Challenges and opportunities facing building societies - CEOs share their views

We spoke to some of the newest building society CEOs – who all took up their role in 2017, about the challenges and opportunities ahead for their society and the industry generally. 

Will Carroll, CEO, Monmouthshire Building SocietyWill Carroll, Monmouthshire Building Society

“In the 13 years I have been at Monmouthshire Building Society, I have witnessed great change. Amonst other things the Society has more than doubled its asset size from £450 million to over £1 billion.

The consistently successful results of the Society have been achieved during what is probably the most testing time in banking for a generation or more.

However, in light of the significant changes in the macrolevel environment in which we operate, we are reviewing our strategy to build on the strong foundations already in place to ensure the Society’s continued future success as part of a vibrant building society sector.

I am a strong believer in mutuality and believe that the mutual model creates strong ‘organisational personality’ that is difficult to replicate, particularly within the communities in which societies operate.

The changing face of the financial services industry has led to a shift in power from provider to consumer, with expectations rising. The successful development of flexible, omni-channel, customer-centric propositions combined with the key differentiator of service quality associated with the building society brand, presents a great opportunity to gain competitive advantage. This enables more people to enjoy the benefits that mutuality offers.

We face some demanding challenges in order to successfully compete and grow in the digital age. I am extremely proud to be given the opportunity to lead Monmouthshire Building Society through the next stage of its journey and I am confident that with the great team I have around me, we can achieve our vision and ensure that the Society prospers for many years to come.”

Chris Harrison, CEO, Furness Building SocietyChris Harrison, Furness Building Society

“I was delighted to become CEO of Furness Building Society in April 2017 and after running a number of large organisations across Europe, I have a clear vision of how to take us forward.

The Society’s strong brand and reputation appealed to me and since joining I have been looking at how we can grow and build on our current membership, as well as driving the Society’s products and services into the digital age.

Furness Building Society, and the sector as a whole, needs to drive change to build a faster, more digital and more effective journey for brokers and customers alike. As such, one of my first tasks as Furness’ CEO was to start a change programme to help move us forward. We’ve already made lots of small improvements to our mortgage process and the support we provide to brokers, resulting in much quicker turnarounds and more efficient processes – but this is just the beginning.

Furness has always prided itself on great customer service, and I’m proud of the role we play in the local community by making charitable donations to a wide range of causes that matter to our customers. I don’t want to lose that personal touch but we also have to be able to compete in the digital world, where consumers simply want a quick and easy-to-use service.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead and I want to make sure everyone is engaged, motivated and developed to their full potential. There is a great team here and as we move forward we will ensure our long term success and prosperity for generations to come.”

Simon Beresford, CEO, Teachers Building SocietySimon Beresford, Teachers Building Society

“I am really excited to be back in the building society sector after six years in the City, and it was a privilege to be appointed Chief Executive of Teachers Building Society from February 2017. Our mission is to help more teachers save for and ultimately own their homes.

We’re proud to be a modern mutual with member service at our core and have made real strides in the last two years to bring our platform into the twenty first century. There is much still to do on this journey; including continuing to invest in service excellence, in our infrastructure and data capability; and really landing our message with more teachers across the country.

Our core challenges are to keep improving their service experience and to ensure more teachers know about us and benefit from ‘membership’. To support this drive we’re trying some new initiatives, including a Teacher Board made up of educational professionals to help shape our future. We’re also building deeper commercial relationships with key brokers and local schools, businesses and charities. Government is seeking to help further in this area and we are exploring opportunities to innovate here, as well as already being active supporters of existing affordable housing schemes.

Having worked in two large firms, I was attracted by the challenge of joining a leadership team in a smaller business with a real mission – helping key workers, like teachers, to save to buy a home near where they teach our children. That sense of purpose feels right to me!”

Karl Ellott, CEO, Beverley Building SocityKarl Elliott, Beverley Building Society

“It’s been a pleasure to spend my first three months at Beverley Building Society meeting people from across the sector, listening to their views and ideas on how we continue to be relevant to our customers.

I have been quickly immersed in the world of Treasury & Credit, experienced our first regulator visit and read countless risk & governance papers – all essential in carrying out my new role.

It is essential to be well governed, managed and financed – but this alone doesn’t define our success. It can tend to dominate the day job, but is only half of what it means to be a successful, thriving building society. The Beverley’s membership is mainly regional to where we operate and I’m convinced that our future success is grounded in the core purpose that originally defined us; to help those underserved by the market gain financial security through home ownership, funded by savings from across our community.

With a small team, we keep it simple with good value products, an emphasis on customer care and a determination to consider individual’s circumstances on their merits. We want to build long-term value, rather than short-term profit. Our social purpose demands that we make a positive difference to the lives of our members, their families and their local communities – we are not here just to make money.

There will always be change; regulation, competition and technology won’t stand still and our customers’ needs will continue to evolve, just as they have throughout the past 150 years.

Amidst that change, I believe our long-term sustainability and success will be dependent on remaining true to our purpose.