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AGM 2021

Our 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at our Head Office at Buckinghamshire Building Society, High Street, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4QB on Wednesday 21 April 2021.

As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, we were not able to allow Members (other than the minimum number of Directors and employees who are Members that is required to form a quorum) to be present in person at this year’s AGM. 

We are pleased to share with you updates from the Chair and the CEO on the occasion of the AGM. You can also watch the video recordings of the updates on this webpage.

The 2021 AGM voting results and our responses to the questions received from our esteemed members can also be found on this webpage.

If you have any questions for the Board, please email them to board@bucksbs.co.uk or by post addressed to the Secretary, Buckinghamshire Building Society, High Street, Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4QB.  

We remain grateful to you for your continued support for the Society. 


Welcome Address from the Chair at the 2021 AGM

                                                                                                             

Good afternoon, my name is Dick Jenkins and I am the Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Building Society.

It is my pleasure to welcome the Society’s members to our 2021 Annual General meeting. As a Board, we are of course disappointed not to be in a position to meet you face to face at this time, due to the Government’s restrictions on events, but I can assure you that in the future when the restrictions are lifted the Directors will once again be eager to meet members and discuss matters of interest and concern with them. Not least because listening to our members is part and parcel of the way that we do business as a mutual Building Society.

Every Chairman of every Building Society in the country will be talking about the performance of their Society in the context of the Covid Pandemic, a unique event in our lifetime which has disrupted families, communities and businesses in a way few of us could have previously imagined.

So many aspects of our lives that we have taken for granted have been seriously impacted by the crisis, and whilst most of these impacts will be temporary, some things may never be the same again. Some business sectors have been virtually closed- we can bring to mind travel, tourism, hospitality and the performing arts- whilst pretty much every type of business has experienced a profound shock.

But in the turmoil surrounding the pandemic you may be surprised and reassured to know that your Building Society has weathered the storm well. It has done this because it operates a cautious business model, and has over the course of many years built resilience into its way of working.

Not that this year has been an easy year for the Society. Getting to grips with the changed realities of the mortgage and savings markets in which we operate has been a very considerable challenge. And the need to adapt our working practices to comply with the lockdowns and social distancing rules has also been a significant task. To this end the Board would like to thank the staff and management of the Society for the work undertaken to keep our members and colleagues safe whilst successfully running the business throughout the crisis. This is a time when our members have needed us to step up to the plate and I believe we have done just that. You will of course not be surprised to learn that 2020 did not turn out the year we had expected when we flipped over the calendar over at the start of last year.

At that point, we anticipated a year of growth in the mortgage market and a savings market in which we might have expected at least stability and perhaps some modest increases in interest rates. The mortgage market stalled at the start of the pandemic and the second quarter of the year saw an unprecedented contraction in the market for people moving house, for obvious reasons. We also wanted to respond to the need of many of our customers to defer mortgage payments at a time of income loss.  On the other side of our balance sheet, the Bank of England cut rates back sharply to help sustain the wider economy with inevitable consequences to savings rates paid by banks and Building Societies. The Society has sought to balance the interests of borrowers and savers throughout these difficult times whilst striving to ensure that the capital strength of the Society is maintained. Whilst profit is a little lower this year than previously the Society has nonetheless added to our capital strength, and with a strong liquidity position we are well placed to deal with the uncertain and challenging economic outlook as the recession brought about by the pandemic plays out.

At this time, in April 2021, there is new hope for our country to open up again and to rediscover the many joys of life that we have been unable to experience in recent months. The Society very much hopes to play a part in the dreams and aspirations of our members, by continuing to do what it has always done, to provide a home for your money and money for your home.

In order for the AGM to be valid, our Rules require only a small number of members to be present at the AGM, and we have therefore asked that Society staff, who are also members, to be present to ensure we meet the attendance requirements. Unfortunately, this means that we have not been able to welcome any other members, only to reflect the official guidance on social distancing.

We have encouraged our members to submit their questions to the Board in advance. We have also strongly encouraged all eligible members to vote by proxy this year. The Society will make a donation based on 25p for each vote received by post and 50p for each vote received using the online voting system. The resultant proceeds will be donated to the Chiltern Foodbank.

Dick Jenkins, Chair

Buckinghamshire Building Society


CEO Update at the 2021 AGM

                                                                                                             

Good afternoon everyone,

This is the AGM for the year 2020, an extraordinary year by any standards. We are hopefully now emerging from the COVID period and I’ll speak a little bit more about how we in the Society are responding to that.  Firstly, however, I will summarise how the Society navigated 2020.  We have emerged strongly and are ready to support our members, our community and our economy in 2021. 

