Halifax Bank is to launch an initiative aimed at identifying almost 130,000 former customers who have yet to claim windfalls worth an average of more than £2,000. The cash dates from Halifax's stock market flotation in 1997, when the former building society converted to banking status. As part of the deal, 7 million members of the society received free shares in the bank, but about 700,000 eligible customers failed to claim.
Halifax has subsequently identified many of the customers who missed out, but 128,000 share distributions remain unclaimed. Under British law, the bank was able to sell the unclaimed shares in August 2001, but the money raised will be retained until 2010. Former members can also claim the dividends paid out on the shares in the years before they were sold.
The unpaid windfalls total just short of £270m, with the average customer eligible to claim about £2,100. Harry Baines, Halifax's company secretary, said: "There are still a large number of former Halifax Building Society members who have not claimed money that is rightfully theirs, and we are committed to reuniting them with the money."
Thousands of former customers of building societies that demutualised at the same time as Halifax, including Alliance & Leicester, Northern Rock and Bristol & West, are owed similar windfalls.