Pride, Responsibility and Reinvigorating Communities - BSA Annual Conference 2019

Mike Regnier, BSA incoming Chair, speaking at the BSA Conference in London on Friday 24 May 2019

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Good morning everyone,

Welcome back to a jam-packed second day of Conference where we’re complementing our plenary and breakout sessions with our Digital Mutual Stream running throughout the day.

I am delighted to be here this morning in my new capacity as BSA Chair and am very much looking forward to the next two years.

No-one here today needs reminding how uncertain and challenging our environment and markets are at the moment, and who knows what the next few years will throw at us.  It’s going to be tough, but I am a firm believer that the most rewarding things in life are often the ones you work hardest for.

I am incredibly proud to be a part of the mutual sector and can’t quite believe how quickly the five years have gone since I joined the Yorkshire.

Prior to that I worked for a decade in strategic management consulting, then for a large food retailer and a couple of banks.  I’ve been lucky enough in that time to work across a range of sectors and in a number of countries.  But after these five years I am in no doubt that our sector has something different about it.  Something special.

The essence of the difference I see comes down to our purpose, our culture, our values and our behaviour.

As our members, our owners, are also our customers we don’t have the conflicts of interest that the PLCs face.

What we do for our customers is massively important to them, and so is how we do it.  I see that every time I spend time in one of our branches, and I sleep better at night knowing that with every decision we make we’re all trying to do the best we can, within whatever constraints we operate, for our current and future customers.  Not for anyone else.

From the results of the recent BSA Chief Executive survey I was very heartened to see that the views of my fellow Chief Executives show a palpable sense of the pride that we feel about our own society or credit union.

It’s a feeling tempered by responsibility.

As our new Deputy Chair, Mark Bogard said in that research “We have no right to exist, we need to earn that right every day.”

Our job is to deliver sustainable businesses that can positively impact our customers’ lives and the communities that they live in.

Community and societal purpose are the bedrock of building societies and mutuality.  The first building societies were not created by financiers or landowners, but by communities which understood that the difficulties faced by an individual wanting a home of their own could be overcome by acting together.

Since then we’ve seen technological and economic advancement, an evolution in consumer expectation, and shifts in attitude and public policy.  All these have completely transformed the landscape.

But our ethos of putting customers’ first, personal connection and community remain.

Today the BSA is publishing a report called “Reinvigorating Communities - Building societies social purpose in action”.

The aim of this report is to help us to learn from each other.  And to motivate all of us to act to strengthen and invigorate our local communities still further.

Building Societies and credit unions have always contributed to tackling some of the big challenges our members face.  Most naturally in areas where we have particular expertise: in helping them to secure a place to call home and in building financial resilience in the face of life’s uncertainties.

I have recently been brought up short by research which has shown that many people across the UK have very little or absolutely no financial resilience.

The recent reports that unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974 with nearly 100,000 jobs added in the first quarter of 2019 is great news, of course.  But seven and a half million of the people in work have no savings at all, and this is not restricted to those on lower incomes.

It means that if the car they need for work breaks down or the boiler packs up or they can’t work for a while for some reason - they have no savings to fall back on.

So they may have to turn to high cost credit or just do without.

We also know that people worry more about money than their health, relationships or career problems.

And that this lack of financial well-being has an adverse effect on productivity – something that is of huge interest to UK PLC and public policy makers.

UK productivity has remained stubbornly flat for years.

Money worries and a lack of individual financial resilience currently cost the economy around £50 billion a year in lost productivity – which is bad for everyone.

In our sector part of our focus is on helping people to save.

So let me leave you with a question – given this backdrop isn’t there more that our sector, whether individually or in partnership with others, can do to help improve individual financial resilience?

I look forward to a great debate on this in the coming weeks and months.

Notes

  • Mike Regnier became BSA Chair on 24 May 2019.  His term of office runs to May 2021
  • Mike is Chief Executive of Yorkshire Building Society
  • Photographs are available from the BSA Press Office Tel: 0207 520 5926/5927