DO NOT USE IF YOU NEED A QUICK SALE! These guys put out good deals and do not have the resources or systems to process the number of applications they get. They should withdraw products or stop applications to process the now 10 week long back log they have for mortgage applications. I feel that I have been trapped into going with them as they credit check you before telling you how long it will be.
The Leek Building Society's motto is "The friendlier face of finance". It was established in 1863 as The Leek United Permanent Benefit 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 Leek is the 18th biggest building society in UK with assets of £783 million (as of Dec 2011; source - Building Societies Association) and has its Head Office in Leek, Staffordshire (no surprise there!). 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 Leek were to go bust.
I have been a customer of the Leek Building Society for about 5 years. I first joined because they had a cracking monthly saver offering a good rate of interest. Since then, I have opened and closed a couple of monthly savers and now just have a simple easy access account (paying low interest unfortunately) to keep my membership current.
I have opened all my accounts via the post having downloaded the forms online. I have only ever dealt with the Leek via post, and so I cannot comment on their branch network. I have found them extremely efficient, usually turning round my new account within the week.
The Leek specialises in 'no frills, no bonus rates' accounts. They have, in the past, had some really great rates on monthly savings accounts. Currently (October 2012), they are offering a regular savings account paying 3.50% - a reasonable rate but not table-topping. Their instant access rates pay a paltry 0.10%, although their instant access business account pays 1.50%. They also offer a range of bonds and fixed rate ISA account; all offer reasonable rates, which can be easily beaten with a quick look around the price comparison websites.
But does that mean that the Leek is not worth doing business with? In my opinion, it is worth a check. Like most building societies, the Leek offers great rates when it want to get money in, and not such good rates when it has enough money on deposit. It is always a question of timing. So, if you are looking to put some money away, it is worth checking out the Leeds directly, to see if they are offering any great rates. Because they tend to offer simple accounts, the Leek is particular suitable for anyone who does not want the hassle of bonus rates or difficult terms and conditions, but wants something more straight forward.
The Leek also offer mortgages - they have a good range of fixed rate mortgages on 2-5 year terms, and well as buy to let and of course the dreaded standard variable. I have never had a mortgage with the Leek and so cannot comment on their efficiency. They also offer insurance, through RSA. I would imagine that you could find much better insurance rates through one of the well known price comparison websites.
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(C) BobbieAl 2012