Keeping it simple proving the winning formula for Beverley

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BEVERLEY Building Society said its focus on easy-to-understand savings and loan products helped achieve record growth last year.

The East Yorkshire lender reported a seven per cent increase in its mortgage book to £131m and a £3m increase in deposits to £164.6m.

Net profit shot up 35 per cent to £206,000, the third successive year of profit growth.

The performance boosted the balance sheet by 3 per cent to £179.5m.

Founded in 1866, Beverley is one of Britain’s oldest mutuals. It is ranked 39th out of 46 according to size.

Peter Myers, pictured, chief executive, told the Yorkshire Post: “We recognise who we are and what we do and we focus on that.

“Financial services are very complicated. We focus on savings and mortgages.”

Beverley offers one mortgage product with a range of discounts according to a borrower’s loan to value ratio, said Mr Myers.

Savings products focus on providing value for money over time, he added, “not weird and wonderful offers that finish after 12 months”.

The CEO described a simple test he applies to the society’s products; the sole branch faces a coffee shop across the square in the market town. In the branch windows are posters promoting financial products. Mr Myers said he wants the products to look just as good close up as they do from the other side of Market Place “with no caveats and asterisks”.

“We have a genuinely religious focus on customer service,” he said.

“It’s easy to talk about it, but we do. My contact details are on the website so people can get through to me if they want to.

“It indicates the personality of the operation rather than dealing with a call centre that may or may not be in the UK.”

A lot of financial institutions are talking about trust, integrity and ethics in their marketing campaigns as they try to heal the wounds of the banking crisis.

Mr Myers, a former number two at Yorkshire Bank, said: “These things are easy to talk about but you have to work out how you bring them to life.”

He said the wider financial services market has an issue with trust and some members of the public wonder whether certain institutions are safe.

He said the society does not suffer from a trust issue and has a “fantastic loyal franchise”. It also refrains from paying bonuses to any members of staff.

Beverley had £8.5m in general reserves in 2012, up from £8.29m in 2011, which provide a strong capital cushion and satisfy regulatory requirements and protect savers, said the annual report.

Mr Myers said: “Financial services are in a completely global market, even if you are operating as a relatively small independent mutual like Beverley.”

This means that the society takes a cautious approach to liquidity and invests only in sterling-denominated assets like gilts and Treasury bills.

“The European situation focuses in the mind in terms of liquidity,” said Mr Myers.

Mr Myers said the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme has “fundamentally changed” the mortgage market.

Beverley is not taking part in the programme – it is able to fund lending through its deposits – but has benefited as demand for savers’ money has fallen.

Mr Myers said: “We are trying to balance exploiting that and being true to our values.”

Savers’ deposits make up £164.6m of the balance sheet.

Nearly half of Beverley’s business comes direct, either from the internet or post.

It also has a good relationship with mortgage brokers, said Mr Myers.

Around 70 per cent of customers are in Yorkshire, he added.

Mr Myers spent 20 years with Yorkshire Bank before moving Down Under to work with parent National Australia Bank.

He returned to the UK and spent two years as chief executive of West Yorkshire Tourism before being headhunted for the Beverley job.

He said his £115,000 package at the society is “substantially” less than he received at NAB but he feels more able to “leave a genuine legacy” with the mutual rather than operating in a corporate environment.

bernard.ginns@ypn.co.uk