Firstly, despite the difficulties and restrictions of lockdown, the Society remained fully operational and open for business throughout 2020.  Our IT and contingency systems worked well and allowed many of  our staff  to work very effectively from home although a number continued to work from our offices in Chalfont St Giles, with the doors of our branch remaining open other than briefly at the very beginning of Lockdown 1. 

As Lockdown began, the mortgage market ground to a halt and although it recovered strongly later in the year our volumes of new mortgage lending were significantly lower than planned.  When mortgage activity did recover, delays in valuations and other similar factors meant that we ended the year with a very large volume of uncompleted mortgage offers, promising well for 2021. 

In the early stages of the Lockdown, interest rates were reduced by the Bank of England to unprecedented levels, with base rate reduced to 0.1%. These rates are not just the lowest in generations, but the lowest in centuries!  This was not an easy situation for building societies like us to balance the needs of our savings and mortgage members, as well as protecting the viability of the Society.  Ultimately, the Society needs to balance the interest we pay to our savers and the operational costs of the Society against the interest that we charge our mortgage borrowers. We tried hard to balance reductions in our mortgage rates to help our borrowers whilst protecting our savers’ incomes as much as we could when rates were already so low and many of our savers rely on the interest income.  In 2020, we substantially reduced all our mortgage rates and provided as much assistance as we could to borrowers who faced uncertain circumstances and difficulties with mortgage repayments.  This included granting mortgage payment holidays to 302 of our members. At the same time, we tried very hard to protect our savings rates for our existing members and to maintain our tradition of consistently offering the best savings rates in our peer group.  In many cases, we reduced rates on new accounts to maintain rates for existing members, particularly whilst mortgage business (the income that the Society needs to pay its savers) was significantly reduced.  Despite these actions, we still had a net inflow of over £10m in savings.  These are difficult times for members relying on savings income and we will continue to do everything we can to support you.

This combination of high levels of savings and reduced mortgage business combined to reduce our profits for the year, but we chose to allow this to happen rather than to go farther in adjusting our rates.  Of course, we could afford to do this because as a mutual society we can take the longer-term view and because of the fundamental strength of the Society, particularly our capital and liquidity ratios, both of which increased further in 2020.  We remain therefore a very safe home for your savings and have more than the necessary wherewithal to meet the needs of the community and support the economy through increased mortgage lending in 2021. 

In operational terms, the Society coped very effectively with remote working and has developed many new and more efficient processes to help us grow our business into the future.  I wish to record my thanks to all of our staff for their outstanding commitment, professionalism and flexibility in keeping the Society’s operations running so well throughout the unprecedented difficulties of 2020. We have also been very successful in hiring some excellent new staff, locally from this area, that will enable us to really develop the Society over the next few years.  The Society approaches the future with very well-founded optimism. 

Our aim is to grow this Society so that it can meet the evolving requirements of being a regulated financial institution and provide relevant, valuable products in both mortgages and savings not just for existing members but for many generations of future members.  To continue the traditions and success of this 114-year-old Society, we need to adapt to changing times whilst never losing sight of our local roots and our service ethos on behalf of our members. You will hopefully have seen that we have increasingly been creating differentiation in our products in favour of our existing members and their families. So, for example, we have some special rates available for the children, parents and grandparents of existing members. We similarly differentiate for our local area in Buckinghamshire.

We strive to convert our success into contributions to our local community and this continued in 2020 when we donated almost £16,000 to worthwhile local causes.  We anticipate being able to increase this significantly in 2021.  As you are aware, each year the Society makes a donation from its Charitable Foundation to a local charity chosen by the members.  Last year, you voted for Lindengate to receive the donation at this year’s AGM. Lindengate is a Buckinghamshire-based mental health charity offering specialised gardening activities to help those with mental health needs in their continuing recovery.  We will be presenting a cheque for £6,000 to Lindengate following this meeting.  

Finally, on behalf of everyone in the Society, I would like to thank you, our members, for your continuing loyalty and support to the Society.  We believe this is a Society you can be proud to be members of, and we hope to give you more and more reasons to feel that way in 2021 and beyond.  On behalf of all of us working in the Society, we wish you good fortune, good health and happiness in the coming year.

Gerard O’ Keeffe, CEO

Buckinghamshire Building Society


Voting Results from the 2021 AGM

No.

Ordinary Resolutions

No. of Votes in Favour

No. of Votes Against

No. of Votes Withheld

Percentage in favour

Outcome

2

To receive the Directors’ Report, the Annual Accounts, the Annual Business Statement and the Auditors’ Report for the year ended 31 December 2020.

1185

26

16

97.85

Passed

3

To appoint Mazars LLP as Auditor of the Society, in place of the retiring Auditor, KPMG LLP, until the conclusion of the next Annual General Meeting.

1160

39

28

96.75

Passed

4

To approve the Directors’ Remuneration Report for the year ended 31 December 2020.

