First published in Society Matters magazine, by Colin Field, Chief Executive, Saffron Building Society
The original purpose for the Building Society formed by Richard Ketley in 1775 was clear. It responded to an urgent need for affordable housing that was lacking at the time. Societies were founded to help ordinary people help others in their local communities to attain safe housing.
Even today, "A home for people's money and money for a home" is an excellent place to start to define a core purpose. House prices vary from region to region, but increasingly they are too high to be affordable for a young person starting out in their adult life.
To rise to this challenge, Saffron, like many societies has adapted to help customers attain home ownership, through their ability to deliver specialist lending that meets these more complicated situations. Societies also continue to provide a safe place for individuals to save their money and have adapted to provide accounts designed to encourage and develop a good regular savings habit that will provide security at times of financial shock.
Prior to the Covid crisis biting, the lives of individuals and as a consequence, future planning was already becoming more complex. Rapid advancement of technology combined with improvements in life expectancy had meant that a traditional view of a predicable working career and happy retirement was changing.
For many, the direct impact of the Covid crisis has been to surface the importance of both physical and mental health to be able to enjoy a fulfilled life. The crisis experience has also raised awareness of the importance of financial health. For those fortunate individuals able to work productively from home, they have realised cost savings in addition to the time saved from the lack of a commute. Others have been less fortunate, where despite the unprecedented interventions from the government by means of furlough and business support loans, the financial frailty of their situation has been exposed.
Whilst our communities are now emerging from the Covid-19 crisis, it will have left a lasting mark. Some individuals will be embracing the future with optimism, but others will be facing the uncertainty and worry of unemployment. Whatever the impact, it is likely that most people and their families will be more aware of their financial health and will have reconsidered their priorities and goals for the future.
As we fast forward nearly 250 years from the founding of the first Building Society, at Saffron, we have taken the time to reconsider our broader purpose. We have considered both the fundamental needs of Members and customers and also the challenges facing our wider heartland communities. Saffron has redefined its vision and purpose as "Money Happiness", recognising that for individuals and families, their ability to thrive is based upon two aspects, health (both physical and mental) and financial security and flexibility.
For Saffron, "Money Happiness" is central to our strategic goals. We have also recognised that our vision, purpose and impact has to extend beyond our current Membership and that we must strive to play an active part to positively impact our communities. We now lead this activity through a dedicated community partner who spearheads and co-ordinates our initiatives. In common with other societies we have supported the delivery of financial education to primary and secondary school students but we are looking to build this out to provide education to the parents of students. Building on this, we have added money management advice to our website and partnered with Citizens Advice to prepare our front line staff to be able to support Members facing financial difficulties. We encourage all of our colleagues to get out into the community to engage in volunteering and in September we are taking this support one step further, when we make out new 'Community Hub' available for community use.
A clear vision and purpose focusses the effort of the Society, directing both energy and resources. It can also form a strong motivation for colleagues, who attracted to the mutual ethos can see their Society strive to improve the financial wellbeing of Members and their wider communities.
To follow our progress visit: saffronbs.co.uk