Newcastle Building Society's community focus pledge and it may open more branches

Whilst major high street banks have been closing branches in high streets across the country – including in Northumberland – Newcastle Building Society is bucking the trend.
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And not only has it stressed the importance of having branches in its communities, there is a possibility that it will open some more in the next couple of years.

This was revealed by chief customer officer Michael Conville when he spoke exclusively to the Gazette at the Morpeth branch this month.

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The building society has 31 branches in total in the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire. As well as Morpeth, the others in Northumberland are at Alnwick, Ashington, Berwick, Cramlington, Hexham, Ponteland and Wooler (the latter being a community partnership branch that opened in the Cheviot Centre in February 2020 after months of planning and collaboration with the Glendale Gateway Trust).

Michael Conville, chief customer officer at Newcastle Building Society.Michael Conville, chief customer officer at Newcastle Building Society.
Michael Conville, chief customer officer at Newcastle Building Society.

Mr Conville said: “We are wholly committed to ensuring that we are available in our communities.

“We think it's hugely important that people have the choice to access financial services online, face-to-face in a branch or a mixture of the two instead of the approach that the major banks are taking in driving their customers to just do digital banking by closing their high street branches.

“We are certainly not anti-digital – for example, our mobile app is very well used by our members – but the feedback we're constantly receiving is that customers still place a lot of value on coming into a branch and getting both a warm welcome and the financial advice they require in person.

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“If anything, you will see us look to open more branches over the next couple of years.

“We deliver the services that our members want us to deliver as we are owned by them, not shareholders, and as long as they are asking us to retain our branches and look at potential locations for new branches, then we will do so.

“Passbooks are another thing that we are keen to retain. Many members value being able to easily see the amount in their account as it helps them feel in control of their savings. In 2023, we issued about three times as many passbooks as in 2021.”

Expert teams will explain the various products available and another important aspect for Newcastle Building Society is its advice offering through Newcastle Financial Advisers Ltd. The advisers can help people at every stage of their life.

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Part of the advice being given to those thinking of becoming a member of the society is that whilst it may be prudent to retain a current account with a bank to help with things like bills, there are savings products such as ‘Easy Access’ accounts that enable them to make withdrawals.

Mr Conville added: “We have been looking at ways in which we can improve in terms of our community involvement and 15 of our branches have access to a community space, free to book, where groups of various types can come together.

“Our approach is to treat you as a person and that’s important to help either us or one of our partner organisations provide the financial advice and/or tailored support that you are looking for.”

Its partner organisations include Citizens Advice Gateshead and they have combined to create the Helping Hand service for members.