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The Building Societies Act

Helping Nationwide build parliamentary support to update the historic Buildings Societies Act 1986.

The campaign

The Building Societies Act 1986 set out the operating model and legal requirements of building societies in Britain.

But many believed it was no longer fit for purpose.

Nationwide Building Society was one of them.

The firm approached us with the goal of helping secure support for a Private Members Bill aimed at updating the Act.

In short, the new bill was centered around putting building societies on a more level playing field with banks to allow them to compete more effectively in financial markets.

British Politician Jonathan Reynolds standing up speaking into a microphone in front of nationwide banners.

Importantly, the Bill is not simply beneficial for building societies but also for consumers – giving them more choice through diversifying the UK financial services market and freeing up billions of extra lending to first time buyers.

Building a successful campaign

Under the original Act, building societies must raise at least 50% of funds from customer savings and 75% of their assets must be in the form of loans and mortgages for residential properties.

Building societies have seen a decline since it was introduced, with their share of the residential mortgage market dominating pre-1980s but falling to just 23% as of 2023.

The Building Societies Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill 2023-24 arose from the findings of a 2021 Treasury consultation where the government concluded that updates would “allow building societies to compete on a more level playing field with banks”.

The Bill aimed to free up capital raising and corporate governance requirements for building societies to enable them to grow, scale and compete with retail banks.

This included bringing key administrative rules that apply to building societies in line with those that apply to banks.

Thanks to an anticipated general election in 2024, there was limited window of opportunity to act.

The Bill took 170 days from its first reading to receive Royal Assent

It was sponsored in the Commons by Labour MP Julie Elliott and in the Lords by Labour Chief Whip Lord Kennedy

The Bill has cross party and industry support

Changes will extend to all UK nations and came into force in July 2024

The results

Execution

  • Political engagement: Secured Julie Elliott MP and Lord Kennedy as key advocates.
  • Narrative building: Highlighted the positive impacts on the mortgage market and first-time buyers.
  • Cross-party collaboration: Ensured broad support and rapid progress through Parliament.
  • Public affairs campaign: Coordinated with Nationwide and the Building Societies Association for a unified approach.

Results

  • Legislation passed: The Act was passed into law during the wash-up period before the General Election.
  • Broad support: Achieved cross-party backing, ensuring the Bill’s success.
  • Positive impact: Enabled building societies to compete effectively with banks and to better support first-time buyers
  • Aligned messaging: Tied the Bill’s objectives to a broader campaign promoting the mutual model’s value in financial services.

Securing parliamentary time for a private member’s bill is a rare opportunity to drive meaningful change. The campaign by 56° North, Nationwide, and the Building Societies Association was instrumental in convincing Parliament of the need for this legislation, which will significantly benefit first-time buyers.

Julie Elliott, MP

Achieving rapid progress in the Lords was crucial. The collective effort ensured the Bill was prioritised and passed, demonstrating effective cross-party collaboration.

Baron (Roy) Kennedy of Southwark

No better strategic advisers in the North – across politics, policy and business the team have seen it, shaped it and done it. They’re experts at turning strategic plans into real action and influence.

Transport for North East

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