Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Yorkshire BS chairman: We don't comment on speculation

Top team at the YBS - from left,Guy Parsons, Robin  Churchouse, Chris Pilling  and John Heaps. The other directors were seated in the front row of the audience.
YBS chairman John Heaps was tight-lipped on any possible rescue deal for the ailing Manchester BS when he was quizzed  at today's  annual meeting in Leeds.

Asked by a member to comment on suggestions that YBS might be the "fairy godmother" the Manchester was seeking, Mr Heaps replied: "We don't comment on speculation."

During the 90-minute long meeting, held at the Hilton Hotel in Leeds, the chairman said the aspiration of the  YBS - which embraces the Yorkshire, the Barnsley, the Chelsea and the Norwich & Peterborough building societies  - was to become the "most trusted financial institution in the UK".

Despite some of the so-called challenger banks offering the lowest mortgage rates seen for many years, the YBS "achieved robust performance levels" last year.

However, the chairman cautioned: "External market conditions are not expected to get easier."

In a response to a complaint by a member that the YBS' readiness to offer buy-to-let mortgages "deprived other people of becoming home owners, he said these represented "an important but relatively small part of the society's mortgage book".

In response to a comment from a Bedford member, Roland Baker, Mr Heaps described as "a bit of an outrage" the £11.5-million payable by the society to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to support the £16-billion set aside by the FSCS "as a consequence of the default of a number of deposit-taking institutions".

This view was shared by finance director Rob Churchouse who said: "I grind my teeth every time I hear mention of the the FCBS."
The meeting also heard from chief executive Chris Pilling who confirmed that  the Barnsley BS  was due to be  "retired", with the closure of 22 branches.

  "Only a handful of redundancies are expected,"he commented.

There were no questions from members about directors'  pay - perhaps because members were told (in a presentation from remuneration committee chairman Guy Parsons) that it compared not unfavourably with that of similar-sized organisations.

Across the spectrum of its workforce, the YBS last year  awarded a 2.42 per cent pay increase.

Members were assured that the society was ever-vigilant on cyber-security such that it was striving always to defend itself from any potential attacks by fraudsters - possibly operating outside the UK - and to be in a position respond if, in the worst case, a problem should  arise.

Said the chairman: "There are a lot of bad people with good skills."

Some of the 150 or so members who attended the AGM in Leeds

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Newcastle Building Society's library initiative

THE Newcastle BS has come up with  a pioneering initiative.

As a result of an arrangement with Stockton Borough Council, it will, in autumn, re-establish a presence in Yarm by setting up a branch in the town’s library which is undergoing redevelopment.

Says the NBS: “The pilot is expected to be the first of a number of other community partnerships, and it will be the UK’s only library-based branch.”

Elsewhere on its patch, the society plans, in June, to open a new branch in a prime position in Gateshead.

Last year, its Carrington and North Shields branches were refurbished, and its small and dated facility at Chester-le-Street was replaced with new premises.

The Newcastle is proud of branches, and it is one of the few societies to include them in a directory in its summary annual review.

Unusual among societies, the review also includes a note  on staff  turnover rate which increased from 12.6 per cent in 2014 to 13.2 per cent last year.

This is attributed to “a more competitive employment market and reducing rates of unemployment”.

Says the report: “While this increase was not unexpected given very low levels of turnover over recent years, we are still working hard to retain staff and also to ensure we attract the best talent to the business.”

The annual meeting is to be held on Thursday April 28, at the Bamburgh Suite at St James Park, home of Newcastle United.

It will provide a first opportunity for Andrew Haigh, who took over as chief executive in May last year, to outline to members his aspirations for the future.

Skipton Building Society's blast for corporation tax surcharge

WHY is Skipton BS non-executive director Peter Thompson (who is 69) known to friends and colleagues as “Nimble”?

A last opportunity for members to ask him comes as the society’s annual meeting to be held at its HQ on The Bailey, Skipton, at 6.30pm on Monday April 25.

After seven years on the board, Mr Thompson is not standing for re-election.

Meanwhile, like other societies, the Skipton is aggrieved at the introduction, from this year, of an eight per cent corporation tax surcharge on banking companies and building societies.

“We are disappointed,” says the annual report. “If this surcharge had applied in 2015, the cost to us would have been £5.5-million which could have reduced our appetite to lend.

“The collateral damage of this tax-raising initiative, mainly aimed at banks, fails to recognise the distinctive legal form, business model and reduced risk of failure implicit in building societies.”

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Saffron BS members go football club walkabout

The Weston Homes Community Stadium, home of Colchester Utd FC - venue for the Saffron BS annual meeting

A BEHIND- the-scenes tour of Colchester United FC was laid on for Saffron BS members prior to the annual meeting.

