Mutual support for our communities and members in challenging times

Philippa Cardno, Chief Executive of the Newbury Building Society, writes about the principles of mutuality.

So far, my first six months as Chief Executive of Newbury Building Society have been interesting. Emergence from pandemic restrictions, the war in Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis continue to impact our members, communities, people and operations. As rapid change continues to be the norm, I am comforted that one thing remains unchanged: our commitment in supporting those members and communities. 

Whilst today's building societies are entirely different from the simpler entities founded in the 19th century, the principles of mutuality still hold true. This is especially the case with ‘The Newbury’ in its 165th year. 

Involvement in our communities in Berkshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire is incredibly important to us. Over the years, we’ve developed a range of initiatives to support these communities, such as our Community Support Scheme, which typically makes around 40 grants of up to £1,000 to a range of different organisations each year. Groups supported in 2022 so far include Dingley's Promise, who help children with special educational needs, Maggie's Oxford, a charity that provides advice and companionship to people living with cancer, and St Edmunds Football Club, a grassroots team based in Abingdon. 

In celebration of our 165th birthday, we also recently launched 165 Days of Volunteering. This has seen me don an apron at Trinity, the charity partner of our Winchester branch, and chop what felt like hundreds of onions(!) to prepare lunch for vulnerable people. So far, colleagues from across the Society have helped at charities such as the National Animal Welfare Trust and Sue Ryder, getting stuck into a range of activities including gardening and painting.

As well as donations, fundraising and volunteering, we also dedicate time to working out how we can educate the savers and borrowers of the future. Junior Newbury Building Society (JNBS) champions financial education by empowering children to run their own 'branch' in their primary school, making the process of saving accessible and fun. We also recently partnered with a digital education provider to deliver sustainability education to secondary schools around our branch towns. The course, ‘Sustainability Foundations’, explores the importance of climate change and enables students to understand how they can make greener choices.

And finally, we understand many members will be worried about rising costs and may have to dip into savings or search for ways to cut expenditure. At Newbury, we’re pleased to announce a new Cost-of-Living initiative, providing financial and practical help to communities in five areas affected by rising prices: food, debt, transport, energy, and mental health. We have made donations to more than 25 local front-line organisations, including Oxfordshire Mind, West Berks Food Bank, and Citizens Advice Basingstoke, and we are supporting our members with a wealth of practical tips and resources on our website. 

This new initiative, in addition to those I talked about earlier in this article, demonstrate our commitment to the values embedded in our mutual DNA. Building societies are highly regarded for these values, rightfully leading the way in the financial services sector. As organisations and individuals, we have faced myriad challenges in a short space of time, many of which none of us would have foreseen. As testing times persist, it is more vital than ever that we remember our roots as community-serving organisations.

Find out more: https://www.newbury.co.uk/about-us/community-and-charity/