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The Building Societies Association does what it says on the tin; it is a trade body which represents the 44 Building Societies ranging in size from the mighty Nationwide, infinitely bigger that the Bath to the humble Penrith, which is about one third of our size.
It performs a number of important functions from lobbying government and regulators to running conferences, training and seminars on technical subjects of interest to only Building Societies, to promoting the interests of Building Societies through the media. It’s a very handy adjunct to the larger Societies and a lifeline to the smaller Societies without which we would find it extremely difficult to keep up with what’s going on.
This august organisation has just elected me as Chairman for the next 18 months. I’m chuffed to have been elected to this role for two reasons. First, it’s always nice to get the support of your peers, to know that they think that I’m a decent chap and that the Bath Building Society is a sound and well-run place. Second, I truly believe that Building Societies are something special and want to do whatever I can to make people realise that. I am, of course still doing the day job and very much focussed on the ins and outs of Bath Building Society. But with my BSA hat on I also get to be involved with regulation and government policy at a level that I wouldn’t normally experience.
Most Building Societies see the main competition as the big banks with their monolithic processes and computer-ruled way of doing business. We feel a bit like David up against these financial Goliaths, but together we can make a difference. We can help learn from each other and by speaking with one voice through the Building Societies Association; we can punch way above our weight. Somehow, we seem to get heard. So in my new role I want to take every opportunity to give Building Societies a fighting chance in a world that sometimes feels unfairly stacked in favour of the banks. I see it as something of a crusade. We are a small Society here at Bath, but, as they say, “it’s not about the size of the dog in the fight: it’s about the size of the fight in the dog”.
At the start of my Chairmanship, I have just been handed the badge of office, a fine silver medallion that seems to belong to a bygone era in the corporate world. The badge bears a crest and the Latin inscription on it “Unitate Fortior”. I have to admit that I didn’t get my Latin O level, but I am reliably informed that it means “together we are stronger”. And so we are!
Building Societies are special. The Building Societies Association is a well-respected voice in the Financial Services industry. It’s a club I’m very proud to be part of, and even prouder to be its Chairman.