“ Building Society / Saffron Building Society, formally Saffron Walden Herts & Essex Building Society „
The Saffron Building Society was formally the Saffron Walden, Herts and Essex Builidng Society, but changed its name to the far more memorable 'Saffron' about 10 years ago.
The Saffron Building Society is the 13th biggest building society in UK (out of 47) with assets of £1,065 million (as of Dec 2011; source - Building Societies Association) and has its Head Office in Saffron Walden, Essex. 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 Saffron were to go bust.
At the risk of repeating myself (the following 2 paragraphs originally appeared in my Coventry Building Society review, but are important and relevant so I have included them in all my building society reviews), the Saffron 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.
I have been a customer of the Saffron Building Society for about 10 years. I first joined because I wanted an instant access passbook account for one of my children. Since then, I have opened and closed several savings accounts with the Saffron and currently have 2 accounts with them.
I tend to open my Saffron account in person at a local branch as I am in the Society's "catchment" area. However, many of their accounts can be opened online or by post, so their members are not just Essex locals.
The Saffron has the feel of a modern building society with a traditional attitude to service. The staff are always polite and helpful and know their products.
Generally, I have found that the Saffron offers pretty decent rates across the board. For example, at the moment (Oct 2012), their regular saver is paying 4% with instant access to your money should you need it, their instant access online Esaver pays 2.5%, and they even have a business savings account paying 1.75% - which is amazing as most banks seem to want to charge businesses a fortune to look after their money rather than paying them interest. There is a range of children and teenager's accounts, again paying decent rates (2.25% and a free Ladybird money box!).
The Saffron also provides mortgages and insurance, although for these you have to telephone or visit a branch. I have had some good insurance quotes from the Saffron, but the cover didn't work for me and my family. Their current first time buyer 95% mortgage fixed at 6.49% until 29 Feb 2016 seems a good deal, and they have a wide range of other mortgage offers.
I would recommend the Saffron Building Society for consistently good rates and good service.
My reviews may also appear on Ciao and other sites under the same user name.
© BobbieAl 2012