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Leek United continues to grow & invest despite pandemic

31st March 2021

Society “emerges stronger from unprecedented year” as total assets reach record £1.15 billion, staff satisfaction at all time high and ongoing investment includes major refurbishment of flagship branch on Derby Street, Leek

Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Leek United Building Society has reported another positive set of results for 2020.

The Leek achieved gross mortgage lending of just over £160 million during the year leading to mortgage book growth of £15 million.

Savers increased their investments by more than £50 million as total assets increased to a record £1.15 billion.

Capital and liquidity levels remain robust, well above regulatory requirements. Capital reserves increased to £67 million and the strong capital position provides confidence that the Society can continue to grow and invest in the manner projected within its strategic plan.

Profit Before Tax of £0.9m was, as expected, down on 2019 due to the Leek’s investment in digital and branch improvements and was also impacted by margin compression as base rate reduced and by increased mortgage provisions. The Society continued to offer competitive mortgage and savings rates throughout the year and as a mutual, does not seek to maximise profits but to have a robust capital position while ensuring good value for members.

The Leek’s financial strength meant that it did not need to access any government help or the furlough scheme. Employee numbers were maintained at 2019 levels and the Society continued to pay full salaries to all employees.

Leek United’s competitiveness and high standards were recognised during 2020 with a number of industry-level mortgage awards. For the third consecutive year, the Society was awarded Best Variable Rate Mortgage Lender at the national Personal Finance Awards and highly commended in the Moneynet Best First Time Buyer Mortgage Provider category. The Leek also won Best Variable Rate Lender and was highly commended for Best Regional Building Society in the What Mortgage Awards.

As a result of its significant investment in IT, the Leek was able to transition head office staff to home working within just a few days at the outset of the pandemic. Front line staff in branches and support areas adjusted quickly to new ways of working, going above and beyond to support members. Calls were made directly to the most vulnerable to identify ways the Society could offer additional support and the first hour of each day in branches was dedicated to serving the elderly and vulnerable, with telephony services enhanced to provide additional assistance. Those mortgage customers who sought help because of the pandemic received full support. 93% of members stated they were satisfied with their overall experience of the Society.

2020 saw Leek United’s investment programme gather pace and it is on track to deliver long term benefits for members. The programme includes the development of a digital savings platform, improvements to mortgage technology and processes and redesigned branches. Work is already under way to refurbish the Leek’s flagship branch on Derby Street, Leek which will temporarily close for six weeks from 12th April, with members being accommodated in the Society’s St Edward Street branch during this period.

The transformed Derby Street branch will feature several different zones where customers will be able to undertake traditional counter transactions, browse products and services and enjoy relaxed and comfortable conversations in formal and informal meeting spaces. The modern surroundings will incorporate an innovative community area for seminars and educational events as well as digital screens and video conferencing facilities.

Employee Satisfaction reached record levels in surveys held during the year, with almost all staff declaring themselves proud to work for Leek United and recommending the organisation as a great place to work. It was a particularly proud moment when the Society won the SME category in the prestigious CIPD national people management awards in September.

Charitable activity remained a consistent theme throughout 2020, with more than £90,000 raised for local community groups and charities. The Society is in the process of incorporating a Charitable Foundation.

In a year that was dominated in so many ways by the global pandemic, the Leek’s Chief Executive, Andrew Healy expressed satisfaction with the Society’s performance, thanking members for their loyalty and employees for their exceptional response to the pandemic.

“I’m extremely proud that the Society not only navigated safely through an incredibly challenging year but that we continued our journey of progress in terms of modernisation and strengthening our financial and operational platform for the future. The extent to which our staff individually and collectively responded to the pandemic, changed working practices and reached out to support members was quite magnificent. Indeed it has been heartwarming to receive so many wonderful tributes from members regarding our staff during the year. We’re very grateful to our members for their ongoing loyalty and our message is that our Society has emerged even stronger from this unprecedented year.”

Leek United’s Annual General Meeting will take place on 28 April 2021 at 12 noon and due to Covid-19 restrictions, will be hosted virtually by webinar. Members are invited to register for the webinar in advance. Further details can be found on: www.leekunited.co.uk/agm.

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