For the first time in its 97-year history, Swansea Building Society held its annual general meeting (AGM) behind closed doors, due to the Coronavirus pandemic – but it was able to use technology to ensure members remained engaged in the process.
The Society usually hosts its AGM at the Liberty Stadium where almost 70 members usually attend. This year, due to the ban on public gatherings, it held the event on a conference call, inviting members to vote by ballot paper and submit questions to the chairman in advance. The full recording of the session including those answers can be found on its website: swansea-bs.co.uk
During the event, held at noon on Thursday April 23, the Society announced that for every vote cast by members, it would donate £1 to its official charity: Wales Air Ambulance. In the end, with 1835 votes cast, it rounded the figure up to £2,000.
Two new board members were also officially voted onto the board at the AGM. Nathan Griffiths was voted in as the new finance director and Andrew Morgan, a chartered surveyor, was voted in as a non-executive director, replacing Roger Poolman who has retired.
Swansea Building Society’s four branches have remained open during the Coronavirus crisis, while following guidelines around social distancing, the Society has been forced to adapt to the situation in other ways.
It has implemented a flexible approach to customers experiencing financial hardship including holidays on mortgage payments, and also introduced a drive-by valuation service on certain properties where the mortgage has a loan-to-value ratio of 60 percent or less.
Alun Williams, Chief Executive of Swansea Building Society, said: “These are unprecedented times and we have been forced to adapt. Despite not being able to hold the AGM in a physical form, members remained engaged in the process, casting votes and submitting questions in advance. I would encourage anyone to visit our website where the full transcript of proceedings can be found.’
“We are also proud of the fact that we have kept all branches open during this difficult time. We are classed as key workers by the government because of the importance of access to money and so have taken all precautions to keep our staff and customers safe while offering a reliable service in what are unprecedented times for many.”
The AGM came weeks after it celebrated new record‐breaking highs in terms of its total assets, mortgage and savings balances in 2019, when it produced its largest year of balance sheet growth in the Society’s history.
The Society’s total assets increased by £61.0m to £370.4m, a growth rate of 20%. Its mortgage balances increased by £40.1m to £273.4m, a growth rate of 17.1%. All of the growth in net mortgage lending was funded by a £59.2m increase in retail savings balances from personal customers.
Gross mortgage lending hit a new high at £74.3m in 2019, up from £62.2m in 2018. Despite the increased mortgage lending, mortgage arrears remained extremely low, at just £41k, representing 32 customers on a mortgage book of £273.4m and 1,761 mortgage customers. Net interest receivable for the year was £7.4m compared with £6.9m in the previous year. Its pre‐tax profits for 2019 were £2.3m, slightly down on the £2.6m it made in 2018. However, this compares very favourably to other building societies of comparable size. The Society has now delivered annual pre‐tax profits greater than £2m in each of the last six years.
The Society remains one of the few financial institutions in the UK that has no wholesale funding or support from the Bank of England in the form of cheap funding. Its balance sheet is funded entirely by customer savings balances and its own capital reserves built up from retained profits over many years.