The global economy witnessed major developments in 2018. Chief among them were the trade disputes between the United States and China, additional uncertainties that threaten the global economy such as Brexit, and the rising trend in interest rates that has been going on for a while. These developments hampered economic growth on a global scale by slowing down investment and putting the brakes on global trade.
In the midst of these developments, the Turkish also began to experience fluctuations in the second half of the year. However, the Turkish economy embarked on a normalization and balancing period thanks to the swift implementation of effective measures. The banking industry was in close communication and cooperation with these efforts. The tight monetary policy of the Central Bank of Turkey, announcement and rapid implementation of the New Economic Program, and positive geopolitical developments supported this process.
The syndicated loan deal signed by Akbank in September was among the key turning points in this process. In a period of increasing concerns over emerging markets that Turkey is also part of, we managed to extended the Bank’s syndicated loan at a high rate of 104% and injected USD 980 million fresh resource into the Turkish economy. We are proud of the support we lend to the Turkish economy at a time of extreme volatility in risk appetite in the international markets. Including the most recent syndication deal, we secured a total of USD 4.8 billion in funding from overseas markets in 2018. As a result, we executed 45 syndicated loan transactions for a total of USD 35 billion worth of international financing since 1993, which we used to support thousands of companies and helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Akbank continued to perform successfully in 2018 despite global economic fluctuations as well as the eventful period Turkey has been going through. As it has always been the case, effective risk management and high asset quality continued to be the Bank’s distinguishing traits. We continued to support the Turkish economy on the back of our faith in Turkey’s future, our strong capital, sound financials, expertise and experience. Akbank’s loan support to the economy in 2018 reached TL 267 billion, including TL 214 billion in cash loans. We increased our total deposits to TL 209 billion and our assets to TL 355 billion. We supported the real economy to the tune of TL 226 billion this year via SME and corporate loans. Akbank reported consolidated net profit of TL 5 billion 709 million after provisioning TL 1 billion 427 million for taxes.
We have been supporting the steady growth of the Turkish economy uninterruptedly for 70 years with our strong financial position and highly-qualified human capital. We take heed of our robust financial position in order to maintain this support at an ever increasing pace. Our strong equity position and prudent banking approach are among our most important qualities. To this end, we resolved to increase our paid-in capital in the final days of the year despite having a strong capital to begin with. We increased our issued capital of TL 4 billion by TL 1.2 billion through a paid rights issue to existing shareholders. The premium capital increase completed in early 2019 bolstered the Bank’s equity by TL 3 billion.
This decision, which reflects the confidence of our shareholders in Turkey and the Turkish economy in a major way, further strengthened the Bank against global uncertainties. The Bank’s capital adequacy ratio, which was already very strong, was bolstered by about 80 basis points and additional capacity has been created for growth in the forthcoming period.
In addition to our robust financial position, other major pillars that constitute our strength in banking include our strong and highly-qualified human capital and state-of-the-art technology infrastructure. To this end, we attach great importance to improving our human capital and our technology, and we continuously invest in these fields. “Akbank Data and Life Center,” for which the Bank broke ground in 2017 and construction continued throughout 2018, is expected to commence service in 2019. Akbank Data Center is designed to host Akbank’s entire technology infrastructure, monitor all Bank operations 24/7 with the latest technologies and provide uninterrupted services to our clients. Projected to cost USD 250 million, Akbank Data and Life Center is our largest one-off investment to date.
With the support of our specialist staff and robust technology infrastructure, we adapt the advances in digital technology to banking products and services at the same speed and deploy them for the use of our customers. Our successful trend in Direct Banking continued in 2018. The share of our digital channel customers performing their banking transactions using mobile channels stands at 96% while 97% of all customer transactions are executed through non-branch channels. We continue to provide distinguishing experiences to our customers thanks to the innovations we launch in this area.
Implementing the transformation project that will pave the way for the Turkish banking industry in our 70th anniversary, we launched this new business model at approximately 230 branches. Our new paperless processes achieve 95% paper conservation rate annually in contract transactions alone. The New Extra Tellers enable customers to perform nearly 200 distinct branch transactions on a self-serve basis without waiting in line. We eliminated two out of every three signatures that we obtain from customers. Shortening the commercial credit card application process, we render 75-80% faster service on average and save our customers time.
We won the “Best Bank in Turkey” designation from international finance authorities including The Banker, Euromoney, Global Finance, EMEA Finance, and World Finance, winning these five awards within the same year once again during our 70th anniversary, for the second time after 2016. At the Euromoney awards, organized in 100 countries for 26 years and followed closely within the banking industry, we were selected “Turkey’s Best Bank” for the sixth consecutive year and 12th time overall and made an accomplishment that will be nearly impossible to replicate. In addition, we were deemed the “Best Company in Investor Relations in Turkey” by the Extel WeConvene Survey. We are pleased to see the recognition of our contribution to the economy by raising Turkey’s profile among international investors through our transparencyoriented activities in investor relations.
In 2018 we continued to undertake Corporate Social Responsibility projects, an area that we never took a break from under any circumstance since the day we were founded. We received a record number of applications in 2018 for the Young Volunteers Project that we carry out with the voluntary participation of the university youth. These young people volunteered for 70 unique social responsibility projects in 26 provinces where they had the opportunity of performing good deeds that touched many hearts. In our 70th anniversary, we invited entire Turkey to smile with our “Donate A Smile” social responsibility project. Under the Smile is from You, Support for Education is from Akbank” motto, we donated the book and school supplies needs of 50 thousand students at 141 schools in 50 provinces of Turkey.
As a bank that believes in Turkey, we will continue to invest in our country uninterruptedly. We will continue taking major steps forward with a transparent banking approach that places trust above all else. We will maintain efforts toward our principal duty of creating value for our economy, society and culture through the innovative products and services we develop. I would like to extend my gratitude to our valued customers, shareholders and employees for this steady and strong performance.