Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Last week I attended the annual lunch hosted by the Building Societies Association (BSA) in London, along with Chief Execs from about 20 other building societies and representatives from regulators, government departments and business partners. The lunch itself was punctuated by a very strong and thought-provoking speeech given by Graham Beale, Chairman of the BSA, whose day job is Chief Exec of Nationwide. Graham spotlighted the resilience of building societies in the face of the current economic storm and our ability to just get on with doing what we always do, despite unfair and heavily-subsidised competition from those banks which are part or wholly owned by the government following their financial collapse last year. I know that Hanley members are bemused by the savings rates being offered by the likes of Northern Rock and Natwest banks as I have first hand experience of trying to explain how our own self-sufficiency makes it impossible to match those deals! Graham also focused on the future threat to the building sector as a whole if FSA proposals to reclassify certain external capital products (known as PIBS) come to fruition. All in all a very earnest mood was in the air. However I found my own enjoyment of the lunch was enhanced greatly by the fact that I sat next to Loretta Minghella , Chief Exec of the FSCS. As well as being a very interesting professional with a legal background and a sound grasp of the challenges facing small building societies like The Hanley, Loretta is also the sister of the late Anthony Minghella,one of Britains finest ever Film Directors with a body of work that includes Cold Mountain, The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley. Anthony died aged only 54 in March 2008 . I was completely captivated by Loretta's stories about her brother and her candour and warmth put some of our business challenges into very clear perspective for me.

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