Nationwide – Open, Honest and Transparent – Really? – August 2018
The BSMA has endeavoured, for a period of eighteen months, to obtain a copy of the Nationwide Building Society’s submission in response to the Government’s Green Paper public consultation on CORPORATE GOVERNANCE REFORM. The society has repeatedly refused to provide a copy stating that the document is “private”.
This is unbelievable bearing in mind the very frequent claims made by the directors of “openness, honesty and transparency” and the subject matter of the consultation. Even a reason for the refusal was refused.
However following a Freedom of Information request to the government department concerned, the document is now available here:
We can understand their reluctance for members and staff to see what they wrote.
It is a very cunning, crafty, devious and extremely lengthy piece of anti-mutual propaganda that no doubt achieved its aim, which was to keep the status quo and maintain the low standards of corporate governance in the industry.
Needless to say there is no mention of the undemocratic voting system that they are so proud of. They carefully avoided mentioning the theoretical fact that members can stand for election to the board and submit resolutions. There is also no mention of the fact that they vigorously oppose any attempts by members to do so and are therefore opposed to the legislation that permits it. Obviously they are opposed to staff and members as board members. They even suggest that they would like other industries to follow their low standard methods.
Plcs are used as comparators for boardroom pay levels rather than mutual societies even though the demands do not compare. Of course this does maximise pay all round in the boardroom.
At least one sentence in the document is true – “We believe that if the interests of any one group is allowed to dominate, other stakeholders, and society more generally, suffer.” AND WHO IS IT THAT DOMINATES?
Nationwide Building Society AGM 2018
The directors of this society held their AGM at their headquarters in Swindon this year. Having access to a high number of staff helped to build up the numbers of people in attendance and made it look good – their AGMs are usually poorly attended. The directors continue to hold their meetings on weekdays for the benefit of themselves. For this one they just had to pop into the office. There were 151 members in attendance outnumbered by about two to one by staff.
As always the annual report makes claims of openness, honesty and transparency. In this year’s report this claim appears no less than 8 times. The BSMA has been trying to get the directors to live up to these claims for more than 18 months without success. The chairman – David Roberts was asked to do so at the AGM and declined to answer. He was also asked why other companies that he and his fellow directors say they work for do not use the infamous “Quick Vote”. That too he declined to answer.
So there you have it that is openness, honesty and transparency at “your” Nationwide – the “national treasure”!
Nationwide Building Society and Corporate Governance 2017
The report on corporate governance in the 2017 Annual Report and Accounts states “Many companies with strong frameworks have failed as beyond the rules there are principles that matter deeply, such as transparency, trust, openness and balance.”
However a request for sight of their submission in response to the Government’s Green Paper on Corporate Governance was refused. Instead they have offered an “overview” (a redacted version) of their submission.
So the Nationwide Building Society is a prime example of the kind of organisation that the directors condemn. Such blatant hypocrisy could only come from the Nationwide.
Organisations and companies that do not make any claims about mutuality have published their submissions. So why are the directors so scared to reveal their submission? What are they ashamed of? It should not be too difficult to guess.
Nationwide Building Society AGM July 2017
This year the AGM was held at the NEC in Birmingham and they managed to attract 160 members, which is twice as many as in 2016. Once again with so few members in attendance they looked lost in the conference hall. This time the directors did manage to produce some minutes of the meeting which included members’ questions. However once again they were afraid to produce a video recording of the event.
“Your” Nationwide (Building Society) Anti-Member Resolution July 2017
The directors have introduced another anti-member resolution to change the rules to take further precautions against any member who seeks to stand for election to the board.
In addition to the infamous “Quick Vote” and the requirement for member nominated candidates to obtain the support of 250 members the directors of this so called mutual society have now changed the rules so that any member who has been elected to the board can be ousted from the board by the other directors just as they already reject any member resolution.
