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The Britannia Building Society is part of the Co-operative Banking Group. Although it is technically a bank, it remains has no share holders and acts like a building society. Like a true building society, it is owned by its members (it's a mutual society) and so has no share-holders. While this might seem quite a minor difference, it means that there are no big investors baying for huge profits at the expense of the customer, as could happen with high street banks like Lloyds, HSBC etc. It also means that they are governed by slightly different legislation to the banks. They are not allowed to take part in some of the more risky types of investment instruments, such as some derivatives trading, and they are only allowed to speculate if it is to minimize their risk, Whereas the big banks, as we all know, can speculate on a huge variety of instruments and often derive their profits from this speculation. The advantage of this for the members (all borrowers and savers are members of the society subject to meeting certain minimum criteria) is that there are not likely to be any nasty surprises in the form a huge trading loss, and that any profits can be kept within the building society rather than being paid out to external investors. The Co-operative Banking Group, of which the Britannia is a wholly owned subsidiary, has assets of £75 billion (as of Dec 2011; source - Building Societies Association) - this would make it the second biggest building society in UK after the Nationwide (if it were part of the BSA). Britannia's Head Office is in Leek, Staffordshire. It is protected by the FSCS, meaning that all savings up to £85,000 per person are fully guaranteed by the government in the very unlikely event that the Britannia were to go bust. However, this £85,000 covers all parts of the Co-operative Group, so accounts in Co-op, Britannia and Smile must all be taken into consideration when calculating how much capital is at risk. I have been a customer of the Britannia Building Society for about 7 years. I first joined because they were offer a great regular saver, offering a good rate of interest. Since then, I have opened and closed several savings accounts with the Britannia and currently have 2 accounts with them. I have opened accounts online and via the post. Their online system is fairly basic but, as they don't offer current accounts, it has no need of many of the more exotic options than can be found with bigger institutions. It is intuitive to use and I have found it to be robust. I have found it fairly easy to deal with the Britannia. However, I find that it is best to spell out in a letter exactly what I want to do. Whereas some intuitions are good at making sure all the ends are tied up, I have found that I need to make sure that I have asked the Britannia to do everything to make sure all the last bits and pieces are effected. So, how do their products stack up against the opposition? As of November 2012, all their current offerings can easily be bettered by a quick trawl through the price comparison sites. For example, Britannia has a regular saver paying 2.10%, but 4% is easily found, with 6% or even 8% possible on some accounts; Britannia's1 year fixed rate ISA is paying 2.35% whereas ING have an instant access ISA paying 2.80% and WestBrom have one paying 2.52%. None of these is a terrible deal, just mediocre. Having said that, occasionally, the Britannia has some cracking rates. I have found that these almost always appear on price comparison sites, and so there is no need to check the Britannia website directly to find out about their best deals. As well as savings accounts, the Britannia also offers mortgages, credit card, insurance products and current accounts, although these are more often under their Co-operative Banking name. In short, worth using if they happen to have some great rates, but, more often than not, just a safe but average place to keep savings.
I obtained a two year fixed mortgage from Britannia in 2010 on the basis they offered the best rate at the time (4.9%). However, I really wish I hadn't. Right from the beginning I constantly had to chase them up because they just didn't seem interested in completing the mortgage by the deadline I had given them (this wasn't unreasoable - about 8 weeks from the mortgage offer being issued). A general problem I had was whenever I rang them with a query, almost every time the person on the other end of the phone didn't have the knowledge to deal with my query which meant that having already spent a while on hold, I then had to wait again for my query to be answered. Unfortunatley after a few months my relationship ended with my ex-partner and we had to change the mortgage from a joint to sole mortgage. I was told this wouldn't be a problem given my income and they would begin to process another application for me. After initially being told a valuation wouldn't be necessary on my house, they changed their mind and told me it was. Although it would cost me £60 to carry out I thought it was best just to get it done and not make a fuss. They employed a surveyor to come and value my house who spent about 3 minutes inside the property and valued my home around £15k less than identical houses on my street that were on the market. This then meant that my income wasn't enough to process the application because I no longer had 15% loan to value. I tried everything I could to get round the problem - I had now taken in a lodger which was boosting my income but was told this couldn't be taken into account. I also suggested my parents could act as a guarantor but it was obvious Britannia had no interest in helping me and adopted an extremely inflexible stance. In the end I had to borrow £5k off my parents to make up the shortfall. I have no debts, have made every payment on time and have a good, steady job. I was effectively being penalised for the mess the bankers had put the country in. All this has meant that as soon as my fixed period is up, I will be leaving Britannia and will never use them for anything ever again. All for the sake of £5k
I often read reviews before I buy big things so I thought I would share my experience before anybody gets one of Britannia's Fixed Term Bonds. Make sure there is no chance you might need the money during that period. I got a one year fixed term bond with Britannia as we thought at some point we wanted to buy a house and we did not want a long commitment. I explained this at the branch and the lady there agreed with me that I should not get it for a longer period but a bond was a good idea as other saving accounts were offering almost no interest. After the first year, with ok returns, I renewed it. 6 months before maturity we have found the flat of our dreams. I have contacted Britannia's Head office but they say it is impossible to give us the money even if we lose all the interest or pay some penalty like other banks. It is true it was explained in the small print but it was never mentioned during the meeting when I discussed our situation. So beware, unlike other banks and building societies that allow you to close a bond before maturity with some penalty, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET YOUR MONEY AT ALL FROM YOUR BOND BEFORE IT MATURES. We will have to forget that house. I am sure it will not last 6 months for sale! If there is the smallest possibility you need the money, get other bonds from other building societies or banks.
