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National treasure Nationwide goes from strength to strength

Nationwide Building Society said it will be handing out a total of £340 million in payments to members (Mike Egerton/ PA) (PA Wire)
Nationwide Building Society said it will be handing out a total of £340 million in payments to members (Mike Egerton/ PA) (PA Wire)

Nationwide Building Society is a national treasure. It exists as a permanent affront to the big banks, which spent years maneuvering in the background, trying to persuade members to force a vote that would see it give up its mutual status and become just like them.

That it fended off these bids is a result for all of us.

One hopes that the commitment of new-ish CEO Debbie Crosbie to this mutual status is as sincere as she says (we’ve no reason to think otherwise).

Commentators who alight on its record profits as if that were evidence that it is just like the big banks really are missing the point. The profits go back to members, not to shareholders, since there aren’t any.

Nationwide’s share of the mortgage market did fall this year a little, but that’s evidence of it sticking to its knitting.

It isn’t, and should not be, in the business of chasing risky business. It isn’t always going to offer the best saving or loan deals at any given moment; it will be just be better value over the lifetime of a member or a member’s mortgage.

That said, there’s a slight feeling it could do more for those with less than pristine credit histories.

Some perfectly reliable people get into trouble due to circumstances they can’t control and deserve another shot, whatever the credit check people say.

Nationwide’s credit impairment charges are low, which helps to protect those who are already members.

What about the hard working, but a bit down on their luck, family that aspires to become members?

Something, perhaps, for Crosbie to think about as she begins her second year at the helm.