This is presumably a precautionary measure in reaction to the Government’s thoughts on improving corporate governance standards including shareholder and employee representatives on company boardrooms and reining in corporate greed.
The new rule requires all candidates to pass a test. Only candidates who say the infamous “Quick Vote” is not an unscrupulous act, is not biased, does not skew the vote, is open, honest, truthful and fair will be allowed to stand as candidates for membership of the board.
“Your” Nationwide (Building Society) owned by the directors, run by the directors for the benefit of the directors.
Nationwide Building Society Directors Beat Their Targets (as always) June 2017
While members continue to receive pathetic interest rates on their savings the directors have yet again helped themselves to large portions of members’ money.
Despite all of the obstacles laid in their path the directors have again far exceeded the most unbelievably difficult targets set by their remuneration committee. The bar was set so high that no one believed the executives could possibly reach the unreachable and the most difficult of tasks set by this committee . Yet (as in every year) they proved to be so outstanding at running this mediocre building society that they have hit the jackpot for bonuses once again.
Obviously, in recognising how outstanding the directors’ performances are, the remuneration committee will make next years targets so impossible that only Superman himself could exceed them.
Nationwide Building Society Gives Away Members’ Money (again) 2017
“Your” Nationwide has indulged in one of the most expensive advertising campaigns under its new chief executive Joe Garner. The cost of this long campaign on television and newspapers plus the agency fees must run into millions of pounds. The advertising costs for this society are far larger than the total running costs of many societies. However it is only members’ money so there is no problem.
Nevertheless if it can encourage some individuals to accept the society’s not particularly outstanding products then it will certainly bolster boardroom pay packets. The Nationwide BS would be able to provide far more attractive products if less of members’ money was spent on advertising and far less on directors.
Nationwide Building Society – September 2016
Nationwide dropped the words building society from its description some years ago in its attempt to be different from building societies and more like a bank. Now the latest news is that the directors would like it to be described as a building society once again and do not like it being seen as a bank even though it is more like a bank and is not a genuine mutual society.
To do this they have spent yet more of members’ money producing yet more vomit inducing propaganda.
According to the campaign leader “Your” Nationwide is hoping to become a leader of “a category that has become so tarnished”. Hmmmm!
Nationwide Building Society 2016 AGM, Gateshead
The number of members qualified to vote at this building society is approximately 7,800,000. The number of members who attended the AGM was 78. For this number of people the management hired the Sage Complex at Gateshead. Any village hall could easily accommodate that number of people but that would not satisfy the needs of the directors who do not pay for it.
This ratio is pathetic compared with all other building societies but the directors continually throw members’ money away on prestigious venues and they continue to avoid London where the number of attending members is always the highest.
We believe and we have asked that AGMs should be held at weekends and that these events should be video recorded for their website. Sadly mutuality does not extend beyond the board room.
“Your” Nationwide (Building Society)?
Nationwide Building Society 2016 AGM, Gateshead
Report by Colin Wakeling
Significant as much for what it didn’t consider as what it did, e.g., real state of the balance sheet, direction of lending. Given the difficulty of obtaining a copy of the Full Annual Report and Accounts, this is not really surprising. Fundamental issues were either ignored or side-stepped.
Highly, and relatively slickly, stage managed with no discussion of resolutions, only questions from the floor which could be easily fielded without affecting the outcome in the slightest. If a trade union conference was organised on similar lines there would be public/media outrage.
The Chairman gave a pretty good stage performance and managed to wrap everything up bang on time.
The proxy votes harvested through the ‘quick vote’ mechanism guaranteed there could be no doubting the outcome of the process. Stalin would be red with envy!
There were some members of the ‘awkward squad’ in attendance, asking pertinent questions, but I suspect the bulk of those attending were there for the free meal and the chance to mingle with the great and the good. Numbers present were relatively low, so much so that stewards attempted to group them in the front/middle, presumably to make the corporate video look more plausible.
