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‘Next chapter’ will be about ‘growing in the right way’, says Hinckley and Rugby CEO

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  • 20/12/2023
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‘Next chapter’ will be about ‘growing in the right way’, says Hinckley and Rugby CEO
Hinckley Rugby Building Society will focus on self-build and buy to let, along with technology upgrades, in the coming year, the new CEO has said.

Speaking to this publication, Hinckley and Rugby Building Society’s new chief executive Barry Carter (pictured) said that the “next chapter” for the mutual was about “growing in the right way, making sure we’re still very sustainable and achieving what we need to do for our members”.

Carter added that another priority for next year is digital deployments in the first half of next year, which include launching a Hinckley and Rugby Building Society app, as well as a brand refresh.

He said that the brand refresh would “give us a different look and feel and bring us a little bit more up to date with perhaps where we need to be at this point”.

Carter said that he wanted brokers to know that the firm was there for the “difficult conversations”.

“So, where people are struggling with credit or income and they need a very understanding skilled human voice to be able to talk through a case and see it with kid gloves from cradle to grave that’s what we would want to be known for,” he explained.

He said that it would want to be known as “outstanding for service” and “innovative” in terms of the solutions that it offers.

“We want to help those people so that they become a member for life with us.”

 

Mortgage market has been ‘very fast moving and very challenging’

Carter said that the challenge that all lenders had faced this year was that the market had been “very fast moving and very challenging”.

He noted that continual interest rate rises meant the ability to ensure your customers are well looked after and understand how changes are impacting them, as well as balancing the needs of mortgage borrowers with savers was a “real balance”.

Carter continued that one of the key learnings as a firm was that having a “human voice” and giving customers the ability to talk to a real person who understands their circumstances via the phone or email “set us apart as a business” and something that it wanted to “keep doing more of”.

 

Technology upgrades focused on being ‘customer-centric’

Carter explained that its technology deployment had been planned in four distinct phases over an 18-month period. The first phase went live in September and was a move to the cloud, which improved its “operational resilience” and its ability to “safeguard the business” by better protecting customer information.

The next phases concern providing a savings front-end, an app which will allow people to see mortgage and savings balances in one place and the final part is a front end for mortgage introducers.

“All of that stuff points towards making the business really customer centric, but also removing these inefficiencies and maybe some of the more historical paper-based processes we have within the business,” he added.

However, he said that the firm to retain its human touch but that the technology upgrades would just offer a “different channel for people to interact with”.

He said that the digital exercise they had gone through offered a new channel for existing members as well as to appeal to new and different members so that it could keep the society “relevant”.

 

Focused on meeting self-build demand

Carter said that self-build was an “area that we prioritised and focused” on in 2023, leading it to win best self-build mortgage lender at the Build It Awards this year.

He continued: “The demand is still there, so the mortgage market and the labour market has definitely cooled and there’s been a lot of bumps in the road, but with that comes opportunity and we’re still finding those opportunities.

“People are still looking to build their dream home and they’re still looking for people to understand their unique circumstances. This is stuff that is typically difficult to do on a high street, and so having a lender that has got traditional lending skills that’s really focused on that market we’re certainly still meeting that demand.”

He said that it had seen a “significant uplift” from 2022 in terms of volume of applications and was “certain” that would continue into next year.

 

Buy-to-let demand is ‘still there’

On the buy-to-let side, Carter noted that the firm has seen “a lot of contraction in terms of lenders wanting to operate in that area”.

He said: “That provides opportunity for us. We like everybody, need to make sure that the quality of the lending is right.”

Carter said that buy to let was an area that “people will still invest in property and they will still see it as a good asset that they can invest in”.

“I don’t see that the market necessarily will contract much farther from where we’re currently at.  We still see that as a good opportunity. If you look at the rental market, the demand is absolutely out there but squeeze is just upon the affordability and what people can afford both in terms of rental yields, and the debt costs but I think the demand is still there.”

He added that product innovation like Skipton Building Society’s track record mortgage, which incorporates rental history into affordability, were the type of things where “building societies can really find its niche”.

“I think there’s always a place for innovation. I think those types of things we should continue to look at and it’s just being quick and nimble but making sure that we’re doing the right products and the right way without introducing an undue risk to the overall market.”

 

‘Acquiring and offering solutions that are right to the customer’

Regarding customer retention, which has become increasingly important for lenders as the purchase market waned this year, Carter said that it was about “acquiring the right customers in the right way”.

“We’re confident that they will continue with us it will be able to expand the relationship not only from a lending perspective, but from a savings perspective and we want to do both sides of the balance sheet as it were.

“So, I think it’s about acquiring and offering solutions that are right to the customer in the first place and if you do that, then they will stick with you.

“We clearly want to retain every customer that we have but we understand that their circumstances may change, and they may want to do something elsewhere.

“We don’t profess to try and compete with the big high street banks unless we offer a solution that’s different from them. So, I think it’s just making sure that the solution we have is the right one for them at the right time. We do that and customers will stick with us.”

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