In the year just ended, our Bank made another important step forward on the growth path it has been on for years now.
For most of 2016, Banca IFIS has dedicated its organisation and resources to the acquisition of the former Interbanca Group. This milestone is already producing some of the results expected by management, such as bolstering the Bank's capital—which will allow us to grow further. With this acquisition, the new Banca IFIS Group has strengthened its market positioning, become more robust, and brought new people on board: we now number more than 1,300. And the frenzy of activity and growth that we experience every day at the Banca IFIS Group is occurring within a challenging external context. The banking industry is not yet out of the woods, and this severely affects Italy's real economy— which is hungry for a comeback and new investments. Like us, it is eager to work hard in order to accomplish virtuous growth and development goals. Against this backdrop, Banca IFIS has the resources and liquidity to support businesses and households, pursuing a coherent course of action.
2016 saw not only dramatic changes, but also some important confirmation. Our way of banking is fit to compete in a diverse competitive landscape, which features not only banks but also global web giants entering the credit industry or nimble start-ups. Our penchant for moving fast allows us to work side-by-side (and sometimes compete) with global companies in innovating and adopting new technologies, leading the Bank to new frontiers in its relations with customers. A clear example of our ability to re-imagine the value chain of our traditional businesses is the NPL Area, which has achieved results considered impossible only a few years ago while providing sustainable solutions to as much of the economy as possible.
The CEO will now discuss the strategies that produced these results as well as how the Bank has made its operations more robust and sustainable over time.
Profitability, liquidity, and capital discipline: these are the three pillars of our operations— and the growth drivers we wanted for the new Banca IFIS Group, which, as the Chairman said, has made us more numerous, complete, and responsible towards Italy's economy.
More numerous because we have grown stronger thanks to an acquisition that is key for us, bringing a new sales force and an increasingly active mobile presence throughout the country. Implementing digital solutions in distributing and creating products that the markets consider useful allows us to be increasingly present, active, and effective.
More complete, because we can now offer other products and services for SMEs alongside short-term financing. We will be able to serve businesses better, complementing our services to support working capital—Banca IFIS's traditional core business—with the former Interbanca Group's ability to grow in the leasing and medium-term financing sectors. Together, we will have more customers, offer more products, increase our operational capacity, and have more ways to accomplish our goals.
More responsible, because the true strength of Banca IFIS lies in bringing together the competencies of the two Groups. Thanks also to this integration, Italy will have a player determined to support healthy businesses that want to grow, aware of the importance of innovation in a world in dire need of change.
After years of relentless growth, we are aware of our responsibility to shareholders, the Bank, and Italy's real economy. We know that being a Bank means being a business—but above all, it means bearing a responsibility. We know that only a Bank capable of achieving its results as well as bring a noticeable improvement to the economy it operates in has the dignity to sustainably conduct its business over time.
This is the spirit and the vision that drove us to work hard throughout 2016 in a challenging environment of extremely low interest rates and muted economic growth. Concerning our support to businesses, we have made considerable progress by increasing the number of customers—a prerequisite to boosting profitability. Integrating the distribution networks and the cross-selling with Interbanca lending and leasing customers offer us a significant opportunity to grow stronger. Concerning non-performing loans, we have developed innovative management and collection solutions as well as acquired sizeable portfolios. This allowed us to increase profitability and achieve an acknowledged leadership position in the market. We effectively managed tax receivables as Italy's Public Administration started paying off its arrears at a faster pace.
The results achieved, as well as our hunger for growth and the vision that guides us, will accompany the development of our Bank. In 2017, we will bolster our presence to increasingly improve our services to businesses and households as well as ensure the Group remains profitable.
These are challenging times for the Bank and the entire credit industry, requiring dramatic changes and the ability to question our way of working. The digital transformation has already unsettled—and will continue chipping away at—the certainties of a system that can no longer afford to pass the cost of its inefficiencies and inability to innovate onto the real economy.
But change is not limited to technology. Without the people—the women and men that innovate the old ways every day with their work—nothing would change. We want to thank and acknowledge all 1,300 employees that contributed to an outstanding 2016 and will continue to develop our Project with their imagination and intelligence. Without all of us, all this would not have been possible. Without all of us, the future will be challenging.
The results presented by the CEO give us the strength to tackle 2017 with enthusiasm. This is a crucial year for our Bank, and we are enjoying great success on the stock market. We are certainly not stopping here. We have the resources and room to do much more, achieving new results and meeting the expectations of all the Group's stakeholders—never beholden to the short term, but rather looking years into the future. I want to thank all Shareholders for placing their confidence in our Bank—as well as all the employees that make this project possible.