Newest Review: ... when calculating how much capital is at risk. I have been a customer of the Britannia Building Society for about 7 years. I fir... more
Average rates and average service.
Britannia Building Society
Member Name: bobbieal
Britannia Building Society
Advantages: Part of the Co-operative Group
Disadvantages: Very average rates
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.
Summary: A safe but average rate paying place for savings