Friday, 10 May 2013

BSA CONFERENCE

This week I completed my tenure as Chairman of the Building Societies Association and passed the baton to my successor David Cutter ( CEO Skipton BS) at our Annual Conference in Harrogate. I have learnt a lot during my time as Chairman and feel very fortunate to have been elected to the role, during a period of immense change in our industry.   I  was delighted to complete my term with a hugely successful conference with high-calibre guest speakers and a sense of optimism and resurgence amongst attendees. Highlights of the week for me included a very thought provoking debate on the future of branches, which included presentations from the CEO of First Direct and the CEO of Yorkshire BS, a quite awe-inspiring talk by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a superb speech by the former MD of Dyson who reminded us all of the vital role played by innovation in business success. I also sat next to our after-dinner speaker Jeremy Vine on Wednesday night who is  really enagaging and interesting  company and a first-class speaker with a fantastic range of anecdotes from his 25 years in broadcasting. We found that we also shared similar tastes in music, mainly from late 70s stuff like Bowie, The Clash and the slightly more obscure Spear of Destiny. Unquestionably the mood of the conference was that this is a key moment for mutuals as we seek to seize the initiative and advance our market share while competitors in the PLC banking sector remain mired in customer-mistrust and balance sheet rebuilding. But it is also very clear that forward-momentum can only be maintained if building societies focus on delivering what customers really need , whether that is in  first time buyer lending or in helping advise our members on long term savings. We also wish to reinforce our message that mutuals have a contemporary relevance and to do that we acknowledge scope for additional investment in new ways of marketing and distributing our products in the digital arena. Combining  the values & traditions of our roots with a modern zest for outstanding service sounds to me  like a potent cocktail.      

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