Abbey provided almost a third of Britain’s mortgages last year as it withstood the worst of the financial crisis to post a 20% increase in profits to £991m.

The lender, which bought Alliance & Leicester and the savings deposits of Bradford & Bingley, now has 13% of the UK’s mortgage market and will 'continue to increase lending to small businesses and on mortgages', chief executive António HortaOsório pledged.

Although last year’s numbers excluded A&L and B&B, the combined group is now the UK’s second biggest mortgage lender and third largest savings bank, with 1,300 branches and 24,000 staff across the UK.

Daily Telegraph