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Dudley Building Society > News > 10 years of change and regulation

10 years of change and regulation

10 years of change and regulation

10th February 2020

Comment by David Milner, chairman, Dudley Building Society

After eleven years on the board of the Dudley Building Society, the last three as Chairman, my imminent retirement from the society has left me with time to reflect on what has been a tumultuous period for our industry, but also a rewarding one, as I have been witness to the reawakening of mutual building societies and of Dudley BS in particular.

I joined the society in the teeth of the financial crisis of 2008 as the credit crunch saw both residential and commercial lending decimated. One of my abiding memories of that year was watching television news reports of queues forming outside branches of what then was the Northern Rock as people tried to withdraw their money. It was a salutary lesson to us all of the damage caused by a combination of failing securitisation vehicles backed by poor assets and fuelled by increasingly reckless lending in the run up to the credit crunch.

In the ensuing years, we have witnessed a significant and much needed increase in regulation, with the MMR constituting a fundamental sea change for the whole of the industry. The checks and balances that have been put in place might have pushed borrowers to seek more unregulated sources, yet this has not been the case and smaller and more nimble lenders have been able to provide a source of residential funding and meet the needs of customers, who have been disappointed by the ‘one size fits all’ underwriting stance of the bigger battalions.

However, I cannot emphasise enough that in a competitive market, we must all continue to behave in a fashion which is entirely compatible with strong credit practice, while providing for the needs and best interests of borrowers and investors.

We have also experienced a prolonged and historically low period of interest rates in the UK over the past ten years, with financial institutions striving to acclimatise to a broader range of challenges and working factors than ever before. As the nature of our society and the behaviour of consumers has continued to evolve, we must also recognise the challenge presented by a generation of borrowers who have only ever experienced this low rate environment. A factor which has led to an infinitely more competitive market, but also contains within it the prospect of a payment shock crisis in the event that interest rates begin to rise again

Dudley Building Society has also transformed itself over the past ten years. The arrival of a new chief executive, Jeremy Wood, the relocation of our principal office, and the launch of a far reaching programme of investment and modernisation measures have combined to forge a society, which, while recognising the significance of its past history, has reinvented itself as a modern and vital organisation.

Moreover, as the society has continued to grow, a new and younger generation of employees has come to the fore. Our working culture has never been so enthused or so energetic and it has been a genuine pleasure to watch the passion with which this intake has strived to evolve and modernise our business in a changing world. It may be a cliché, but people really do make the business what it is.

We were the first building society to distribute mortgages exclusively through the intermediary market, and while this policy wasn’t the easiest of choices to make at the time, I am extremely proud of the model that we have created, the balance that we have managed to achieve between risk on the one hand and opportunity on the other, as well as the contribution of the partners with whom we have chosen to do business.

Having spent over 45 years in business, the last ten have seen the most far-reaching changes, both for the industry and for the Dudley BS. I am most proud to have been a witness to the transformation of the society and the small part I have played in making it a better, more profitable place than when I first joined. My stewardship has been infinitely enhanced by the efforts of our team and it has been a great honour to have served as a director and chairman.

As for the future? For a small mutual building society, it is my opinion that lenders like us need to continue to innovate, to be constantly alive to changing customer needs and respond to them.

Servicing particular niches, such as the later life lending market, while maintaining a holistic human approach to the assessment of customers’ ability to service their mortgages, backed by sensible credit policy, will offer us the greatest opportunity for growth in the years ahead.

Whatever else happens, it will be an exciting ride!