The Directors managed to progress around the coffee tables in the manner of a medieval monarch touching his lieges to ward off scrofula (kings’ evil). It certainly worked well enough in one instance when a paean of praise was heaped upon one director.
Issues raised included
Availability of annual reports (lack of)
Buy to let involvement
Access to member lists
Conversion to mutuality of the directors who had all come from the non-mutual corporate world.
Promises were given of individual redress and jam tomorrow, but were generally pretty nebulous. I guess the same issues are likely to surface again next year because nothing much will have changed. I am still waiting for the Company/Group Secretary to confirm that I will receive a copy of the Full Annual Report next year, or even for future years!
Democratise Nationwide Building Society
Two members of the “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) proposed to stand as candidates for the board and to put forward resolutions at the AGM in July 2016 but failed to obtain sufficient nominees. They may try again in 2017 but they need your support now.
For each of them to be nominated as candidates they require no less than 250 signatories. Signatories must have been members for the previous two years with either a mortgage or savings or bank account with a minimum stake of £200.
They also propose to submit a number of resolutions and these require a total of 500 nominating signatories before resolutions can be submitted.
If you are willing to give them your support please contact the BSMA at firstname.lastname@example.org it is never too soon for the next AGM as it takes time to obtain the required numbers.
Nationwide Building Society AGM
Do not throw your voting papers in the waste bin. Never ever use the infamous “Quick Vote” trick. The only meaningful action that you can take is to put a cross in every “AGAINST” box on the ballot paper.
If you are not happy with the directors taking so much of your money every year then vote “AGAINST” everything. If you do not like the infamous “Quick Vote” trick then vote “AGAINST” everything. If you would like the society to be a genuine mutual then vote “AGAINST” everything.
Selective voting “FOR” directors is pointless. Every director has already been appointed and there is no contest so they will all be automatically elected unless you vote “AGAINST” everyone of them. A vote “FOR” anything will have no effect on governance or accountability.
Directors help themselves to ever larger amounts of members’ money and every year they use the infamous “Quick Vote” trick to get members to support them. Voting was intended to be concerned with the business of the society. But the directors have downgraded it to appear simply as a method for donating “your” money to a charity that is not of “your” choosing. Your vote is then perceived to have no connection with the business.
Loyal members who have seen the interest on their “Loyalty” savings account cut from an initial pathetic rate to peanuts will be overjoyed to learn that one loyal member, Graham Beale – the chief executive, has hit the jackpot once again and has taken a total of £3,278,000 of members’ funds. This represents a 27% increase over the previous year which was £2,571,000 and that was 14% up on the year before that! And so these massive increases continue year after year after year and just for running a rather average building society.
Graham Beale’s basic pay is £875,000 but with benefits and pension allowance of £473,000 and by hitting and exceeding certain impossible to miss “targets” his final pay is magically increased by almost four times basic!
Needless to say, as always, there is no proper explanation of what he did to receive this massive increase or how any of the directors achieved their personal take. The most obvious answer seems to be that these increases were achieved through the frequent cuts in members’ savings interest rates.
That is what is meant by mutuality – owned by the directors, run by the directors, for the directors. And there are people working at this organisation who are only on the “Living Wage”!
It is difficult to believe that the original purpose of building societies was to enable people to buy houses who could not afford to do so. “On your side”?
Recent publicity states “We’re proud to support the Living Wage Foundation”. “As the country’s biggest building society, we wanted to take a leading role in the campaign. It just feels like the right thing to for us to do.”
The living wage for one employee, Graham Beale the chief executive, seems to be around £2,571,000 per year and rocketing every year. Presumably the target set for Mr Beale for next year being £3000,000 of members’ money. On your side?
Nationwide Building Society directors held “their” 2014 AGM on home ground at the Conference Centre in Bournemouth and plan to hold “their” AGM at the same venue in 2015. So there are not too many angry voices for them to listen to once again.
