As a result of the intense commercial activities undertaken during the year, the number of customers grew from 68,650 to 70,688, distributed across Spain. The investment volume in this segment increased by 6.7%, off-balance sheet exposure by 15.5% and gross operating income by 10.9%.
The strategy consists not only in increasing the customer base, but in strengthening their loyalty, making us their reference bank. Bankinter aspires to becoming their main finance partner, a partner they can entrust the daily business undertakings to, supporting them in their national and international financing and operations.
An example of Bankinter's dedication to satisfying the needs of small enterprises can be seen in the launch of the new App for SMEs, through which customers can perform their company's main transactions.
In 2018, we launched the digital version of the loan for tax payments, which can be obtained hassle-free, immediately and practically online. This type of lending came to €400 million in 2018, of which 43% of transactions were completed digitally.
In total, the SME business contributed €161.4 million to Bankinter's gross operating income and €39.1 million to pre-tax profit; furthermore, the Bank made progress with the reorganisation of the balance sheet with a further reduction in non-performing loans.
The efforts made over the course of the year were also reflected in an increase in the level of quality perceived by customers, climbing to 26.9%, up 5.7 points compared to 2017.
In 2019, the challenge will be to gain market share, promoting the transactional and international activities of our customers, making it possible to continue improving margins and make progress with the digitalisation and improvement of the customer experience.
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