It was hosted by former player David Gregory (46) who made 226 appearance for the club between 1995 and 2002, famously  helping the Us to their first promotion in 22 years in 1998 when he scored the only goal (a penalty) in a Third Division Play off final v Torquay Utd.

The 40 or so members who joined him  had the chance to step out on the pitch and visit one of the hospitality suites, the laundry room and both  the home and away dressing rooms where there are posters reminding players of  risks associated with taking illicit or unapproved substances.

The away dressing room has been deliberated painted in a gloomy  shade of grey-brown - an initiative introduced by former manager Paul Lambert (now at Blackburn Rovers) with the aim of lowering the pre-match spirits of the Us' opponents. Literally one of the 'dark' arts now practised in professional football.

Members heard that there is not usually a large police presence for home matches  - except for visits by clubs such as Millwall and Cardiff whose fans are not necessarily noted for their good behaviour.

At the AGM,  chairman Geoffrey Dunn struck an upbeat note, and there were confident and enlightening presentations from chief executive Colin Field  plus senior colleagues Sarah Howe and Darren Garner.

In reply to a question from a member, the chairman said there were no plans for the society to return to London following the  closure of the Stratford branch.

The new Colchester branch was performing well, but, though opportunities would be considered,  there were no plans to open further branches.

With a staff of just 175,  the society is not geared up for any major expansion beyond its Essex and Suffolk heartland - so, no, it won't be looking to acquire the Nationwide!

The meeting also heard a forceful  presentation from Lord Matthew Taylor, the former Liberal-Democrat MP for Truro, who outlined his vision for garden villages as a planning alternative to encouraging ever-increasing and often unattractive housing development on the greenfield perimeters of towns such as Colchester.

A warning on the perils of cannabis is posted  in the treatment suite in the home dressing room

A similar alert on the risk of taking suspect supplements

Don't be a puppet on a string - this poster reminds players not to accept inducements

Former Colchester Utd ace David Gregory (left) hosted the walkabout. After a long career, cut short by a foot injury sustained in a match against Port Vale, he now oversees Press and other publicity for the club. He also does sports commentary work for BBC Radio Essex.
Nice and spacious  - inside the home changing room
Anyone remember to bring their football boots? Saffron members get the chance to step out on to the pitch.

Top table - from left chairman Geoffrey Dunn, secretary Richard Barrett, chief executive Colin Field,chief customer  officer Sarah Howe and chief financial officer Darren Garner. The non-executive directors were seated in the front row with members, but a place may be found for them on top table at next year's AGM after a  member suggested this would be more appropriate in a "customer-facing" society.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Profit up at The Tipton

SOLID progress over the past 12 months has been reported by the Tipton & Coseley BS.

Pre-tax profit was up to  £2.90-million  compared with  £2.84-million recorded the previous year.

The society  held it annual meeting yesterday evening (April 18) at Tipton Sports Academy.

Surrey-based National Counties Building Society says its new creation "resonates with people"

The Surrey-based  National Counties BS is playing an unusual  game.

While many of its counterparts are seeking to streamline their activities in these cash-straitened times, the  NCBS has surely made life more difficult for itself (and members) by launching a subsidiary - the Family Building Society.

Amid widespread publicity  this building society within a building society was launched in mid-2014, so last year was the Family's  first full one of operation. 

The annual review  omits either  to differentiate between parent and offspring  or to evaluate their respective performances over the past 12 months.

Everything is lumped together, and it is perhaps unsurprising that the society recorded a dip in pre-tax profit - £3.2-million compared with £4.7-million the previous year. 

The annual review says of  the new creation: "We believe that families who work together across the generations to make the most of their money require and deserve to have their specific needs met with innovative, value-for-money products backed by excellent personal service."

But is this not something the NCBS supposed to be doing anyway? 

The review continues: "While the development of the Family is exciting, we are very mindful of our need, and our obligation, to continue to serve National Counties' customers.

"The Family continues to be well received. It resonates with people.

"Building a new business takes years.

"There has been much talk of new challenger banks. We firmly believe that there continues to be a real opportunity for a challenger, mutual, customer-owned building society.

"We plan to launch additional new and innovative products in 2016."

Evidently, the Family is unique in incorporating  incorporates some sort of Premium Bond type  component in its offering, with  occasional windfalls of up to £50,000. 

Continues the review: "Our first  £50,000 winner did not even know that he had opened an account as his wife had done it for him without telling him!" 

Perhaps it is appropriate that the NCBS is holding its annual meeting (2pm on Wednesday  April 28 ) at a place where everyone wants to be a lucky winner - the Queens Stand at Epsom Downs racecourse.

Anyone fancy a flutter?

Monday, 18 April 2016

Melton Mowbray BS is "encouraging responsible living"

 DAVID Attenborough makes an appearance in the Spring 2016 edition of Melton Matters - the publication of the Melton Mowbray BS.

