Britannia Building Society

The Britannia Building Society is a brand and branch network of Co-Operative Financial Services. Before its merger in 2009 it was an independent building society and was one of the largest building societies in the UK.

Britannia was a building society that never became a bank. It was a specialist in mortgages and savings. It often offered some of the best rates in the market for both products and it would advertise that this was due to its status as a mutually owned building society, although it also tended to be a more conservative lender. Many of the rates offered under the Britannia brand name are still some of the most competitive in their market.

Britannia also runs the specialist mortgage providers Platform and Western Mortgage Services. It offers some limited treasury services as well. Britannia also offers investment, life assurance and pension products. This is done as an intermediary for the Axa insurance group, through Britannia’s branches.

Britannia has a number of trade union affinity schemes with unions such as UNISON, USDAW and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. This is where the unions offer Britannia’s products to their members under the union’s name.

As part of the conversion of the Britannia from a building society to a consumer co-operative the members rewards scheme has been replaced. There is now a dividend, or “divi” scheme.

Britannia was at the time of its takeover one of the biggest building societies in Britain, although this was largely because many of the largest building societies had become banks. It has 3,900 staff who work through the network, three million members and total assets of £36.8 billion. Its headquarters are in Leek, Staffordshire.

Bristol and West

The Bristol and West Building Society was a building society that was strong in the west of England with around 700,000 customers. Like many others it converted itself into a bank and was bought by the Bank of Ireland. The Bank of Ireland sold the Bristol and West’s depositor base and branch network to the Nationwide in 2005, taking the Nationwide’s customer base to three million. The Bank of Ireland kept the Bristol and West brand and its more commercial operations. This was the first “re-mutualisation” , where elements of a former building society become a building society again, since building societies were allowed to convert themselves into banks.

Britannia Building Society History

The Nationwide started as the Leek and Moorlands Permanent Building Society in 1856 and it was a regional building society that covered the Midlands. Through a number of mergers in the 1960s and 1970s, with the NALGO building society, the Westbourne Park Building Society, the Eastern Counties and the Oldbury building society it grew a branch network that reached across most of England, although at this was better in some parts of the country than it was in others. To reflect the nationwide coverage it changed its name to Britannia in 1975.

Co-Operative Financial Services

Co-Operative Financial Services is a holding company for two of the Co-Operative group’s more successful operations, the Co-Operative Bank and the Co-Operative Insurance Services. The two brands have both been leaders in ethical investing with the Co-Operative bank refusing to lend to regimes with poor human rights records or to companies that conduct experiments on animals. It often uses this stance in its sales and advertising. It is the preferred bank for many left wing organisations including much of the trade union movement and the Labour Party.

The Co-Operative group

Co-Operative Financial Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Co-Operative group. The Co-Operative group is a retail operation that is a federation of regional groups that are founded on selling goods and returning the profit to regular customers (called “members“) in the form of a dividend. The Co-Operative movement even operate a political party, the “Co-Operative Party” which is in effect a junior partner of the Labour party.

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