Wednesday, 18 May 2011
I have recently just completed my year of office as Chairman of the Building Societies Association,an experience I thoroughly enjoyed as it provided me with a broader appreciation of the spectrum of issues facing the mutual sector and an opportunity to influence the direction of development. Mutuals have much to offer, primarily because we are owned by our customers (members) and are not answerable to shareholders demanding a dividend for their financial stake. But mutuality in itself is just an organisational form, and we need to give it meaning by our focus on outstanding service and competitive products. The mood of the mutual sector, as reflected at our BSA Conference in Birmingham earlier this month, is a mix of optimism and realisation that we need to seize the chance given to us by the current plight of the state-funded banks and customer thirst for financial expertise that they can actually trust. Building societies have been around for many decades (since 1854 in The Hanleys case) and whilst we don't want to live in the past, we believe that many of the virtues we demonstrate are in high demand in our 21st century marketplace. Our job is to refashion and remould without jeopardising the core values of mutuality. An exciting challenge and one we are relishing at The Hanley. It is often assumed that making a product or service more contemporary requires a cutting-edge- technology solution, and of course the smartphone generation have created new market dynamics, which we all try to wrestle with and benefit from, but in fact successful business is about adapting and staying relevant, without compromising on quality. For every Apple there is a Burberry and for every Amazon there is an Innocent.