The East Yorkshire market town of Beverley has three institutions: Beverley Minster, Market Cross and Beverley Building Society.
That’s what Peter Myers was told when he joined the historic mutual society last year as chief executive. Tasked with bringing the society into the 21st century, whilst retaining the ethos that’s been in place since its founding in 1866, Peter’s well aware of the responsibility that comes with such a role.
With over twenty years’ finance experience with Yorkshire Bank and its subsidiaries in Australia, New Zealand and the US, Peter returned to the UK at the end of 2003 to take up a director’s role with the bank. With a return to Australia on the cards, Peter and his family made the decision to remain in the UK – one of his daughters was in the middle of GCSEs at the time and the other had won a place at the prestigious Royal Ballet School.
A move to head up West Yorkshire Tourism followed in 2009 and, in September 2011, Peter got the opportunity that he’d been waiting for – to be chief executive of a Yorkshire-based company. “There’s a particular business culture in Yorkshire,” he says. “It’s a willingness to work together for the good of the county that’s not found in many places.”
Beverley Building Society has a vision: to be a strong, independent mutual that is trusted by member and non-members alike.
“The trust factor is crucial, never more so than now when the public’s trust of banks and bankers is at extremely low level,” says Peter. But how will the society make sure that it earns – and retains – this trust?”
“Well, we’ve dubbed it ‘back to the future’,” he continues. “By maintaining the principles that the society was founded on – simple and straightforward financial products combined with unrivalled personal service – we’ll focus on offering what we can do better than the bigger players and, that way, the society will move forward.”
The society offers one repayment mortgage product to its customers as well as a variety of savings schemes, including one of the only Junior ISA schemes in the country.
“Simplifying our mortgage offer makes it easier for everyone to understand and decide whether it’s right for them. We make sure that rates remain consistent and competitive and that we always offer our best deal rather than short-lived ‘special offers’. In fact, we have our own informal ‘coffee shop test’ that we use to measure the clarity of our products.”
“There’s a coffee shop opposite our building; if someone comes out of there and sees a poster in our window that appears to be offering a great deal, is the deal just as good when they get close enough to the poster to read the small print?”
“We aim to make sure that’s the case with all our products. Our customers and our staff are extremely loyal and we have to make sure that this loyalty is repaid.”
By remaining resolutely local and based solely in Beverley, how can Peter ensure that the society widens its reach, continues to grow and attracts the customers of the future?
“Well, our products are available on our website, so there’s no location barrier there. About 90 per cent of our mortgage business is currently in Yorkshire but we want to increase our residential loan book so we’re working on strengthening our marketing and website to make sure they’re relevant and attractive to new customers. I see it as putting a 21st century engine into a classic vintage car – retaining all the traditional values and style but with a modern capability for speed and efficiency.”
“Being embedded in the local community is essential for the society and integral to its ongoing operations strategy. There’s a monthly donation to a local charity, selected and voted for by customers and the society also supports local events, such as the Beverley Film Society, Holderness Point to Point and the Driffield Show. “It’s not just corporate sponsorship for the sake of it,” says Peter.
“We make sure that our support goes to worthwhile events or enterprises – ones that are of value to the community.”
This support is also widened to include a newly-formed partnership with Hull University Business School, with the society providing industrial placement for students. “As all the financial processes take place here under one roof, it’s a great learning platform for business students,” says Peter. “I think it will also give us a fresh dynamic to have some new faces offer their input.”
The society is also hoping to recruit school-leaver apprentices from the local community who will learn on the job, whilst studying for a business administration qualification on a day-release basis. “The local young people are our customers of the future and if we can help support them, then we will.”
Over and above his day job, Peter’s more than willing to get involved in the wider business community in Yorkshire. He’s an experienced NED and also sits on the board of Finance Yorkshire and NHS Leeds.
“My varying roles within the finance and business sectors have given me the acumen to take on the challenges presented at Beverley Building Society. Being responsible for a whole end-to-end business rather than one large division of a global company means more accountability for me and certainly more visibility. The successful implementation of my strategy for Beverley Building Society is key to its continued growth and sustainability and that’s a responsibility that I’m happy to take on.”
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