As is customary “Your” directors shared a considerably increased chunk of “your” savings between themselves. The amount taken by “your” chief executive alone was £2,571,000 and is now equal to the pay of 19 Chancellors of the Exchequer and the multiple increases every year without fail.
Nationwide Building Society 2014 Summary Financial Statement consists of 20 pages. Just 2 are devoted to the annual financial results but 11 are devoted to a “summary” of the remuneration for “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) directors.
Do you wonder why the pay of “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) directors should be higher than that of other building society directors when benefits for members are not better than other building societies?
Do you believe “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) directors should help themselves to such massively increasing amounts of members’ money every year and still claim it to be mutual?
Do you wonder what purpose and whose benefit “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) is intended to serve? Is it “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) or “Your” directors Nationwide (Building Society)? Do you believe that “Your” directors always act in “Your” best interests or in Their own best interests?
Do you think that the infamous “Quick Vote” that the directors use is for your benefit or for their benefit? If you believe the infamous “Quick Vote” is unethical give your support to the BSMA. Do you wonder why there is a “Quick Vote” for members who wish to support everything on the ballot paper but no “Quick Vote” for those who are opposed to everything on the ballot paper?
Do you think that the directors of “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) should help members to submit resolutions and present them? Or do you think that they should continue to oppose and suppress member resolutions?
“Your” Nationwide (Building Society) is the largest in the UK yet its performance for members is pitiful and is beaten by other societies and banks. Nevertheless every year the directors help themselves to increasingly massive amounts of members’ money and every year they use the infamous “Quick Vote” trick to get members to support them. On your side?
Once again the Nationwide (Building Society) directors held their AGM at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester where staff probably outnumbered the members attending.
Once again the chairman explained why the directors had helped themselves to so much of members’ money. Graham Beale the chief executive is now taking £2.3million per year and just for running a building society.
Geoffrey Howe, the part-time chairman, takes enough money to pay two full time Chancellors of the Exchequer.
He went on to explain that there were various reasons why they took so much of members’ money. One being that they believe themselves to be like pop stars and football players (Mr Howe does not joke – he is deadly serious). The main one is that they consider themselves to be worth the money (no arrogance there).
Other reasons are:
- Bonuses are based on “targets” that are set to be easily achieved.
- The infamous Quick Vote Trick (a trick not used by banks or plcs).
- The apathy of members who failed to bother to vote “AGAINST”.
- The directors can always help themselves to as much as they can get away with.
The chairman, stated – “This is a society problem, this isn’t a Nationwide problem.” He said “There is a huge mismatch between what pop stars earn, footballers earn, business people earn, bankers earn and what the man on the street earns.”
Meanwhile members receive peanuts in savings interest rates from this not particularly special building society. This is what is meant by mutuality.
On your side?
- Read more at Thisismoney
- Read International Business Times
- Read More at Financial Mail (Toby Walne)
- Herald Scotland (No Wonder We Don’t Understand Fat Cat Pay)
- Joe Studwell – WordPress.com
Nationwide Building Society directors held their AGM at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on Thursday 19th July. There is less hassle for them away from London.
It is customary for the directors to expect members to approve another large pay increase. Unfortunately it is also customary for members not to vote against the greed.
The chief executive of the “Your” Nationwide (Building Society) took an extra £175,000 of members money an increase of 21% in basic pay and the chairman helped himself to another £50,000 an increase of 25%. Both are part-time jobs. All this despite a massive reduction (one third) in profits.
Once again members demonstrated their anger at the ever larger amounts of members’ money that the directors continue to take and give to themselves.
But is it Fair to Criticise Nationwide Building Society Directors?
“Your” Nationwide (Building Society) directors are often criticised by the press and by members for being money grabbing fat-cats whose only interest is in lining their own pockets with as much of members’ money as they can possibly get away with.
However just because the directors help themselves to ever-larger amounts of members’ money every year does not mean that they are not putting members’ interests first.
