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Questions to the Board

Questions to the Board

Each year ahead of our AGM we give our members the opportunity to ask a question directly to our Board of Directors and receive a response. You can view the questions and responses below.


Whilst I approve of the change of the name from Ipswich to Suffolk to encompass the county rather than just Ipswich, to reflect the reality of its presence in the county, many 'rebranding exercises' end up being an extremely costly exercise. May I ask for some reassurance that care will be taken not to waste large sums of money, which the rebranding is supposed to bring into the society, and thus the society ends up no further forward.

We have carefully reviewed the Society's current and future business plans. The name change will enable us to maximise our brand appeal and to reach a wider audience, which whilst has a short-term cost impact will, in the coming years, future-proof the business and ensure sustainability. We have identified all costs involved with the name change and are working hard to minimise expenditure and wastage. We have been able to temporarily reduce expenditure and activity in other areas to help us accommodate the name change project. We are confident this investment will see good returns for members.


What research has the board implemented to obtain an accurate estimate of the cost of changing all aspects of the society’s name from Ipswich Building Society to Suffolk Building Society and which part of the budget will be reduced to fund the change?

We have identified all costs involved with the name change and are working hard to minimise expenditure and wastage. We have been able to temporarily reduce expenditure and activity in other areas to help us accommodate the name change project. We are confident this investment will see good returns for members.


Could emails be sent to members signed up for the newsletters etc, detailing new products for savers? Savers are suffering at present and details of any new saving accounts would be welcome.

Our Freehold Post monthly newsletter was designed to keep existing members informed of our news and member benefits. We have been careful not to use it as a sales tool, but do display all rates on our website.

I first learned about saving and joined Ipswich Building Society as a result of a branch being set up in my primary school in about 1986. Please would you consider reinstating this service, (primary and possibly secondary if possible) as I believe it is of great benefit to the community. Whilst it may lose money initially, I believe it will gain you many lifelong loyal customers and therefore be of long term benefit to the Society.

We are currently active in many local primary and secondary schools and colleges delivering financial education through our bespoke Money Metrics programmes. We feel by delivering financial literacy directly to students we are able to equip them with a key life skill. We have considered the primary schools savings schemes and feel that we are able to reach a greater number of students through these focused education days.


I have not given my mobile number because it is normally off and in a cupboard when I am at home and never on when driving or sailing. Why are you not interested in my landline number, which can receive SMS texts?

Thank you for your feedback. We find the majority of our members prefer to give mobile numbers as this is a personal contact method rather than calling the general household.


I have recently opted for a new mortgage product as my fixed rate was about to expire. This has been completed, however, it was a very protracted business. I received notice and decided on the product and assumed it was done and dusted, then I received another load of forms which I signed. Couldn't this all be amalgamated to benefit both customer and building society? Furthermore, when the load of forms were received they included examples given against each product on different size mortgages making comparisons and APR's very misleading. I worked in finance all my working life and ignored the examples for this reason, but to the lay person they were not good guidance. 

In dealing with product maturities the Society has to follow the regulatory requirements set out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and therefore the process is structured around complying with these and to provide the customer with the required information and documentation prior to committing to a product.

With regards to providing representative examples the FCA sets out how these have to be calculated and displayed which are generic scenarios, rather than based on the individual loans being offered.


I read the 'Review of the Year 2019' booklet with interest. It is very Suffolk oriented, which I can fully understand. However, my only connection to Suffolk goes back to the early 1970's when I have happy memories of visiting and staying in the county, and in particular Ipswich. I live in Kent and my only connection to the Building Society is having a relatively new Retirement Interest Only mortgage. There is no mention in the booklet (as far as I can see) of members who live outside of Suffolk. Am I an oddity/rarity? If so, what are the implications for me for the future? How much of the Society's business is conducted with members who live outside the county?

We are very proud to be Suffolk through and through but we are welcoming, too. We are delighted to hear you chose us for your mortgage and indeed we have many mortgage members outside of our heartland, although our savers do tend to be based within the county. We remain keen to appeal to mortgage members from further afield and would like to reassure you that you will receive the same level of service from us wherever you are based.


On a £50,000 Fixed Term Bond, why is monthly interest not available?

We have seen a dramatic reduction in demand for accounts paying monthly interest. To ensure the range remains focused we do not currently offer monthly interest on our fixed rate bonds. However we do have a variable rate account, Suffolk Savvy Saver, which continues to offer this option.