Britannia Building Society used to be my local, sadly they have closed that branch down, so while I no longer use them for instant access they do retain an ISA of mine and a fixed term account. The rates of interest are good and they do keep me informed of any new accounts that would afford me better returns. I also enjoy receiving my member bonus once a year- it's a bonus for remaining with them and the longer you stay the better it gets. They are about to merge with the COOP so Britannia Members will now get COOP rewards. I have always found them very helpful and would recommend them with the proviso that they are providing an account that meets your personal needs- I see nothing in the correspondence that I have received about the impending merger to suspect standards will be dropping, if anything they seem likely to improve.
I have been a member of Britannia Building society for as long as I can remember, starting off with the account aimed at encouraging children to save. Despite being based around Stoke on Trent they have an extensive branch network, particularly around this region and the westcountry since they have taken over the former branches of Bristol and West, and they also have partnerships with some of the largest sports clubs and trade unions in the UK. The products they offer are generally of a good standard and competitive with the best in the industry. By being a building society it is also a mutual, meaning that it is owned by all it's members, who are those who have Britannia products. By being owned in this way, instead of paying out a dividend to shareholders, any profits are distributed to the members. Any individuals share of the profits depends on both the number of Britannia products they hold, as well as the size of these products (with the effect that someone with a £200,000 Britannia mortgage and £20,000 invested in a britannia account will get considerably more than someone with only £100 in a Britannia account). Further, this share of the profits, known as the bonus, is increased the longer an individual has been a member of the society, in effect rewarding loyalty. Another thing I like about the society is it encourages the members to vote on who should be on the board (in effect who should run teh organisation) and for every member that does so they donate money to charity. Overall I would say that I am very satisfied with Britannia, and will continue to use them for the considerable future.
Britannia is a mutual building society, with branches in most towns. I have both a mortgage and a savings account with them and have been in several branches near where I live recently, for one reason and another, so I thought I'd tell you all about it! THE MUTUAL BUILDING SOCIETY What this means is that Britannia are not a PLC, and beholden to their shareholders, they are a society owned by the members. so when they make a profit, they distribute a portion of that as fairly as possible to all the members. The way they have devised is a loyalty scheme, whereby once you've been a member for two years (with either a mortgage, a savings account, a credit card etc) you get your share of the profits via a points scheme. The more points you have, the more profit you get, up to a maximum of £500 a year. You accumulate points by having a range of products. it's quite good, because you have to take out a mortgage with someone, so I figured why not them! It was a long wait, but I got £120 this year, just for doing nothing (on top of the interest on my savings). Not bad! THE BRANCHES The branches I have been in have all been conveniently located on a high street. Their company image is red and white, so the stores tend to have red sofas and chairs and red carpets. This makes it all appear cheerful. Every store I've been in has been immaculately clean and tidy, and generally they have good space as you go in, so with a pushchair it's not a squeeze. They don't have automatic doors though and their doors open inwards, so with a pushchair, that's a bit hard. THE STAFF Obviously not every member of staff is the same, but generally speaking I have been very impressed with their customer service. the branch I usually use is quite small, and they recognise me and say hello to my children. I was in a different branch just yesterday and was amazed at how nice all the staff were. We were greeted before I'd even got in the door and everyone smiled at he baby in the pushchair and said hello. On more than one occasion when I have in the branch for any length of time I have been made a cup of tea and my daughter has been given crayons and paper to draw with. I dropped in "on spec" the other day as I wanted to see if I could have a word with mortgage adviser about switching my product now the base rate has gone down etc, and she wasn't there, but the branch manager talked me through a few things, phoned the adviser and she drove over from the other branch where she was working that day especially to seem me! I didn't even have an appointment. I really felt they could not do enough. THE PRODUCTS