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Building Societies Conference 2023 round-up: Day two, Part one

Looking back to the second day of the Building Societies Conference 2023, including keynotes and breakout sessions.

Chair's welcome

Rob Pheasey, Building Societies Association Chair 2023-2025 & Chief Executive, Marsden Building Society, welcomed delegates to the second day of the Building Societies Conference. Rob’s tenure as BSA Chair began that morning. Rob welcomed and introduced the two keynote sessions of the morning.
 

Keynote: The challenges and opportunities ahead for the mutual sector

David BaileyExecutive Director, UK Deposit Takers, Bank of England

David began by telling the audience that the PRA recognises the vital role that mutuals play in the UK financial sector and highlighted that all 50 BSA members have headquarters outside of London enabling a connection with local communities. David’s speech moved on to focus on two areas. Firstly, the challenge for the mutual sector in managing a fast-evolving outlook for credit risk whilst supporting members in the current economic climate. And secondly, the evolution of the PRA regulatory regime to ensure it continues to deliver resilience in the sector, whilst remaining proportionate and supporting growth. He mentioned two pieces of policy of keen interest to building societies – Basel 3.1 and the PRA’s Strong and Simple regime for smaller firms and called for building societies to actively engage with these changes to help the PRA make them work well.

You can read David’s speech on the Bank of England website here
 

Keynote: Empowering regulation - helping firms to meet the needs of society

Rodney E. HoodBoard Member, Immediate Past Chair, National Credit Union Administration

Delegates heard next from Rodney E. Hood, speaking in his capacity as a regulator. Rodney is one of three members of the Board of the National Credit Union Administration, the independent regulatory agency that oversees the U.S. system of federally insured credit unions.

Rodney began by addressing the current turmoil in the banking sector, namely the failures at SVB, Signature Bank, First Republic and Credit Suisse and was quick to try and alleviate the anxiety in terms of a wider banking crisis. Rodney shared his view that the common denominator in these failures is that their difficulties emerged as a result of them losing sight of their true mission, which is to serve the needs of their customers and society. Rodney went on to talk about stewardship and trust both being essential to the functioning of a sound financial system and how he believes that smaller financial services institutions – including credit unions, building societies and other cooperative finance entities – should have a distinct advantage.

Rodney pointed out that the financial industry, at its best, can and should be a creative force that solves problems and how providers can make a real, positive difference in people’s lives every day.

Rodney also touched on how bigger is not necessarily better, restoring service, trust and stewardship in the wider financial services sector and how he sees the way forward, with a focus on bringing innovation and service together to create the best experience for members.

You can read Rodney’s speech here


Designing a green mortgage and retrofit process: What solutions are right for my business?

Andy Sutton, Chief Innovation Officer, Sero Cerys Williams, Finance Partnerships Manager, Sero;​ Chris Hardman, CEO & Co-Founder, PropEco; Colin Fyfe, Chief Executive, Hinckley and Rugby Building Society; Katharine Harrison, Co-Founder and VP Platform Services, Digital Building Services; Colin Calder, Co-Founder, Digital Building Services

Whilst most people recognise the urgent need to decarbonise our housing stock, the panel highlighted that there are many challenges in achieving the mass retrofit programme that is required.

The Green Finance Institute was recognised as having done great work on the Lender and Broker guides, but consumer confusion is delaying action.  Many homeowners, including landlords, do not know what their EPC rating is; what action they need to take to improve energy efficiency; the order in which to do the work or how to finance it.

In workshop groups, the audience discussed the proposition of three companies that specialise in decarbonising and retrofitting homes. 

All three companies highlighted the use of data and technology to educate the consumer on the energy efficiency of their own property and where and how they can improve this. Collaboration with lenders could deliver an end-to-end service, linking customers with trusted suppliers, giving homeowners the confidence to take action.


Consumer duty: The roles of the board and the consumer duty champion

John Sutherland, Chair of Risk Committee - Darlington Building Society (Chair); Marc Ireland, Associate Partner, EY; Stephanie Jackson, Senior Manager, EY;​ Robert Sinclair, Chief Executive, AMI and AFB; Tom Anderson, Executive Director, A&O Consulting

John Sutherland opened the session by setting the Consumer Duty scene as the July deadline approaches. 2024 will see a greater focus on outcomes and John believes that the FCA will face a challenge in determining how to measure those.

The panel discussed the similarities of the Consumer Duty project with that of Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) - Marc Ireland noted that building societies have been engaged with Consumer Duty from the start, with an acute awareness of the need to demonstrate good consumer outcomes. There have been conversations around proportionality, Consumer Duty for simple businesses with ‘vanilla’ products, and questions around how far to firms need to go but overall, Marc felt that firms have embraced it and understand where it differs to TCF.

