Julie Ann Haines

5 January 2016

The year in review

There’s no denying that the rush of finishing work for the year alongside the frenzy of Christmas can leave many of us with our head in a spin in the run up to the big day. With the turkey devoured and all the presents opened, the run up to the New Year presents an ideal time to take stock of the year gone by. Here, Julie-Ann Haines, Principality Building Society’s Customer Director reflects on the highs and lows for the business in 2015, while looking ahead to the prospect of what’s to come next year.

As a business, celebrating the successes and acknowledging the challenges of a year gone by is essential in order to move forward and identify new areas of growth for the year ahead. For Principality Building Society, 2015 was a record-breaking year. Our lending to homeowners exceeded £5bn for the first time in our 155 year history, while our assets grew to over £7.3bn. As a mutual building society, this achievement showed our clear commitment to meeting the needs of our members and savers – and will continue to allow us to focus on our core values of helping people to buy a home and keep their money safe.

Supporting our communities

Our engagement with local communities remains at the heart of our core business model, and this very much continued in 2015. This included our grassroots level ‘Kit of the Month’ competitions which gave sports teams across Wales the chance to win brand new kits, the outstanding year-long fundraising for our charity of the year, Mind Cymru,  and volunteer projects around Wales and the borders. This ongoing commitment was recognised at the Business in the Community Cymru Responsible Business Awards 2015, when we were honoured with the title of Wales’ Responsible Large Business of the Year 2015. I am so proud that our colleagues have been recognised for their hard work and efforts in their communities and this is something we will continue to grow.

We continued to support a number of housing projects around Wales this year to support the local economy, create jobs and build much-needed homes for people. One of our most high profile projects is Ely Mill, where work has started on 800 homes at the former Arjo Wiggins paper mill site on the outskirts of Cardiff. This will deliver hundreds of affordable homes in the capital and has been funded by an innovative model from Principality Commercial, our commercial arm, and Welsh Government.

2015 was also a year of new opportunities - most prolifically, we entered into a ten-year partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union which will help encourage, develop and grow Wales’ national game at all levels. Kick-starting in the New Year, this partnership will be marked with the renaming of the home of Welsh rugby to Principality Stadium. This partnership underscores our on-going commitment to Welsh rugby and communities across Wales. This partnership with the WRU allows us to open up further opportunities for our half a million members, our customers and employees, whilst providing unrivalled marketing opportunities for our business.

The UK economy

As we recognise the continued growth in our own business this year, 2015 has also been a year of continued recovery in the UK economy as a whole. Whilst growth has slowed a little, domestic growth remains relatively strong, fuelled by increased consumer spending and business investment. It’s great to see the economy’s recovery taking shape, and confidence returning to consumers across Wales and the UK with unemployment at its lowest level for 10 years. 

Looking forward to 2016

Although news of a recovering economy has left many of us feeling more at ease, that’s no reason to sit back in 2016. Crucial to our industry, we expect a rise in the official Bank of England base rate, with indications suggesting this will take place in the second half of the year. Despite rate rises expecting to be modest, we must remain alert to what this means for our members. We’ll continue to work hard to ensure homeowners are aware of the impact of rate rises on their mortgages and other long-term loans so that they remain affordable. 

We expect the UK economy will grow further in 2016, alongside another rise in house prices in most areas of the UK in the next 12 months. Having said this, we expect the housing market to remain stable. 

And finally…

Downtime between Christmas and New Year is the perfect opportunity for businesses across Wales and the rest of the UK to look back. Recognising the successes provides a model of good practice for the business, while the lows help identify important lessons for the future. 

For us, looking at ways we can further help Wales’ communities, helping people to prosper in their homes and supporting savers will continue to be at the heart of everything we do – and allow us to work even harder to help our members and customers throughout 2016 and beyond.  We would like to thank all our members, colleagues and partners for their support throughout 2015 and we wish everyone a wonderful 2016.

Published: 05/01/2016