Nationwide said that it had managed to achieve growth across the board, with a 48 per cent increase in mortgage agreements, taking the total sum advanced to £8.9 billion and helping push its underlying profits to £172 million in the six months to the end of September. The news was not only positive for people seeking mortgages. Nationwide revealed that it had met all of its funding requirements for the half-year to 30 September, increasing savings levels by 250 per cent to £1.4 billion over this period. This made the building society Britain’s second biggest savings provider. It also firmly underlined its status as a “challenger” to the established “big four” banks, with a 24 per cent increase in combined sales of its financial products other than mortgages, such as current accounts, personal loans and credit cards. Despite all the good news good news that has placed the Nationwide’s balance sheet among the strongest in the sector with a 12.7 per cent capital ratio chief executive Graham Beale remained sober in his predictions for the future, muttering dark warnings about the European debt crisis, which he said was forcing up costs. Although he said that a modest recovery would continue in Britain next year, he refused to rule out a return to recession. “The outlook for the UK economy has weakened over the last six months and prospects for the remainder of 2011/12 and 2012/13 are very challenging,” he declared.