The discussion moved on to the role of the Consumer Duty Champion (CDC), whether there could be a clash of conflict between them and the Board and how Consumer Duty sits with Risk Committee Board members. Robert Sinclair, CEO of AMI and AFB and also the CDC for Darlington Building Society, told delegates that he sees Consumer Duty as a shared responsibility of the CDC, CEO and Chair and that Boards must ensure that recommendations of the CDC are implemented quickly. It is key to measure, demonstrate it better and review it often. The role of the CDC is not to make sure the Board has done it correctly, just that they’ve done it and can justify the decisions and changes made.

The panel was also asked what they see as the top three areas where most ground needs to be covered before the July deadline.  There were a number of responses, including: the moving from Consumer Duty as a project to becoming fully embedded within the business; ownership of all the elements of Consumer Duty; training of the workforce; data – moving from data points to a dashboard which tells you what you are delivering to the customer; measuring and assessing customer understanding.

The panel was also asked whether Consumer Duty is a strategic opportunity or a compliance burden with the overall response being a strategic opportunity. Stephanie Jackson said that while firms are currently focused on meeting deadlines, over the longer term technology changes are necessary and this will encourage the Board to think about Consumer Duty as part of their strategy. Tom Anderson shared how he has seen building society members speaking to the Board giving a direct sense of what it means to be a member / customer. Tom sees this as a powerful agent for change.

The session ended with the panel touching on the FOS’s role in Consumer Duty and the need for clarity around this.


Dear prudence - savings and financial resilience

Lauren Peel, Head of Markets, Consumer Insights and Product Design, Fair4All Finance; Andrew Gall, Head of Savings and Economics, Building Societies Association; ; Jerry During MBE, FRSA CEO & Co-Founder - Money A+E

Presentation from Fair4all Finance 

Diane Burridge spoke about Fair4all Finance’s work to partner with financial service organisations to expand the provision of affordable credit, by developing products and services. As part of this work, they have identified segments to better understand people’s needs. They had identified these segments as:

Segment

Age range

Housing type

Work situation

Unsteady starters

18-34

Renting

On zero hours or part-time contracts

Squeezed and sliding

25-44

Mortgaged and renting

Salary plus child benefits

Credit crisis families

25-44

Social housing

Benefits and some zero hours or part-time contracts

Difficult debts

35-44

Private renters, some mortgaged

Salary plus child benefits

Forgotten families

25-54

Social housing

Reliant on benefits, some carers

(Un)golden years

45+

Social housing, some homeowners

State pension (some private pension), some still in work

Jerry During, from Money A+E, spoke about their work helping people in financial difficulty. The social enterprise’s approach focuses on harnessing the lived experience of people who had been through challenging financial circumstances. Incorporating lived experience leaders means that the organisation is more diverse, inclusive, culturally competent, empathetic, accessible and represented the community it operated in. Money A+E was seeing the forgotten families and credit crisis families amongst their clients. Following support from the organisation 58% saw an increase in their well-being and in 2022 the organisation managed £2.4m.

80% of Money A+E’s clients were non-white. Black and African people are four times more likely to be denied a bank loan than white people and fewer than 1 in 10 management jobs are held by people from diverse ethnic communities. The organisation is setting up two projects to tackle these challenges - a housing and employment project and training and recruitment project and is looking for partners.


Mortgages: Living your values in the face of digital competition

Richard Broadbent, Head of Europe - Sopra Banking Software; Mark McAlpine, Executive Director, Head of Business Process Services at Sopra Steria.

Open banking for financial health

Erel Onojobi, Portfolio Manager, Financial Health Lead, Urban Health; Akil Benjamin, Strategy Director, Comuzi

Digital transformation in mortgage lending and open banking for boosting the financial health of people on low incomes were the topics of two back-to-back sessions in the morning breakout sessions. Taking place in the Seminar Theatre at the back of the exhibition area, wireless headphones were available on tables for attendees to hear speakers. 

First up was Richard Broadbent, from Sopra Banking Software and Mark McAlpine, from Sopra Steria, talking through the increasingly competitive mortgage landscape as newer challengers, with digitised workflows entered the market. They contrasted traditional customer journeys with duplication of information and lack of member visibility, with the real time information now available and suite of technologies that can combine to improve customer experience. 

The second session was from Akil Benjamin, Comuzi and Erel Onojobi, Urban Health, talking through research they recently undertook looking at the potential benefits open banking apps for people on low incomes. Akil and Erel talked through a case study of Claudia, a woman in her 50s, and how she used open banking apps to improve her financial goals and some of the pitfalls in terms of the value of aggregation services vs apps not being tailored to those on lower incomes. The session ended with a number of recommendations for policy makers and building societies in terms of how open banking could be improved and where it could most benefit borrowers on lower incomes.