The popular broadcaster is pictured alongside the society’s chief executive, Martin Reason, at the official opening of the volunteer training centre at Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

The Melton donated £15,000 to provide a viewing facility at the training centre as part of its partnership with the Leicestershire and Wildlife Trust which manages the reserve.

It states (with somewhat uncertain logic): “Supporting wildlife ties in with the society’s community ethos and its committing to providing sustainable mortgages, affordable housing and to encouraging responsible living.”

There is a moralistic tone to those last three words, so perhaps it is appropriate that the annual meeting, at 6pm on Wednesday April 27, is to be held at a location where members will have to be on their best behaviour - Melton Mowbray Baptist Church.

Apart from in its home town, the Melton only has two other branches  - Grantham, where Dawn Wright is the manager, and Oakham, managed by Lisa Poyzer.

Toni Shelton, meanwhile, is manager of the Melton Mowbray branch.

Melton Matters contains the summary financial statement for the past year.

Pre-tax profit was £1.57-million - up from £1.09-million the previous year.

A £500,000 rise in administrative expenses is largely attributed to an  increase in staff numbers (which is unspecified) and higher pay “with a view to improving customer service and processing capacity”.

Other factors were the costs of compliance with new regulation and increased IT expenditure.

Up for re-election at the AGM are society chairman Alan Crafts (68) and fellow non-executive director Ken Romney (65).

Members will also be urged to elect another candidate, Rutland-based Lorraine Alldritt (55) who joined the board in May last year and recently worked as marketing director for Oakham School. 


Yorkshire Building Society rebranding strategy to come under scrutiny?

YORKSHIRE Building Society chiefs could be quizzed about the fate of its subsidiaries - the Barnsley BS and the Chelsea BS - at the annual meeting in Leeds on Tuesday April 26.

The Barnsley name is to be ditched in favour of  rebranding under the name of the parent society, with branches set to close in towns where there is duplication.

The Chelsea branches will also be rebranded, but the name is set tocontinue for services offered online and over the phone.

In a note in the annual review, chief executive Chris Pilling states: “While these were difficult decisions to make, it is necessary that we continually review the way we do business to make sure we are acting in the best interests of the majority of our members.

“By making these decisions, we believe we will be more efficient and cost-effective, ensuring we can continue to offer long-term value.”

The society has still not quite managed to sort out its branding strategy. Is it the YBS, as indicated on the front cover of the review, or it the Yorkshire, as on the back cover?


In his first message since he took over as chairman last April, John Heaps says the YBS “has had another successful year in what has been a challenging environment”.

According to Mr Heaps, the Yorkshire’s fundamental aim is “to deliver a greater sense of financial security, allowing as many people as possible to enjoy life’s choices.”

Also within the YBS portfolio is the 45-branch Norwich & Peterborough BS which is not being included in the  branding shake-up. 

Chris Pilling - "difficult decisions"

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Football ground tour for Saffron BS members

HATS off to the tiny Saffron BS!

In a bid to sprinkle a bit of sparkle prior  to its annual meeting in Colchester on April 20, it is preceding the event with an "attraction" - a guided tour of the  ground of the town's Football League Division One club.

It will hardly compare with the likes of Anfield or Old Trafford, but it is a gesture that (some) members will appreciate.

In his review, Geoffrey Dunn cooes: "Members really appreciate the way the staff do things.

"An independent assessment of our customer services has reached a new record level and exceeds most societies, even those many times bigger than we are."

Meanwhile, in a note on recruitment policy, new chief executive Colin Field says: "It is as much about attitude as it is about skill, and we always seek to identify 'Saffron' people." 

What are  the attributes of 'Saffron' people?

Mr Field does not say. Perhaps a member will ask that question at the AGM.

Leeds BS boss upbeat on year's progress

IT has been a bumper year for the Leeds BS.

In his annual review, chief executive Peter Hill proclaims: "We attracted 22,000 new members, taking total membership to a record 719,00."

He continues: "Pre-tax profit rose by 23 per cent to a record £108.5-million."

The boss, who is 54, was rewarded  for the progress with a substantial hike in his pay.

His total remuneration was £649,000 compared with £586,000 the previous year.

There were also increases for the rest of the board - both executives and non-executives.

Kim Rebecchi, who left  as distribution and marketing director last June (after 26 years and 11 months with the society), received a "loss-of-office" payment of £136,407. 

Since September, she has been a non-executive director with the Business Enterprise Fund. 

The Leeds no longer has a distribution and marketing director.

Its senior  non-executive director is Les Platts (62) whose other interests including being treasurer of a county cricket club . . . oh dear, it's Lancashire CCC.

The society holds its annual meeting at 11am on Thursday April 14 at the Marriott Hotel in Leeds.