HE’S the man in charge at Leeds Building Society – and judging by the numbers for last year, that is a good position to be in.
Profits up, thousands of new members and a £245m rise in savings seems to show that the public have more faith in building societies than in banks.
Chief executive Ian Ward believes that because customers ‘own’ the society, they feel closer to it, and it makes the business operate more sustainably.
He said: “If we do not need to work on the big margins banks work on, we can still give savers a good deal and make a profit. Our profits stay in the business.
“It’s been a very good model and we have been able to be successful even during the credit crunch.
“We are very, very proud of the fact we are independent, that we are a building society and not a bank and that we operate in Leeds and nationally.
“If the people who own you are customers, it is very clear you have to look after them.”
Mr Ward admits the next year will have “competitive challenges” but believes that building societies will weather the storm. He said: “I am of the view that building societies’ results will be strong. Of course we want banks but people want a choice.”
Mr Ward is happy that, unlike many big banks, the Leeds Building Society did not receive a penny of public cash from the Government.
He is also pleased that three of the top five building societies are based in Yorkshire – the other two being the Skipton and the Yorkshire Building Society.
“I think that it’s important we have a strong building society sector,” he said.
The Leeds Building Society has become a well-known name across the city through charity support and sporting sponsorship, and Mr Ward appreciates the fact that members give the management team their backing at annual general meetings. And customers seem to as well, with 52,000 new members signing up last year alone.
Mr Ward said: “I love the job. I have been in it for 15 years and have great satisfaction every day.”