Well it’s general election day and I’m about to settle down and watch the coverage with some friends. I’ve always been a bit of a political junky – and let’s be honest the election’s all about numbers and stats – so I love it.
During the day I was in Harrogate for the Building Societies Association conference to make a speech and do a question and answer session called ‘what customers want’. Well that was what they had written down, but I got to change it to ‘just because you’re a building society doesn’t mean you’re not as bad as a bank!’
It was enjoyable to do – a thirty minute tirade, where I got worked up (aka Radio 2 style) explaining the massive problem with Building Societies. It’s not that I disapprove, just that, as I told them ‘lots of your products are crap!’.
If building societies are there to support members how does the fact many pay 1% on savings accounts, charge 17% on credit cards, and have standard mortgage rates over 1% point higher than HSBC help members? While I don’t expect them to compete in the rate tart market, they should offer long term stability and decent products for those who want an easy life. Yet many use the same tricks as the banks.
It wasn’t an easy session for many to listen to, but they did care, and the response I got was pleasantly open and receptive. I think the question that summed it up for me was, “you say we shouldn’t have any bad products and no rates substantially below average, but what about if that isn’t economical for us?”
My answer: “then tell your customers not to have your products, advise them to go elsewhere and close down. If you can’t give your MEMBERS at least decent rates, if not best buys, then the entire premise of mutuality is lost”.