Money Talk: Mutual, but for whose benefit?

REMEMBER last year how those building societies not handing out free shares were fond of telling us that customers would lose out eventually from taking the windfalls? All those nasty shareholders could only mean a worse deal and worse service was the suggestion.

Note, then, that it is the Halifax, that arch converter, and not one of the mutuals that starts the new year by launching a top-paying telephone savings deal; and that from March it is planning to open 200 of its branches on Sundays as well. No building society offers as much in either department.

Last year, Britain's dwindling band of societies set out their stall as offering a better deal to savers and borrowers. Now they are in danger of being left well behind by these and other improvements in service and value from the new "telebanks" (with Safeway offering the latest "best- buy" deal).

Like last year, this will be a momentous year for the mutuals. The takeover of Birmingham Midshires is already planned for the summer, while only last week it was the turn of Sun Life of Canada, the insurer, to announce a windfall proposal that could give 250,000 "with-profits" policy holders in the UK handouts worth at least pounds 1,000. The whiff of windfalls is not going to fade away; indeed, many societies already face challenges from conversion campaigners in elections to their boards of directors.

If societies expect their members to continue to vote for no change and no windfalls, they had better find some way of regaining the initiative. I have suggested in this column before, for example, that lenders should do their bit towards speeding up the house-buying process by giving guarantees on approving mortgages and turning round surveys. A "same day mortgage" would surely steal a march.

An equally welcome consumerist move would be to dump Mortgage Indemnity Guarantees (MIGs) - an insurance that all too many borrowers are forced to take out at a cost of up to pounds 1,000 or more even though they get no direct benefit from it (see page 20). Note, again, that it is direct lenders and non-mutuals that are at the forefront of giving better deals in both areas.

Finally, a well-known former executive of the Bradford & Bingley and an ex-City analyst of societies was quoted last week as suggesting the Skipton building society would be the next to sell out. My feeling is that, for now, life insurers are more likely to make the running, but there will be more demutualisations among societies, and almost certainly this year.

INVESTORS may be able to doubly salve their consciences before long.

The suggestion is that Friends of the Earth will soon launch its own "green PEP" that will invest according to "ethical principles" while making some money for the pressure group at the same time.

Ethical investments of this kind work by limiting where they put your money - mostly by not touching companies that damage the environment or commit other nasties. In some cases, they also deliberately pick companies that "do something positive". And while ethical PEPs and funds rarely have the lowest costs, many have performed well.

The Independent on Sunday has a new free guide to these and other ethical financial products, sponsored by Friends Provident, a leading investment manager in this area. For a copy phone 0800 214487, or cut out the coupon on page 19.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Going down the wrong road: parking fines are
nudging people into debt difficulties

Charges related to car parking rising and leading to serious money woes

Going down the wrong road: parking fines are nudging people into debt difficulties

Stacks of income: Drax is among the companies in Neil Woodford’s portfolio that he believes will pay strong dividends

Mark Dampier: Woodford’s young companies could be the stars of the future

Stacks of income: Drax is among the companies in Neil Woodford’s portfolio that he believes will pay strong dividends

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Simon Read: The markets might not be calm but you should be

Don't panic, it’s a wise idea to check investments regularly to ensure they are on target for your hoped-for returns

Only six per cent of the 13,000 new homes bought during Help to Buy’s first nine months were in London

Money Insider: Help to Buy must be boosted by building

With little or no wage growth being seen in the UK, increasing house-price inflation could see the number of first-time buyers slide further, unless there’s a new accelerated house building programme

House buyers can take their pick of more than 3,500 home loans, the most available since the financial crisis

Simon Read: Those cheap home loans may be built on shaky foundations

You should ignore the headline offers and trickery and work out the total cost of borrowing under different deals

Denise Leigh, who appeared in a production
of Rigoletto with Alan Opie, was left without an essential service

The opera singer, the broadband delay and why customers aren’t divas if they expect a good service

Denise Leigh, who appeared in a production of Rigoletto with Alan Opie, was left without an essential service

Problem debt adds £8bn cost to the economy

A charity has calculated the cost to us all of unmanageable debt – from lost productivity to the extra demands on the NHS

Payday loan stores are to face tougher regulations after moves proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) call on more responsible lending

Calls for payday lenders to sign up to an officially recognised price comparison site

The regulators are at last tackling the high-profile payday lenders, but they appear to be ignoring the growing problem of internet loan firms

According to the research, only one in five customers trusts their energy company

Rap for energy firms won’t stop the rising prices

As the cold weather hits, the question of soaring bills will be felt by each of us at home

Nikki Galloway has enthusiastically embraced buying and selling over the internet

Selling goods online: The pros and cons

Nikki Galloway (above) sells jewellery via her own website as well as on Facebook, Amazon and Bouf

The city of Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with the Remarkables mountain range in the background.

You can have it all: Asian stocks get on the dividend bandwagon

Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand. The country’s stock market was boosted last month on John Key’s re-election

Staff at work in the packet and parcel section of the Royal Mail's Swan Valley mail centre

Bargain hunter: Halfords’ zero-VAT child car seats are cheap and with a safety message

Royal Mail is cutting its small parcel charges from 20 October

Elderly people living in certain countries abroad are being denied pension rises

Anyone who moved to countries including Australia, Canada, South Africa and a 100 other places, have had their pensions frozen at the rate it was paid at when they left the country

Governor money plans to save clients time and cash with its online service

Simon Read: Relegate struggling funds from your plans

Every fund has good years and bad, but consistent underperformance over a number of years points to something more fundamental

Investments: Spot the difference and pick a fund that’s ready to go it alone

Nick Train thinks luxury fashion brand Burberry is one of the companies that has prospered in digital marketing

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

    Helpdesk Analyst

    £23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London