Your Money: An angry investor at the Alliance & Leicester

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It is easy to lose track of where we are with all these building society windfalls. But rest assured the conversion conveyor belt is moving, and it's the Alliance & Leicester that's closest to completion.

Shares worth pounds 1,000 each are what the A&L is promising to qualifying savers and borrowers - regardless of balance or time with the society - when the handout arrives in the spring. Savers are now at liberty to run down their balances to just pounds 100 without being penalised, says the society.

Many will be tempted. Whatever the A&L might claim, its rates can be bettered, including by societies that could be good bets for future windfalls. Christmas expenses will no doubt encourage further withdrawals, while yet others will simply reflect disenchantment at the society's unusual decision not to reward bigger-balance savers with more shares.

Indeed one big-balance saver has even set up an action group to encourage others to head for the exit door in protest.

The retired businessman running the action group, Patrick Mountain, says his aim is to get the society's board to change its proposals, and he is seeking a meeting with A&L's chief executive to put his case.

Action groups alone are unlikely to change the A&L's policy, however. While even my modest post bag is testament to how vocal some of these big-balance savers are, most savers will feel they've done quite well to be offered around pounds 1,000. The society collected a goodly number of "carpetbaggers" - pounds 100-type savers who opened accounts in the hope of a windfall - and 70 per cent of its savers have balances of less than pounds 2,000. Together they could be expected to carry the vote on the proposals at next month's scheduled meeting.

What could upset this well-laid plan, however, is an outside bidder. If there is a predator sniffing around, he has to act before the A&L reaches the stock market. At this point, under current rules, newly converted societies get five years' protection from hostile takeovers. An outsider might see this latest rumpus over the share distribution as an opportunity to win over savers to a new deal.

To succeed in a bid for the A&L, a predator would probably need to at least match the basic offer for everybody of pounds 1,000 and then perhaps offer extra payments on top to bigger-balance savers.

The possibility shouldn't be completely ruled out. Which is an argument for not running balances down just yet. Building society predators know they are likely to have to pay top dollar, but they might well not be so keen to woo savers that have already flown the coop.

q To join Patrick Mountain's action group send an SAE to 9 Behind Berry, Somerton, Somerset TA11 7PD.

On the carpet

Michael Hardern, the founder of Members for Conversion, another action group whose aim is to squeeze windfalls out of as many societies as possible, has just published a new version of its "Carpetbaggers Guide". This details the best accounts to open to give savers the best chance of qualifying for a windfall, how much you will need to open an account, and contact telephone numbers for each society. The guide is free - send an SAE to Members for Conversion, 3 Rathbone Street, London W1P 1AE.

Free flight tickets

Fancy flying off to New York on Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class to do your Christmas shopping? Then don't miss the looming deadline for our jargon-busting competition - the Great Gobbledegook Chase. To win the pounds 5,000 pair of Virgin Atlantic tickets all you have to do is send in the worst example of financial jargon you can find, with an explanation of what you think it means. The most humorous translation wins. Winners and two runners-up will also get copies of the Oxford English Dictionary to help them wrestle their way through future jargon.

The prizes are provided by Virgin Direct, Virgin's financial arm, and judges will be Richard Branson and myself. The closing date for entries is 18 November.

q Send your entries to: The Great Gobbledegook Chase, Steve Lodge, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Comments