1009

176

41

85.15

Passed

5.a

To elect Rebecca McBride as a Director.

1118 

 

78

31

93.48

Passed

5.b

To re-elect Nigel William James Montgomery as a Director.

1102

87

34

92.68

Passed

5.c

To re-elect Richard David Jenkins as a Director.

1097 

 

96

34

91.95

Passed

5.d

To re-elect Eric John Leenders as a Director.

1109 

83

35

93.04

Passed

Special Resolution

6.

To consider and, if thought fit, approve the amendments to the Rules as stated in the Notice of AGM.

1105

64

58

94.52

Passed

 

Questions received from our members and our responses:

Q1

Dear Sir,

The next Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Buckinghamshire Building Society will be held on Wednesday 21 April 2021 at 3pm at The Head Office, Buckinghamshire Building Society, High Street, Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire HP8 4QB: please why could this not be done by video link say Zoom or Microsoft Teams, all attendees muted unless permitted by organiser/event manager/chair to speak, so members can still participate even if remotely.

Thank you for the Annual Report - easy to follow and understand.

Current economic shock has meant that our Society like many others have seen a significant dive in profits. Are our directors still comfortable on our carrying on as an independent society. For example, have our directors taken any pre-emptive actions e.g approaching other / larger building societies for a possible merger, if necessary. Also, can you inform us if you have discussed or considered other potential options, such as a sale to an institution not a building society or even a wind up. I am asking because mutual directors do have a habit of springing surprises on members, e.g. Gainsborough 2001 and Cheshire 2008 to name but 2.

Kindly add my thanks to Steve Nichols for his service.

Sincere regards,

Dozie Azubike

Our Response:

Dear Mr Azubike,

Thank you for your email and valuable feedback.

We will be passing your kind wishes to Steve Nichols.

It is unfortunate that we are having to hold our 2021 AGM at our Head office with only staff  who are our members in attendance. We recognise the limitations of this arrangement. However our current Rules do not allow members to be counted towards quorum or vote virtually. We are proposing to amend the Rules of our Society this year (by means of a Special resolution at this year’s AGM)  so that we will have the option to allow our members to attend and vote virtually, in future.  However if you do have any questions for the Board , please let us know and we will try and address them as soon as possible.

Although there has been a dip in the profitability of the Society over the last year, this reflects not just the lower levels of mortgage business in 2020 but also our efforts to cushion the impacts of low rates on our savers.  We are fortunate to have built up a strong position in terms of our financial strength to enable us to take a longer term view. As a mutual society, our focus remains to be valuable to our members and protect our ability to sustain that capability for future generations. The events of 2020 have not changed these priorities, but they do prompt us to re-double our efforts to grow as the economy recovers in 2021. We have invested in our products and our people capability in 2020 in exciting ways. We are confident that we are very well positioned to expand our impact and support the economy and our community even further in 2021.

Specifically with regard to the status of the Buckinghamshire  Building Society, we are very much running the Society to remain an independent mutual and have no wishes, intentions or plans to merge with other Societies, or indeed any other kind of business. The Society is required to demonstrate in the annual audit process that it has the capability of remaining a “Going Concern” and despite the dip in profits this year, the 2020 performance added to, rather than subtracted from, our ability to remain an independent Building Society.

Thank you for being a valued member!

Best Regards

On behalf of the Board of Buckinghamshire Building Society


Q2

 

Dear Sir

Thank you for your e-mail of 23 March 2021 with the details of the AGM and accounts to 31 December 2020.

I was the Chairman of the Society from 2002 to 2009.

I have now had the chance to examine in detail the accounts. First of all I would like to congratulate the Board on the results achieved in a very difficult year.

However I do have the following comments to make which I would like recorded in the minutes. I am appalled at the level of Auditors Remuneration paid to KPMG which is more than double the amount paid in the previous year. If I was able to attend the AGM, I would be interrogating the KPMG audit partner to justify the level of fees charged. He will have got off lightly with me not being there. I am therefore not surprised that the Audit Committee opted for a tender process for the appointment of new auditors. I trust that the quote from Mazars is substantially less which will become clear when the 2021 accounts are released to members.

I trust that you will be circulating my comments to the members of the Board for their careful consideration.

Yours sincerely

Howard Machin FCA

Our Response:

Dear Mr. Machin

Thank you very much for your email.

It has been an incredibly tough year for the Society, for our colleagues and members and we are truly grateful that we have been able to deal with the many challenges that came our way. In times like these, your support and encouragement mean a lot to us.

It is sad that we are not being able to invite our members to attend this year’s AGM in person. But we are hopeful that there will be opportunities in future.

Thank you for being a valued member!

Best Regards

On behalf of the Board of Buckinghamshire Building Society