Just because the amount of members’ money they take goes up when the society’s savings interest rates are so pitifully low does not mean that they are not putting members’ interests first.
Just because the chief executive takes enough of members’ money to pay for about 15 Chancellors of the Exchequer does not mean that he is not putting members’ interests first. You have to understand that he is only being paid the rate for the job. You have to realise how large the funds are and how complex the processes are for a building society compared to the simple workings of the economy of the whole of the United Kingdom. To put it another way the chief executive of Nationwide Building Society is capable of, single-handedly, running the economies of 15 countries like the United Kingdom.
You may have read that the chairman has stated that the chief executive is unable to manage, in 2011, on his present £1.9 million (he also has another job so is not full-time) and will be taking another £125,000 of members’ money (or one could say another Chancellor’s worth) in basic pay in the coming year. Please do not criticise the chief executive for this after all he has clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t really need the money. He gave up over £300,000 (that is 2 Chancellor’s worth) that the chairman was trying to force upon him last year. But he has to get it back somehow and it is a mutual society so the increase will also help to pave the way for the increases that all the other directors, particularly the chairman, will take. That is what is meant by mutuality.
Just because the Chairman only works a few days a year and takes twice as much money as a full time Chancellor of the Exchequer does not mean that he is not putting members’ interests first. It is not the Chairman’s fault that he is overpaid by so much and is taking another £50,000 of members’ money this year to add to his £250,000. The reason the chairman only works a few days a year is obvious. If he were to work full time at the same rate there might be little money left in the society. So obviously he is putting members’ interests first.
Just because directors will never reveal how it is that bankers’ bonuses are so easily earned or what directors’ have actually done to earn them does not mean that they are not open and honest or that they are not putting members’ interests first.
The reason why the directors do not wish members to know what they have actually done to earn their bonuses is because they are concerned that members may well suffer with shock or high blood pressure or even a heart attack if they were told. Obviously the directors’ first thoughts are for the well being of members. Clearly they do not want to cause members any suffering by such revelations.
Many members wonder why bankers’bonuses are needed at all for directors to do their jobs properly. But just think of what sort of state the society would be in if bankers’ bonuses were not paid. All manner of things would cease to be done. If only Chancellors were paid bonuses this country would have no financial problems.
Of course directors are thinking of members’ interests all the time. They think about them so much they just want more and more members. Just think how much the ex-members of the Portman Building Society have benefited from that takeover.
The directors have stated quite clearly in their publicity campaign “members are our focus”. It is most important to remember that everything the directors do is for the sole benefit of the members of the society. For instance when the society was fined £1 million by the FSA for lack of security in its systems the directors put members’ interests first and passed the fine on to them.
Many members get the impression that the Remuneration Committee is the most important part of the business of the society because so much emphasis is placed upon it, so much of the directors’ time is spent on it and because directors’ pay is so much better than anything else about the society. Again this is not true. At every meeting of the Remuneration Committee the directors’ thoughts are focused entirely on members’ interests.
It is rumoured that there is another committee that every director attends. It is believed it was set up specifically to ensure that the interests of members are always at the top of every boardroom meeting agenda. It is called the “Members Are Our Focus Committee”. But it is believed that directors do not like to publicise its existence just in case other societies try to copy this unique Nationwide Building Society boardroom innovation.
Most members say that the ballot paper with its infamous “Quick Vote” is appallingly anti-democratic and insulting. But the only reason the directors want it is because they are putting the interests of members first. They simply wish to save members so much wasted time going through all those resolution thingies and putting in all those little crosses on the voting form when they serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. This shows that the directors are very very considerate people.
The society has around 15 million members. Just because 14 million of them do not support any of the resolutions does not mean that the directors should be criticised.
Please ignore all those nasty jibes you may hear about fat cats, gravy trains, snouts in the trough, etc. Just remember the directors are not fat-cats who hate mutuality, it is just that they are simply misunderstood. So please do not criticise the directors they always put members’ interests first – after directors. “On Your Side?”
