1 March 2016

Principality to stay true to its roots

Fresh from announcing its annual results for 2015, Graeme Yorston, Group Chief Executive of Principality Building Society, talks about why, despite its growth, the Society is keen to stay true to its roots.

For more than 155 years Principality has played a key role in the Welsh economy and we are now Wales’ largest building society. As a mutual building society we have no shareholders to satisfy, instead our profits are invested back into the business for the good of our members, our savers and borrowers, and today that hasn’t changed.

Reflecting on our strategy

In 2012 Principality set out on its growth strategy. This was not designed to change us as a business but was implemented so that we could grow the Society so it is able to meet the challenges of the future. Since we launched our growth strategy we have seen it clearly delivering.

We have just announced record results for 2015 with underlying profits growing to £57.8m and assets growing to £7.6bn. But on top of that over the last three years we have become the UK’s 6th largest building society. We have grown our lending to homeowners to over £5bn for the first time in our history and we have helped more than 7,500 first-time buyers get onto the property ladder.

We have created around 150 additional jobs in Wales, been involved in the building of thousands of homes in Wales and England through our commercial business, Principality Commercial, and supported a number of UK businesses through our procurement of goods and services.

Alongside this we also support the Welsh economy with less tangible support such as volunteering in the community, local sponsorship support and many of our team playing a key role in the business world in Wales through sitting on the boards of housing associations, universities, trade bodies and community programmes.

Supporting communities

Principality has always played a key role in supporting its local communities and in 2015 we were delighted to be named Wales’ Responsible Large Business 2015 at the Business in the Community Cymru Awards for our work in communities around Wales and the borders. Our record breaking efforts transcended into our charity work also, as we raised £90,000 for our 2015 Charity of the Year, Mind Cymru. In total we have raised almost £250,000 in the last three years for Welsh charities.

Alongside this we continue to invest in local communities through volunteering projects, local sponsorships and our support of culture and Welsh heritage. Excitingly, 2015 saw us launch a historic 10 year partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union to grow, foster and encourage Welsh rugby at all levels, which saw the national stadium of Wales renamed Principality Stadium. We’re certain this will enhance value for our members with exclusive offers, discounts and competitions, while putting our brand on a worldwide stage. Already we have seen a number of members win tickets to games at the Stadium and two lucky members from North Wales attend the Captain’s Run, have lunch with the Welsh team and watch the Wales v Scotland game from a box at Principality Stadium after winning one of our competitions. They had a fantastic day – and so did I. It was a very proud day seeing a Welsh win in the stadium with our name, even with my Scottish roots.

The personal touch

From one branch back in 1860 we now have 53 branches and 18 agencies throughout Wales and its borders. Whilst many banks and building societies are closing branches in smaller communities we continue to see an important role for our branches and agencies on their high streets. Many members prefer the convenience and service that is offered by our branch network.

When I started work at Principality almost 10 years ago it was the personal and friendly approach of our colleagues that really appealed to me. As the public-facing area of our business our branch staff are critical to our success and for them our members aren’t just customers coming in to complete a transaction they know all about Mrs Davies and her family, the job that Mr Patel just got and they are always on hand to make a cup of tea for members when they come in – they don’t just know the account, they know the people. This is shown in our fantastic customer satisfaction scores, which rose to a record high of 86.9% in 2015.

Alongside this our executive team also continue to put our members at the heart of the business by holding quarterly Talkback events to get direct engagement with our members, at various locations across Wales.

These sessions give people the chance to ask our senior leadership team questions about the way we run our business and also give members the opportunity to hear about our performance as a business and the different ways in which we support our local communities. The Talkback sessions are not only a great opportunity for us to find out what our members like about us, but they also offer the chance for us to find out what they would like us to change. In 2015, we held events in Blackwood, Swansea, Caernarfon and Cardiff.

This personal approach, the culture and the behaviours in our business continue to be vital to our success. 

The need to grow and adapt

Whilst our growth strategy is clearly delivering we’re very aware that the industry is witnessing a period of change quicker than anyone could have predicted. As consumers get savvier and new and innovative services constantly emerge in the marketplace, it’s important that we work hard to remain at the coalface of these changes so we can continue to provide the best customer experience possible. As such, 2015 saw us roll out a number of new services for our members, including Skype mortgage interviews for instance. 

Throughout 2016 we’ll continue to invest in new products, new technology and continual branch updates. Future-proofing our business is critical to ensure its stability in the long run, and this means investing even further into our products, services, people and systems.

We know these changes won’t alter our core business values and our personal touch, but will simply enable us to meet the challenges that face us and ensure the Society’s long term success.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members, colleagues and stakeholders for their support over the last 12 months.

Published: 01/03/2016