150 years of the BSA

A little history, and the plans for the year ahead as we celebrate the BSA's 150th 'birthday'.

1869 was noteworthy for many reasons. 

The first council housing in Europe was built in Liverpool…

Girton College Cambridge was founded - the first residential university for women…

and 1869 was also the year the Building Societies Association was formed. Its primary purpose was - and still is - to support and champion the UK's building societies.

The times they are a-changing… though some issues remain

Building societies date back further than the BSA. The first known Society, Ketley's, was founded in the Golden Cross pub by landlord, Richard Ketley, back in 1775.

Providing a solution to a societal issue of the time - a lack of decent homes - patrons waived their last pint and put the money into a communal pot to build houses. Each home was assigned to a Society member via ballot, and the process started again until every member had a home of their own. This innovation sparked the Building Society Movement.

Today might feel half a world away from 1775, or indeed 1869, but some societal issues remain much the same. We are in the midst of another housing crisis, although this time supply and affordability are the main challenges.

Building societies are responding to a set of challenges in modern society, just as Ketley’s did all those years ago.

Looking ahead

With our history in mind, but looking forward, the BSA has set three key themes for our 150th year to showcase the developments in our sector:

1. Housing for all

Cosy1.pngBuilding houses, offering competitive mortgages and serving the underserved. It’s all happening in building societies up and down the UK.

‘Underserved’ people include perfectly credit worthy individuals who have slightly more complex needs. Where other lenders say “computer says no”, building societies understand that sometimes a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unhelpful.

The self-employed, students, self-builders, older borrowers and those wanting to explore intergenerational mortgages to help family onto the housing ladder can find what they need somewhere in the sector.

As part of its ongoing research, the BSA will produce a report in 2019 on the ‘Future of homeownership.

2. Savings for life

Saving-money-jar-pennies.jpgClever new methods of saving little and often are helping people to achieve their dreams, enter homeownership or to simply enjoy peace of mind with an emergency cash buffer.

Money talks: in the first half of 2018, building society savers earned £460 million more interest than they would have if they’d chosen to save with the big banks.

The BSA has commissioned Toynbee Hall to produce a research piece to explore the UK's savings habits and trends. The report is set for publication in Q2.

beach-family-people.jpg3. For people, not shareholders

As membership organisations, building societies are owned by their savings and mortgage customers. Therefore profits are reinvested for the benefit of members and the communities that Societies serve. It’s a model that works: Building societies now have 25 million members and growing.

The BSA will be producing a ‘Reinvigorating communities’ piece in 2019, exploring branches, community, high streets, the environment etc.

The ‘golden thread’ running through these themes is ‘Innovation and Digital’. It drives the product and service developments. Digitisation is helping some societies deliver more efficiently. But, innovation isn’t exclusively digital. Non-digital innovation includes branch development, financial education and more. Just as relevant, a little less techy.

The BSA will be continuing its work on 'Digital attitudes' by conducting research and exploring the topic in more depth this year.

You can follow the BSA’s 2019 themes in Society Matters magazine. The spring edition is published in late March and explores “For people, not shareholders”. Sign up to receive your copy here.

A time to celebrate

The BSA is marking its 150th anniversary with:

  • A Parliamentary reception
    Sponsored by Kemi Badenoch MP, and with Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, Johnny Reynolds MP, shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury and BSA Chair, Stephen Mitcham
  • A news programme
    In partnership with ITN Productions the BSA will premiere ‘For People, Not Shareholders’ at its annual conference. The news and current affairs-style programme will explore how building societies help people achieve their financial goals
  • Displays
    Delegates at the BSA Conference can take in both the history and plans for the future of the sector in various displays and sessions

We hope you are able to celebrate 150 years of the BSA in 2019. Here’s to the next 150!