Nationwide faces new vote to convert

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The Independent Online

Nationwide, the UK's largest building society, is likely to hold a vote at its annual meeting next July on whether to end its mutual status, potentially triggering windfalls of £1,000 each for 8 million members.

Nationwide, the UK's largest building society, is likely to hold a vote at its annual meeting next July on whether to end its mutual status, potentially triggering windfalls of £1,000 each for 8 million members.

The building society, which successfully saw off an attack by carpetbaggers in 1998, is protected until November 2001 against another attempt by members to force a vote. But the society's board yesterday took the decision to allow a vote a few months early in order to avoid the extra costs of an extraordinary general meeting.

Nationwide stressed that the vote would only go ahead if it received a requisition for one by 4 April, backed by the signatures of 500 qualifying members, but it acknowledged that such a move was likely.

Stephen Major, the Northern Ireland plumber who triggered the conversion of Bradford & Bingley earlier this month, has said he plans to stand for the board of Nationwide in order to change the rules about who can qualify for windfalls. Nationwide currently makes members who joined after November 1997 sign away potential windfalls to charity. Of its 10 million members, more than 2 million fall into this category. For a conversion resolution to succeed it would require the support of a simple majority of borrowers. In addition, 50 per cent of members who save with the society would have to take part in the vote and 75 per cent would have to support the resolution.

Mr Major said yesterday: "I don't know whether a resolution lodged now would be successful. It is better to get onto the board to challenge the two-tier membership structure so that more people would receive windfalls."

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