizes the bank's dedication to fostering a concentrated growth strategy, focusing on its key areas of strength such as high-value loans and strategic market entries. OakNorth is setting itself apart by eschewing the typical broad-market approach of other FinTechs in favor of a more tailored and specialist path to scaling its operations.

In essence, OakNorth's strategy is a carefully choreographed dance of compliance, agility, partnership, and innovation—all orchestrated under the baton of a forward-looking international strategy. The new logo is emblematic of this harmony, signifying a deeper commitment to growing within a focused framework that prioritizes sustained development and excellence in niche sectors. As OakNorth continues to cultivate its unique market position, its strategic pillars and new visual identity merge to form a platform for future growth and industry leadership.

USA Focus: Results So Far and Future Opportunities

OakNorth's foray into the US market has been marked by an analytical and data-driven approach, with a lending strategy that prioritizes credit quality and secured positions. Their pilot entry has been successful, leading to the origination of $200 million in facilities. With a focus on senior secured positions and maintaining a loan-to-value ratio under 45%, OakNorth has established a strong presence in the market.

Explore OakNorth's 2023 expansion success: growth insights, strategic USA focus. Subscribe for exclusive digital banking content

Source: OakNorth: SME Lending in Modern Banking. 2023. C-Innovation.

The strategic allocation of approximately 10% of its new £1.7bn lending to US enterprises is a move that capitalizes on the vast potential of the American market. This has brought the total loan facilities to a towering £5.3bn, indicating a successful initial penetration.

Looking ahead, OakNorth's application for a U.S. representative office and its exploration of acquisitions demonstrates an intention to solidify and expand its foothold in the region. This move is geared towards fostering closer relationships with local markets and understanding the nuanced needs of American customers.

Forward-Looking C-Innovation Analysis for OakNorth

As OakNorth charts its course deeper into the US market, its strategic vision is set to evolve with a keen focus on amplifying its presence and influence. The anticipated deeper penetration into the US signifies not just an expansion of geography, but a proliferation of OakNorth's analytical prowess and customized banking solutions tailored for one of the world's most dynamic financial landscapes. This move heralds a new chapter for OakNorth, one where its calculated risk management and innovative product offerings are expected to resonate well with the American entrepreneurial spirit.

Back in the UK and other international markets, the forecast is one of continued influence and growth. OakNorth's steadfast hold in the UK, marked by high levels of depositor trust and customer satisfaction, sets a strong home base from which to drive global ambitions forward. The strategic approach taken in these established markets will likely serve as a blueprint for new territories, combining localized insights with the bank's signature data-centric operational model.

The robust deposit growth also suggests that OakNorth’s customer base is actively engaging with its savings products, which is a positive indicator of the bank's retail banking strength. In an environment where digital banks must work harder to establish trust without physical branches, OakNorth’s substantial and growing deposit base is a testament to its effective customer engagement and the perceived value of its savings products. This achievement in the area of deposits complements OakNorth’s lending success and is an essential component of the bank's overall financial health and its strategy for funding future loans.

From a strategy perspective, expect OakNorth to solidify its stature as a FinTech trailblazer by enhancing its PaaS model, broadening its technological capabilities, and embracing strategic mergers and acquisitions (M&A) that dovetail with its fundamental business ethos. In the ambitious and competitive arena of U.S. banking, numerous digital brands have attempted to gain a foothold by pursuing banking licenses. Yet, this path has proven challenging and, often, unsuccessful, due to the complex and stringent regulatory environment. OakNorth's M&A approach, conversely, could yield substantial advantages.

Merging with or acquiring established U.S. entities offers a streamlined route to market entry, bypassing some of the regulatory and operational hurdles associated with starting a bank from scratch. It allows for immediate access to a local customer base, existing banking infrastructure, and, critically, an in-depth understanding of the regulatory climate. Furthermore, it can provide a quick scale-up in market share, brand recognition, and local financial expertise — all of which are crucial for a foreign digital bank seeking to make an impact in the U.S. market.

As OakNorth moves forward, the industry can anticipate a company that not only adapts to emerging banking trends but also sets them. With its eyes on the horizon, OakNorth's strategy is projected to catalyze not just its own growth but also to influence the trajectory of digital banking at large, marrying the depth of traditional banking with the agility of a FinTech innovator.

At C- innovation we will continue following closely the ins and outs of Digital Banks, so stay tuned! 


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