Building societies have a lot to be positive about, says Robin Fieth

Robin Fieth of the Building Societies Association talks to Shaun Weston about the BSA’s 150th anniversary.

Building societies have a lot to be positive about, says Robin Fieth. Photo by Shaun Weston for ieDigital.

We attended the BSA Conference last week at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London. It was an enjoyable event, with energy and enthusiasm on tap, and a variety of talks on offer.

On podcast duty, I spoke to Robin Fieth, CEO of the Building Societies Association, and got his thoughts about how important a role the BSA still plays 150 years on from its birth in a pub in Snow Hill, London! The blog post we reference in the podcast is Reflecting back; looking forward, and Robin talks about how today’s Association is tasked with carrying on the inspiring work started by its founding members.

Despite political and economic uncertainty, there’s a lot to be positive about: “In an incredibly competitive mortgage market, at a time when everyone is talking about the sector being squeezed, we’ve written 57% of net mortgage business in the first quarter of this year, against our natural market share of about 23%,” said Robin. “And that is a trend that has been carrying on quarter by quarter.”

Robin Fieth interview

You talked recently about the Association’s past being the inspiration for its future. For the benefit of those who haven’t read it yet, please you explain your rationale.

Yes, of course. 150 years ago, the Building Societies Association was founded by a group of people in some interesting political circumstances, when stuff was going through parliament and no one knew about it. But the inspiration was about creating an organisation that stood for, championed and supported its members, which is exactly what, 150 years later, we do today.

Our inspiration from our founding fathers is carrying on that great journey that is just as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 19th.

Shaun Weston interviews the BSA's Robin Fieth for The Shape of Money podcast.

And with a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, there’s a lot to be positive about, isn’t there?

There’s a huge amount to be positive about! We’ve seen it today in the latest quarter results coming out … In an incredibly competitive mortgage market, at a time when everyone is talking about the sector being squeezed, we’ve written 57% of net mortgage business in the first quarter of this year, against our natural market share of about 23%. And that’s a trend that has been carrying on quarter by quarter, basically since the crisis.

The foundation of the BSA lies in educating parliament to a degree, about the benefits and importance of building societies. Is this still the case?

It’s absolutely still the case. And if you look back at the first history of the BSA, it says that in the first 40 years, it had done such good work that it had effectively maintained building societies as a completely separate group of businesses, rather than seeing them all transferred into stock businesses. That’s a conversation that still goes on today.

A big part of our job is educating parliamentarians, officials and indeed the public, about what it is to have a series of customer-owned businesses that are so important in financial services. Part of our key messaging is about having the whole financial mutual sector as an absolutely integral part of the future of financial services.

After 150 years, there’s a lot to celebrate. Was there a cake?!

There was a huge cake! We had a lovely parliamentary session back in February. We had a massive birthday cake there, and the event was really well supported. There were some really warm and personal messages, from people like Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Treasury Select Committee. And here today, we’ll hear from Jon Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who is a huge supporter of everything we do, particularly around financial inclusion and – going back to the foundation of the building societies rather than the BSA – helping ordinary working people with their aspiration of home ownership, and to have a safe place for their savings.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Top stories -

Debt Collections Technology -

Mental health and financial services, with Merlyn Holkar

On World Mental Health Day 2019, Merlyn Holkar from Money and Mental Health was interviewed by Shaun Weston about...

Read more
Podcast -

Podcast ep 08: Tackling mental health issues in financial...

On World Mental Health Day 2019, Merlyn Holkar from Money and Mental Health talks to Shaun Weston about challenges in...

Read more
Banking Technology -

Open banking, and the importance of data transparency

FreeAgent CEO Ed Molyneux joins Shaun Weston to talk about open banking, data transparency, and SaaS for small...

Read more