Building Society: And proud of it

Robin Fieth, CEO of the Building Societies Association, speaking at the 148th BSA Conference at the Business Design Centre in Islington on Wednesday 3 May 2017

A BSA MANIFESTO FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION

I find it quite refreshing that Theresa May managed to pull the General Election announcement out of a hat without leaks or front running of what she was going to say.

Even if it would have been convenient to know her intent when we were putting the Conference programme together!

There has been much debate about her purpose behind calling a snap election.

In the context of triggering Article 50; The forthcoming negotiations about the UK’s departure from the EU; And, our future relationship with Europe.

Of course we all want the best outcome possible for the UK.

As predominantly UK domestic players, right now that means a strong, stable UK economy.

One where consumers feel confident about their present and their future. Confident about jobs and the economy. Confident to save for future events and purchases. Confident in their financial resilience in the face of the unexpected. Confident in their ability to buy or rent a good quality home.

Building societies exist to help their members achieve their ambitions. But we see many people struggling to do these things.

Last Friday I wrote to party leaders laying out three commitments which we believe could help change things for the better for the people of the UK:

Firstly:
Building a resilient economy based on a diversity of business models, including mutuals.

The UK needs to move its mind-set away from a fixation on PLCs and shareholder owned businesses as the only game in town.

Diversity encourages a wider range of businesses models and objectives. Adding to resilience in times of crisis. And consumer choice and competition all the time.

The Government and the Treasury in particular should see mutualisation as one legitimate route for the privatisation of public assets.

Secondly:
Tackling housing affordability by increasing the supply of good quality homes across all tenures.

Encouraging diversity of supply through more support for SME builders, self-builders and different forms of building technology. Recognising shared ownership as a separate tenure.

And accepting that there will be an increasingly intergenerational approach to home ownership for ordinary people. Which should be promoted, not penalised through policy and the tax system.

Thirdly:
Encouraging a savings culture for all.

Rainy day savings for the day to day shocks that wreck household budgets. Regular savings for those big purchases. And long term savings for secure futures.

Increasing household resilience. Helping people to achieve their dreams.

Keeping savings policy simple and consistent.

Together with continued investment in financial education. To equip young people and adults with the skills and understanding needed for them to manage their own money more effectively.

June 8 is still five weeks away. We will have a better idea then of what the UK political landscape will look like.

We do already know that for building societies our present and future are linked positively to our past.

Download the full speech here.