However good the customer service is, what really matters with a mortgage is the rate you pay. As I have been looking to change mine I've been investigating. I think it's a bit pointless to list examples here, as they may change without notice, but if you want to know more then their perfectly straightforward website is: http://www.britannia.co.uk/ What I will say is they have a decent range of mortgages - trackers, fixed rates, discounted, offset, so something for everyone, but none of the rates or deals seemed very good to me. I certainly wouldn't recommend this society on the back of getting a great cheap deal. But maybe in the current economic climate that is how they are all going - the emphasis on responsible lending rather than a feeding frenzy. They certainly didn't have any of those deals where the initial interest rate is really low but after three years they sting you badly and some people might not be able to afford it. I guess that's responsible lending, but not such a good idea if you want a cheap rate and aren't a "sub prime" customer. The same is true of savings - a good range of products, some good rates but nothing amazing. you get good free advice whenever you ask for tit though in terms of spreading your savings across different products and making sure you don't tie up more capital than you should, using your tax free allowances etc. If you're not very clued up on all that they will help you out. When you ask about things you get very clear, helpful but quite technical advice. EFFICIENCY Our previous mortgage company took an age to process the application and we were almost unable to complete on the house on the day the removals were booked because of it! Britannia took about 6 weeks, which I thought was fine, and though they asked for lots of documentation they did manage not to lose any of it and we didn't have to deal with anybody in Hyderabad to get an answer to anything! IN CONCLUSION I'd say they are one of the better building societies I've dealt with. They aren't hugely trendy , but I do think they are giving out good, honest advice, good, safe products and excellent customer service. I'd recommend them anyway! I'm awarding them 4 stars rather than 5 because they can't improve on my current mortgage interest rate with a new deal. Shame!
I have found this society a mixed bag. The staff in the branches and the people you talk to in their call centre are very friendly and cannot be faulted for the level of service THAT they give. Their product knowledge and friendliness are major selling points. The branches are particularly well decorated and furnished and I would say some of the best I've come across. My local branch, which is Hanley, has a coffee lounge and Childs play area. Where the rot sets in is when you have to send documents to their Head Office. I have one of there Postal accounts and on two occasions last year they lost the passbook when I sent it in for a withdrawal. I then had to go through sending in tedious forms to get a new passbook. Matters were made worse when they were taking about 4 weeks on both occasions to get a new passbook to me. The second dealings I have of Head Office is more recently when I adjusted the direct debit on my mortgage account. I merely asked to change the date from the 26th of the month to the 30th. To change the date by just 4 days took 4 months and several phone calls. Again the staff were always very helpful and friendly but the backroom boys were letting the front line down by their poor service.
As a heavy user of the internet, it is quite suprising that I came across the Britannia. I have now been a member for nearly two years and am unable to fault the service I have recieved. I have two accounts; one cash mini isa and a normal cash savings account. I think it is sad no one has written their opinion so far, so I thought I'd give it a go. I have visited 5 separate britannia branches, none of them intimidating in any way. The staff have always been the friendliest of people, never on the hard sell but willing to point out any oppotunities available. Any questions I have have always and i mean always been responded to in my own interest. In fact on more than one occasion when I have enquired about the possibility of a new britannia product we have come to the conclusion that at this point in time I should stay where I am. The feeling of honesty comes across everytime. That is not to say the rates are not good; the saving rates are very attractive. I am notified to the changes in the rates by post, although I am not sure this is done all the time. I find this very comforting in the current days of high intro offers followed by swift falls. All rates are very easy to find on their website. One comment on the website - lack of ability to do/see any accounts is one weakness that I wish they would address. It is possible to do your banking in the yorkshire building society which increases the size of the branch network yet there are some black spots around the country where it is difficult to loacate a branch close to you.