BEVERLEY Building Society plans to ensure more people have access to face to face financial services, at a time when many banks have infuriated customers by closing dozens of rural branches.
Beverley, which is one of Britain’s oldest mutuals, also revealed that it had achieved one of its best financial performances during 2017. The society’s pre-tax profits were £680,000 which was almost double 2016’s figure of £337,000. Overall lending was up by £1.8m, to £149.3m in 2017which Beverley said was due to its personalised approach to underwriting and meeting people’s niche borrowing needs.
In recent years, many of the big banks have closed branches in rural communities, provoking an angry response from customers and businesses. Beverley is speaking to a number of potential collaborators, including East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the University of Hull, about the possibility of undertaking a research project looking at the financial needs of people in East Yorkshire. The project could include an assessment of the provision of financial services in rural communities.
The chief executive Karl Elliott said: “While the society, which has just one branch, could not justify an investment in more bricks and mortar facilities, it is investigating the possibility of working with partners to establish “pop-up” facilities so people in East Yorkshire can access a face to face service and get the help they need near where they live.”
Mr Elliott added: “Our society was created over 150 years ago by the revolutionaries of their day – driven by their vision of making home ownership a possibility for all.
“In today’s financial marketplace, where there is ever more uncertainty; from affordable housing, to planning for later life, there is a growing need for a financial provider who is accessible and can better understand and respond to customers’ changing needs.”
One recent example of the society’s approach to face-to-face customer service, involved a local widow in her nineties who became housebound after breaking her leg. Several members of the society’s team spotted that this lady was in need of help and supported her in keeping her finances on track by making visits to her at home. They kept her supplied with cash from her account as well as helping her with her general banking.
One of those team members said: “This kind of thing isn’t a service we officially offer but it’s part of our ethos as a team that we will do our best to help people, whatever the circumstances.”
The mutual continued to support the charity Action Duchenne, raising more than £60,000 to help young children with a debilitating muscle degeneration condition.
Average loan to value was down to 38.4 per cent, compared with 39.9 per cent in 2016, which the society said was part of its low-risk lending strategy.
Mr Elliott added: “I feel genuinely privileged to be able to announce such a strong set of annual results during my first year as chief executive of this thriving organisation.
“Thanks to the outstanding customer service our dedicated team deliver, customer satisfaction and retention are consistently high. Over the coming months and years we will be seeking an ever- deeper understanding of what our current and future customers really need, so that we can remain relevant and able to meet their requirements.”
“We will be seeking opportunities to further improve the products and services we provide to both savers and borrowers during 2018, with a focus on remaining relevant to families across the region who are looking for a safe and reliable home for their savings, and participating in those areas of the mortgage market where we can make a positive difference for homeowners and first-time buyers.”