BARCLAYS today unveiled profits of £4.6bn - as the first slice of a £30bn haul expected from the UK's five biggest banking groups.
The record annual performance from Barclays was 20% higher than 2003 and included profits of £2.47bn from its UK banking division.
In the coming days, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, NatWest owner Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS are expected to take the sector's total profits for 2004 towards £30bn - equivalent to £1,000 a second.
Barclays said the profit figure included a 19% rise in earnings to £1.35bn for its business banking arm.
However, retail banking profits fell by 1% to £1.13bn following pressure on profit margins for mortgage business. Barclays predicted a better showing in 2005 - following investment in more front-line staff and better technology.
Barclays has more than 2,000 UK branches serving 10.7m current account customers and 10.6m savers.
Elsewhere in the group, Barclaycard profits rose by 5% to £801m - a showing described as "more muted" than previous years - following a series of interest rate rises and a drive to increase customer numbers.
Barclays said the wealth management division, which includes recently-acquired stockbroker Gerrard, reported a 57%b rise in earnings to £451m.