It is also important to remember that the society is a mutual organisation, which means that it has no shareholders, and therefore the society is owned by the directors.
- Thisismoney – AGM Report
- The Guardian – Building Societies Directors’ Pay – A Cosy Racket
- Mutual Fat-Cats – FT Report
- Thisismoney – Last Chance
The gravy train still runs on time and fully loaded at this building society where the directors are “open, honest and transparent”.
Members demonstrated their anger at the highly inflated payouts that the directors continue to give themselves but the same old and well worn record was played to justify the fat cat pay.
There is supposedly a bonus target element for customer service – how this is measured is of course too difficult for the board to explain.
The highest “against” vote was for the approval of the Directors’ Remuneration Report.
The society has a membership of over 15 million the majority being qualified to vote. So over 14 million did not support the pay awards or for that matter any of the resolutions.
As far as the board is concerned members’ votes are just a matter of giving members’ money to charities.
Still no shortage of money at Nationwide Building Society – if you are a director.
The directors of the building society that is “proud to be different” are still helping themselves to enormous amounts of members money. Despite the fact that profits are down by nearly half of the previous year.
The 2010 Summary Report shows the job of chief executive is not a full-time one (he is also a director of VISA Europe Ltd and VISA Europe Services Inc) but still he receives £1,539,000 including £752,000 of bonuses. What would his pay have been had the job been full-time and profits had actually risen?
Meanwhile the non-executive directors are having to get by on the same pay levels as the previous year. At that time the chairman awarded himself a 33% pay increase to £250,000. Not bad for a few days work per year – about twice the pay of a full-time Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It is quite different for members at this “mutual society” – if you are a saver the interests rates are pitiful. Mutuality remains firmly inside the boardroom.
The 2010 Summary Report states – “As a mutual, our philosophy is to have an open, honest and transparent relationship with our members …. .”.
Why then does the board withhold the details of targets set for bonuses? What makes a part-time Nationwide Building Society chairman worth two full-time Chancellors of the Exchequer?
The 2004 election results showed that nearly 40% of voters want member-nominated directors on the board. That represents the views of over 4 million members.
We believe there is a desperate need for genuine member representatives on the board and there is a desperate need for.
- Genuine Mutuality
- Highest Standards of Corporate Governance
- Putting Members’ Interests Before those of Directors
Did you know that?
- The board has rejected members’ resolutions calling for greater accountability but keeps it all secret and prevents members from voting on them. In their “Annual Review” the “Board Comment” carefully skipped over this subject. The board claims to be “open, honest and fair”!
- Every member has the right to have resolutions accepted it is fundamental to mutual societies. There has been no change of rules but the board is undemocratically rejecting all member resolutions. Is this “open, honest and fair”?
- Previously the board accepted a member’s resolution for conversion. Now it has been declared illegal without any change to the rules. We do not support demutualisation, but how does the Board change a a member resolution from being legal to illegal without any change to the rules and still claim to be “open, honest and fair”?
- The board rejected a member resolution that it should publish details of directors pay. But the board is now publishing details of directors’ pay. So much for mutuality!
- Building society directors seek to portray all member-nominated candidates as “carpetbaggers” but despite scaremongering, only building society directors have willingly been responsible for demutualisations.
- The Nationwide Building Society board told a Parliamentary Select Committee that they favoured having member-nominated directors but it vigorously opposes them. Nationwide Building Society claims to be “open, honest and fair”!
- Nationwide Building Society directors gave an assurance to members at the 2002 AGM that there were no plans to reduce savings rates. Then reduced them immediately after the AGM even though there was no reduction in the bank base rate. Is that “open, honest and fair”?
