Cross-party MPs pledge support to the building societies sector at BSA's 150th anniversary event

Posted On: 
12th March 2019

The Building Societies Association (BSA) held a parliamentary reception at the House of Commons earlier this month to celebrate its 150th birthday.

A number of the speakers shared stories of how building societies had helped them or their families – whether to save, in opening up their first account or by providing a mortgage. Nicky Morgan emphasised that she wanted the sector to make its voice heard in Treasury Select Committee inquiries.
Credit: 
BSA

A 200-strong group of building society Chief Executives, Chairs, NEDS, staff, BSA Associates, Parliamentarians, civil servants and regulators gathered in the Terrace Pavilion, overlooking the Thames. The reason for the celebration was the BSA’s 150th anniversary and the contribution the UK’s 43 building societies make to the UK’s economy and communities.

Taking a minute to reflect, the growth of the sector since its early days of people pooling their savings to be able to buy or build a home of their own is amazing. From one group of people meeting in a pub there are now an incredible 25 million members of building societies across the UK.

As customer-owned organisations they use the £280 million of savings invested with them to fund mortgages, just as they did in the early days. That is 19% of the all cash savings in the UK.

Last year, building society savers received over £920 million more in interest than they would have had if they chose to save with the big banks.

Building societies lent almost £70 billion in new mortgages in 2018 and 23% of all mortgages are with a building society. The sector continues to innovate, serving those with more complex needs such as self and custom builders, those in the gig economy and older borrowers.

The speakers at the Parliamentary Reception were Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury), Stephen Mitcham (Chair of the BSA and Chief Executive of the Cambridge), Lee Rowley MP (Vice-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Challenger Banks and Building Societies) and the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP (Chair of the Treasury Select Committee).

A number of the speakers shared stories of how building societies had helped them or their families – whether to save, in opening up their first account or by providing a mortgage.  Nicky Morgan emphasised that she wanted the sector to make its voice heard in Treasury Select Committee inquiries. Jonathan Reynolds highlighted that the Labour Party was committed to building societies and credit unions, and Lee Rowley noted the emerging opportunities from the All-Party Group on Challenger Banks and Building Societies, as members of the group champion the sector in Parliament.

Stephen Mitcham touched on the history of building societies and the contribution they make to the economy, helping people save and buy a home of their own. He also highlighted the contribution they make to their local communities, whether through fundraising or supporting local organisations with facilities. Examples include the Cumberland hosting the local football club’s supporters’ shop when it was flooded, or combining branches with other local services, like the library in Yarm where the Newcastle co-located a branch within the library ensuring its future. He left the audience with a challenge – to consider small first when developing legislation or regulation to support the sector to do even more.

After the speeches the Economic Secretary to the Treasury joined the reception to meet a number of Chief Executives and discuss some of the issues on their radar. The goodwill towards the sector from politicians, civil servants, regulators and the media was evident from the attendees in the room. A number of MPs  are due to visit BSA members in the weeks ahead and briefings have been promised to Parliamentarians. The work certainly does not stop after the reception!

Building societies are constantly adapting to the needs of modern society and their local communities. For example, this includes intergenerational and student mortgages to help young people get their foot on the housing ladder, workplace savings that are deducted in the same way as pension contributions, and specialist mortgages for B&B owners in the Lake District (one Society’s response to dynamically adapt to their local community’s needs).

Here’s to the next 150 years!