Author - Bethan McCoy

Date published:

In the latest instalment of CONTACT’s new Viewpoint feature, Andrew Haigh, chief executive at Newcastle Building Society, assesses the mutual’s progress over the last two years, including its robust financial performance, and explains why local communities will forever remain at the heart of operations.

Like many organisations, the past two years have been a period of uncertainty and challenge for Newcastle Building Society.
But if 2020 were to be characterised as a year without precedent, 2021 was a year of achievement, as we delivered record
results and innovation in an ever-changing environment.

Our unique business model and strategy provided the foundations for commercial growth that enables us to deliver long term benefits to our communities.

We are a purpose-led, member-owned organisation. Our purpose, which informs our strategy and decision-making, and defines how we measure our success, is to connect our communities with a better financial future.

What the past two years have shown is that our purpose is more vital than ever, and that during difficult times it can be relied upon to provide direction and inspiration.

Our purpose is brought to life by our incredible team, which has shown time and again a tireless commitment to deliver for customers, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Our colleagues – more than 1300 in total – personify our ‘can-do’ spirit and continue to surprise and delight me with their fortitude, agility, creativity and compassion.

When we combine this purpose with the commitment of our colleagues, the result is incredibly powerful.

One example is our innovation in helping people own their own home.

For many years, wages have failed to keep pace with the continued rise of house prices across the country.

Achieving the dream of home ownership without family or other financial assistance can feel out of reach, especially when
a large deposit is required – but our participation in launching two new innovative mortgage support schemes in 2021 provided some assistance.

We were the first lender to offer mortgages under Deposit Unlock, a unique insurance-backed collaboration with the Home Builders Federation, which helps those with a small deposit to realise their dream of owning a new-build home.

We were also one of the initial lenders to sign up to the Government’s First Homes scheme to help local first-time buyers –
particularly key workers, such as NHS staff and armed forces veterans – get on the property ladder, by offering homes at a
discount of at least 30 per cent compared to the market price.

These firsts sit alongside a comprehensive product range designed to improve access and affordability for borrowers.

On a commercial level, the tangible impacts were an increase in gross mortgage lending in 2021 of £861 million, up £216 million on the previous year. However, the real impact is felt by our members, including more than 5300 new mortgage customers last year, who own their own home and benefit from the comfort and security that brings.

We’re continuing to innovate on our region’s high streets too, and after a COVID-19-enforced pause, we recommenced our multi-million-pound branch investment programme.

Despite the ongoing national trend of bank branch closures, we believe in the value of face-to-face customer contact and maintaining a physical presence within the communities we serve.

Whether it’s on the region’s high streets or via digital technologies, looking after our customers means being available to them
and making it easy for them to interact with us in whichever way they choose.

Our subsidiary Newcastle Financial Advisers Limited, which provides financial advice across our branch locations, was
recognised as one of the UK’s top rated firms by VouchedFor, the UK’s leading review site for financial advisers.

We’ve already announced exciting plans for 2022, with new community partnership branches in Tynemouth and
Knaresborough in development.

These branches will both be located within council-run library buildings, delivering a full-service branch concept to restore face-to-face financial services to both communities.

We’re also set to pilot a UK-first digital service in our branches to enable customers to pay in and withdraw cash from their bank, bringing back banking services to the high street.

In addition, the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation has grown to more than £2.3 million in value as a permanent legacy to support charities across the region through grant funding.

But our community partnerships with Newcastle United Foundation, Walking With The Wounded and The Prince’s Trust are not solely about the provision of funding.

We work alongside our partners to support the delivery of employability outcomes.

Our new five-year partnership with award-winning charity Walking With The Wounded will develop a bespoke recruitment pathway for armed forces veterans into the building society and its subsidiaries, including dedicated support to help people reach their full potential.

Looking to the rest of 2022, a new set of challenges face our communities.

The rising cost of living will affect families across our region, and events in Ukraine are a new concern for us all.

But the resolve and determination of our team, along with investment in our capabilities and infrastructure, will ensure we can continue to be there for our members in the ways and places they need us to be.

Read issue 12 of CONTACT here.

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