- Despite claims to the contrary Nationwide Building Society has not performed well (see Moneyfacts Awards 2002) except when it comes to increasing directors’ pay – be sure to always request a copy of the FULL ANNUAL REPORT and ACCOUNTS (Telephone: 0800 30 20 10).
- Brian Davis the ex-chief executive took £1,170,000 when he departed. In 2003 the finance director made off with an extra £889,000 bringing his total for the year to £1,435,000 plus a nice fat pension. “It Pays to Decide to Leave Nationwide” – and they say it is a mutual not a bank. How does that compare with Nationwide Building Society savings rates?
- Sir Teddy Taylor MP described building societies as “more like those nasty secret societies”.
How Well Do The Directors Perform? Very well – for themselves?
February 2007 – The FSA fined the Nationwide Building Society £980,000 for lack of security following the loss of a laptop computer containing personal and confidential information on its members and its slowness in taking action following the loss. However Nationwide Building Society maintained that the lost information does not pose a threat to members . The society subsequently sent leaflets to its members advising them on security!
Our Comment – A Nationwide Building Society spokesman said “no customer (note: not member) has lost any money as a result of this incident but we wish to apologise for it”. So where is the money coming from if members do not lose out? You can bet your savings account balance that the directors will not be paying the fine and they will still receive the customary bonuses for “good performance”.
Chief executive’s salary increased by 58% to £838,000 in 2002 – higher than all mortgage banks, with the exception of Abbey National (all of which are profit driven) and approximately five times the pay for a Chancellor of the Exchequer who runs the economy for the whole of the UK. Meanwhile savers are suffering cuts in interest rates despite there being no cuts in bank base rates and this situation continues.
The pay ceiling for part-time directors is £600,000 (yes part-time). That is approximately £50,000 per day for one “rubberstamp” meeting per month.
Bonuses for directors for increasing profits (from you). Quote from Nationwide Building Society publicity document – “It pays to decide Nationwide”.
Nationwide directors advertise that they are “open, honest and fair” but it was only the intervention of the ombudsman that forced the directors to treat members fairly on mortgage rates.
Directors were responsible for the loss of £41,000,000 through bad investments in companies such as Marconi.
The co-opted non-executive directors did nothing to support members’ interests on these matters and none of this was mentioned in the “Summary Directors’ Report”. But the excessive boardroom pay increases and bonuses still continue.
Nationwide Building Society has no shareholders and is the largest building society, therefore, in terms of benefits to members it should consistently outperform banks and other societies. It does not.
Nationwide Building Society comes fifth from top in a Consumers Association “name and shame” report on top ten worst mortgage lenders on a list of customers’ complaints. Quote from Nationwide Building Society publicity document – “Putting members first”!
A Which? 2001 report shows Nationwide Building Society TESSA savings accounts achieved a ranking of 44th out of 89.
A Moneyfacts 2001 research report shows the top two best-buy places for mortgages to be banks – Egg and HSBC. Nationwide with no shareholders was third.
A Moneyfacts 2002 report on ISAs shows Nationwide Building Society in 72nd place.
A Chase deVere Investments 2002 report shows Nationwide Building Society ranked 34th out of 56 types of TESSA savings accounts from 40 different banks and building societies that took part in the survey. Nationwide were 43rd for TOISA accounts.
A Moneyfacts 2003 report shows Nationwide Building Society TESSA savings accounts achieved a ranking of 37th out of 87.
Some of their savings accounts pay as little as 0.5% before deduction of tax.
Quote from Nationwide Building Society publicity document – “Members not shareholders are our focus so you can trust us to be open, honest and fair”.
The following is taken from evidence given by Nationwide directors to the Parliamentary Treasury Committee:-
“Is there a case for having members’ representatives on the board?” (Committee Chairman). “Very much so” (Chief Executive – Nationwide Building Society – 1999).
“It might be a nice situation where part of the board had to be member-nominated directors …”. (Chief Executive – Nationwide Building Society – 1999).
