The BSA turns 150

On March 12 the BSA celebrated its 150th birthday.

Here we take a brief look at its establishment, and how we marked the occasion.

BSA-150th-Anniversary-Michelle-Walsh-Photography-Event-Photographer-0022.jpgOn March 12 the BSA celebrated its 150th birthday.

Here we take a brief look at its establishment, and how we marked the occasion.

 A brief history of the establishment of the BSA

  • On February 26 1869 a meeting was held at Salter’s Hotel, King’s Arm Yard, Snow Hill, London (Just off Moorgate) to consider the desirability of establishing an association for the protection of interests of building societies. 
  • It was, to a large degree, made possible by the advent of the Building Societies Gazette (now Mortgage Finance Gazette) which was the primary means of communication between the c.2,750 societies at that time.
  • On  March 12 1869, the rules of the Association were agreed and the BSA was born – an organisation that could act with “promptitude and efficiency in the general interests of these societies”.  It was then called the Building Societies Protection Association.
  • Its objectives were twofold:
    To watch the proceedings in Parliament in reference to building societies
    To protect and extend their interests, privileges and advantages. 
  • At the time it is recorded that around half of all MPs were involved in their local building society in the capacity of Trustees or something similar.

Celebrating 150 years

A parliamentary reception marked the BSA's 150th birthday. Kate Creagh writes:

"A 200-strong group of Chief Executives, Chairs, NEDS, staff, associates, Parliamentarians, civil servants and regulators gathered in the Terrace Pavilion, overlooking the Thames. The reason for the celebration was the BSA’s 150BSA-150th-Anniversary-Michelle-Walsh-Photography-Event-Photographer-0005.jpg anniversary and the contribution the UK’s 43 building societies make to the UK’s economy and communities.

The speakers at the Parliamentary Reception included Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury), Stephen Mitcham (Chair of the BSA and Chief Executive of the Cambridge), Lee Rowley MP (Vice-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Challenger Banks and Building Societies) and the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP (Chair of the Treasury Select Committee).

A number of the speakers shared stories of how building societies had helped them or their families – whether to save, in opening up their first account or by offering a mortgage.  Nicky Morgan emphasised that she wanted the sector to make its voice heard in Treasury Select Committee inquiries. Jonny Reynolds highlighted that the Labour Party was committed to building societies and credit unions, and Lee Rowley noted the emerging opportunities from the All-Party Group on Challenger Banks and Building Societies, as members of the group wanted to champion the sector in Parliament.

BSA-150th-Anniversary-Michelle-Walsh-Photography-Event-Photographer-0083.jpgStephen Mitcham touched on the history of building societies and the contribution they make to the economy, helping people save and buy a home of their own. He also highlighted the contribution they make to their local communities, whether through fundraising, supporting local organisations with facilities. Examples include the Cumberland hosting the local football club’s supporters’ shop when it was flooded, or combining branches with other local facilities, like the library in Yarm where the Newcastle co-located a branch within the library ensuring its future. He left the audience with a challenge – to consider small first when developing legislation or regulation that could adversely impact the sector.

After the speeches the Economic Secretary to the Treasury joined the reception to meet a number of Chief Executives and discuss some of the issues on their radar. The goodwill towards the sector from politicians, civil servants, regulators and the media was evident from the attendees in the room. A number of useful connections were made by both the BSA and its members, with MPs due to visit members in the weeks ahead and briefings promised to Parliamentarians. The work certainly does not stop after the reception!

BSA-150th-Anniversary-Michelle-Walsh-Photography-Event-Photographer-0128.jpgTaking a minute to reflect, the growth of the sector since its early days of people pooling their savings to be able to buy or build a home of their own is amazing. From one group of people meeting in a pub there are now and incredible 25 million members of building societies across the UK.

As customer-owned organisations they use the £280 million of savings invested with them to fund mortgages, just as they did in the early days.

Building societies are constantly adapting to the needs of modern society and their local communities. For example, this includes intergenerational and student mortgages to help young people get their foot on the housing ladder, workplace savings that are deducted in the same way as pension contributions, and specialist mortgages for B&B owners in the Lake District (one Society’s response to dynamically adapt to their local community’s needs).

Here’s to the next 150 years!"