Please don't close your branches!

We have 9 branches in Suffolk which serve our membership base. In recent years we have invested in existing locations Ipswich and Woodbridge, and improve our Hadleigh branch. Our branch network remains an important part of our service proposition.


Please keep offering accounts to members who previously lived in your branch area, but have moved away. Your staff give exemplary service (including my letter and phone) that I haven't experienced from any of the larger household name banks or building societies.

Thank you for your feedback. We continue to serve existing members who may now reside outside of our heartland area and have no plans to change this. We are delighted you still feel an affinity with the Society.


What steps is the Society taking in being innovative in addressing the needs of our ageing population and those older borrowers with less certain income sources? Is the society considering developing a hybrid lifetime mortgage product when older borrowers are not working full-time and relying on a smaller pension income?

The Society offers a comprehensive mortgage product range for older borrowers including a Retirement Interest Only product. Using our experienced underwriters we are able to make appropriate and responsible lending decisions to this cohort of borrowers, to whom we impose no maximum age restriction.


Given the relatively small size of the society's mortgage book, aren't fixed costs (e.g. high cost of senior personnel, head office premises, IT and other marketing costs) an issue? What steps has the society taken to either reduce these costs or behave innovatively such as sharing back office facilities with other building societies and/or other similar organisations?

Management and Board consider and monitor costs of the Society seriously as part of delivering the corporate plan. The Society will always look at innovative ways to reduce these costs and will work with other societies where appropriate to share costs. An example of this is the provision of the core IT operating platform which is shared with two other building societies.


Given recent cyber-security attacks, to what level has the society taken to strengthen its cybersecurity? 

We take our duty of care towards member’s assets and data very seriously, as such the Society continues to monitor, review and invest in its cyber resilience.    


Why is there a problem with starting a savings account for great grandchildren without parental backup? At this point in time there are many great grandparents around who may not now live locally to either their great grandchildren or parents therefore having to start an account in their own name because of this clause is not helpful.

We prefer parental involvement to ensure that we maintain a secure link to the child. This usually enables a smooth transition should the original account trustee die before the child reaches the age at which they can access the funds.


You have been telling us for years that you are working on an online savings system and it is still not available, and now I see you have pushed the launch date back yet again to 2021. How much money have you wasted on this project so far, or are you simply lying to members to save face? How do you justify paying your Operations Director a bonus of £21k when they have so clearly failed to deliver this much needed essential project that your members are desperate for? 

Unfortunately for a number of reasons the Society has been unable to deliver an online savings platform despite determined efforts. This remains a key priority of the Board and one of our corporate objectives.

We are conscious an online service needs to respond to member requirements, generate a good return on investment and provide value to our members. It is also vital that it integrates with our core IT operating platform and is cyber resilient. Unfortunately it is taking longer than anticipated to find a solution that can deliver against these requirements. We have been careful not to commit expenditure until the right solution and provider has been identified.

Online savings is only one part of the Operations Director role and responsibilities. Given their performance against the targets and objectives set within the Executive Performance Related Pay scheme the Remuneration Committee approved the bonus.


Will you open any more branches?

We are always open to opportunities in key locations, but are mindful of the costs involved in expansion. We must ensure any expenditure offers good returns for the Society and our members.


Why has profit halved in the last year and what is the board’s intentions to remedy this going into next year? Also why has expensive increased significantly in comparison?

There are three key reasons the profit has reduced from the previous year:
1. Funding the higher savings balances
2. Significant investment in IT infrastructure
3. Adverse fair value movements on derivatives.

The Board is mindful of the need for the Society to make profit to reinvest into the business but also to continue to offer good value to our members.

We continue to be mindful of carefully managing our expenses, however headwinds with increased regulation means that some increased expenditure is unavoidable, along with key investments in IT. It remains a business objective that we need to grow in order to outrun our costs.


Will the Ipswich/Suffolk Building Society ever go online so we can manage our accounts etc online? I am sure not doing this means you lose out on business. Certainly for me I have my main account with another Building Society for this reason.

An online savings platform is a key priority of the Board and one of our corporate objectives.

We are conscious an online service needs to respond to member requirements, generate a good return on investment and provide value to our members. It is also vital that it integrates with our core IT operating platform and is cyber resilient. Unfortunately it is taking longer than anticipated to find a solution that can deliver against these requirements. We have been careful not to commit expenditure until the right solution and provider has been identified.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.