How can we better explain the benefits of Building Societies and make membership meaningful for customers?

Unlocking the value of membership across your Society is something that should remain front of mind throughout a transformation.

Membership in Building Societies is a unique concept that can offer various benefits to individuals, but these benefits aren’t always clearly understood or effectively communicated. To make membership matter more and help people grasp its significance, Building Societies should consider the following strategies:

1- Clearly define and communicate membership benefits: Building Societies should articulate and promote the unique benefits of membership, such as higher interest rates, exclusive financial products, and member influence in decision-making. Use simple, accessible language to explain these advantages.

“People understand what being a member of a club is all about, but not of a Building Society. The sector as a whole has a big job to do over the next few years to demonstrate what mutuality means and why it matters. A collective marketing campaign, perhaps through the BSA could really help the sector.” – Chris Hunter, Deputy CEO of Darlington Building Society 

2- Empower members and give them a voice: Membership should signify active participation, not just passive account ownership. Building Societies should empower members by involving them in decision-making processes that goes beyond the AGM. This can be achieved through mechanisms such as member forums, surveys, or even having members as trustees. When members feel their opinions matter, they are more likely to appreciate the value of membership.

“Defining membership and empowering members to influence decisions are vital aspects of a successful Building Society. We need to give members a meaningful voice. We’ve established a charitable foundation with funding now approaching £1m and we want to have some members as trustees.” – Peter Burrows, CEO of Cambridge Building Society 

3- Diversify member-centric offerings: Expand the range of member-focused products and services to go beyond traditional savings and mortgages. Consider initiatives like rent-return schemes, zero-deposit mortgages, and financial advisory services that directly benefit members.

“We are considering the idea of allowing people in the community to use branches when not in use, possibly setting them up as advice bureaus or sharing a space with restaurants that only open at night. We are open to finding ways to achieve a sustainable branch strategy, focusing on flexibility and adaptability.” – Steve Fletcher, CEO of Vernon Building Society 

4- Engage in community and social impact: Showcase how Building Societies contribute to the local community’s well-being by supporting social causes. Highlight charitable initiatives, community grants, and efforts to promote environmental sustainability.

“We want to be more of a member based organisation and define what membership means, considering benefits like community involvement or higher savings interest rates. We are redefining what mutual means and improving our marketing.”  – Paul Denton, CEO of Scottish Building Society

5- Advocate for mutual values: Collaborate with peer institutions and industry associations to advocate for the values of mutuality. Engage in campaigns that demonstrate the positive impact of mutual organisations on society, aligning with issues that matter to members. A challenge in the Building Society sector is that many people don’t fully understand what being part of a mutual organisation means. Building Societies should collectively seek to educate the public about mutuality and its benefits. Collaborative marketing campaigns led by industry associations like the Building Societies Association (BSA) can help demystify the concept and emphasise why it matters.

“To me, membership signifies access to an organisation that offers valuable benefits. Currently, mutual membership primarily comes through the ability to influence through voting and some level of control in the organisation. However, for the majority of members, these aspects aren’t motivators for joining a Society. As a sector, we must do a better job of articulating the true essence of membership.” – Dan Jones, Finance Director and Secretary of Mansfield Building Society 

To truly make membership matter, it’s crucial to boldly explore ways to support and reward members in unique ways that set Building Societies apart from traditional banks.