All attempts by member-nominated candidates have been opposed by Nationwide directors and no attempt has been made to encourage member-nominated candidates.
It was at this same enquiry Sir Teddy Taylor MP described building societies as being “like those nasty secret societies”.
The following is taken from evidence given by Nationwide directors to a Parliamentary Committee:-
“Building societies value their democratic process but if democracy is abused by “bending” the rules it can fall into disrepute” (Directors’ Memorandum from Nationwide Building Society – 1999).
The board has now decided that although the rules have not changed the meaning has and members are now no longer permitted to have resolutions accepted as this interferes with the board’s ability to manage the business. It follows, therefore, that it is also unnecessary for the board to present resolutions for the AGM because if members voted against them this would also interfere with the board’s ability to manage the business.
This action follows an attempt in 2002 to put forward member resolutions including:-
- Members to have an annual vote on directors’ proposed pay increases and other benefits.
- Year on year details of pay and benefits to be included in the summary report that all members receive.
Members were not given the opportunity to decide or discover how such resolutions could possibly affect the work of the directors. In fact members have never even been made aware of these events. As Sir Teddy Taylor MP said “like those nasty secret societies”.
No proper controlling body exists for building societies and directors have, therefore, become a law unto themselves using highly paid lawyers (at members expense) to fend off any improvements that members may seek. Directors continue to seek ways of reducing accountability despite many studies, commissioned by the BSA the directors’ own association, which recommend improvements in accountability to members.
The most recent study, carried out by a Cambridge research unit, criticises the “practice of nominating and co-opting non-executive directors by executive directors leading to cosy self-perpetuating clubs that undermine the effectiveness and independence that is needed from non-executive directors to ensure the existence of proper democratic procedures”.
The letters printed in newspaper personal money problems pages are only a small fraction of those received concerning problems with building societies.
Tricks of the Trade
- Quick to increase mortgage rates when Bank Rate goes up.
- Slow to reduce mortgage rates when Bank Rate goes down.
- Quick to reduce savings interest rates when Bank Rate goes down.
- Slow to increase savings interest rates when Bank Rate goes up.
- Slow to notify members when savings interest rates are reduced.
- Savings accounts closed then downgraded without proper notification.
- Members required to take out insurance with a building society to obtain a mortgage.
- Mortgage early redemption charges (see News – Nationwide – October 2001).
- Mortgage “arrangement/administration/booking/reservation” fees.
- Threats of court action or repossession before offers of help with mortgage repayment problems.
- Bonuses paid to directors for increased profits rather than improved benefits to members.
- Mortgage interest repayments calculated on an annual basis.
- Ballot papers and associated documents biased.
These are some (not all) of the “tricks of the building society trade”. Some are no longer practiced by the Nationwide Building Society, but only in recent times have the directors of this “mutual society” dropped some of these practices which disadvantage the “owners” of the society.
A Consumers Association report lists 20 unfair practices used by the mortgage industry including:-
- Redemption penalties – 58%
- Calculation of interest – 17%
- Compulsory insurance – 7%
The carefully contrived efforts put into the production of voting documentation when an independent candidate is standing.
The separation of “Old Pals” and member-nominated candidates on ballot papers into first class and second class citizens.
The recruitment of “Old Pals” to the board immediately before the AGM.
The contemptuous treatment of members at Annual General Meetings.
All are demonstrations of a lack of democracy in an organisation that is supposed to exist for the benefit of members only.
The need to resort to manipulating voting documents is hardly a sign of good management.
Quote from Nationwide Building Society publicity document – “On your side”.
In the 2001 Annual Report the chairman said “….this year we decided we should put our house in order”! Really?
At least it shows that he knows.
We desperately need action to end the secrecy, hypocrisy and unfair and undemocratic processes that permeate and corrode the whole mutual industry. This is not easily achieved because there is no proper control over mutual societies as was shown by Equitable Life, but this is what is needed.
We urge you to write to the your MP.