A Leek based building society has reported an exceptional year despite the Covid pandemic.
The annual report produced this week shows Leek United Building Society, whose head office is based in St Edward, Street, Leek, Stafforshire, had a pre-tax profit of £3.6m, a significant increase from £0.9m in 2020 and higher than had been projected.
Despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and notwithstanding a record level of investment in technology, branches and community services, the Society achieved a strong set of financial results in 2021. While profit was well up, the Society said it does not seek to maximize profits but to achieve a level of profitability that is sufficient to balance member value with the need to have a robust capital position to fund future investment in its business.
The improvement in performance was due to a number of factors including lower provision for credit losses, better net interest margin and the careful management of pricing more broadly while ensuring members were offered competitive, value for money products at all times.
Total assets increased to a record level of £1.18 billion. The Society’s gross mortgage lending increased to £174m (2020 £161m) which contributed to its total mortgage book of £869m (2020 £864m). The Leek Society continued to be very strongly funded by its members through a broad range of savings products, with member balances growing by £48m during the year. The quality of the Society’s mortgage book remained robust with a low number of mortgages in arrears.
The level of capital held at year end was well in excess of the amount required to meet regulatory requirements and very importantly, positioned the Society to continue to invest in its future competitiveness and sustainability.
A record level of investment of more than £1m was expended with significant progress made on delivering the Leek’s digital ambitions which involve providing secure, member-centric online savings and mortgage solutions. Testing is currently taking place for a new online savings platform which represents a big leap forward for the Society, while there are plans to add mortgage functionality over the course of the next year.
Branches are receiving investment also and the Society has emphasized that digital technology is being introduced to complement rather than replace its branch and other areas of support for members. A rolling program of investment in all branch premises started in 2021 with the refurbishment of the Leek’s flagship branch on Derby Street in Leek and continued with its branch in Uttoxeter which is due to re-open its doors on April 4.
As this program rolls out, the Society is taking the opportunity, in line with its environmental commitments, to make positive changes to ensure that waste control, lighting and other utilities are from renewable sources and are as kind to the environment as possible.
Leek United’s commitment, competitiveness and high standards were recognized again during 2021. For the fourth consecutive year, the Society was awarded Best Variable Rate Mortgage Lender at the national Personal Finance Awards. Having been a winner in 2020, Leek United was a double finalist in the prestigious annual Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) awards in 2021.
Further independent recognition of the Society’s high standards came from its accreditation by the Good Business Charter which measures a range of responsible practices including diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility, employee wellbeing and commitment to customers.
A core part of the Society’s mission is to make a positive difference to local communities. This community focus was seen through continued fundraising efforts during 2021, with more than £60,000 raised for local good causes. The Leek also partnered with AEDdonate to install multiple Automated External Defibrillators across its heartland counties. Perhaps most notably, the Society recently established a charitable foundation which will provide grants to local charities and community groups.
Following an exceptional year, chief executive Andrew Healy expressed great satisfaction with the Society’s achievements and extended deep gratitude to the Society’s staff.
Mr Healy said: “Given the prevailing Covid-19 backdrop, the progress made is extremely satisfying and reflects extraordinarily well on our entire team of staff who have had to dig deep to provide our usual high standard of service. I simply cannot praise their efforts enough.
“We together finished 2021 with improved financial results and a stronger capital base while at the same time we significantly advanced our investment in technology, capability and infrastructure which will support our business, members and partners over the generations to come.”
The 159th Annual General Meeting of Leek United Building Society will be held at 12pm on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at Leek Cricket Club, Macclesfield Road, Leek.
Pictured is Leek United Building Society chief executive Andrew Healy and the newly refurbished Derby Street, Leek branch office.