Cumberland delivers on ‘kinder banking’ pledge

CARLISLE, England, June 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The Cumberland Building Society has reported healthy financial results as it delivered on its commitment to offer a banking experience that is “kinder to people and the planet”.

The Carlisle-based mutual, Cumbria’s largest financial institution, saw mortgage lending grow from £2.37bn to £2.59bn in the year to March, while savings balances rose from £2.61bn to £2.81bn.

Profit before tax fell from £26.6m to £9.6m, largely due to the unwinding of the interest-rate swaps that protected the Society when rates surged in 2022. But operating profit, a more realistic measure of performance, jumped 29 per cent to £27.4m while the balance sheet reached a record high of £3.2bn.

Writing in the annual report, chair John Hooper said: “It has been another year of steady progress despite repeated increases in the Bank of England’s base rates to a level not seen since early 2008.

“That spike in rates brought relief for savers but pain for borrowers and it dampened demand in the housing market.”

As a building society owned by its members, the savers and borrowers, the Cumberland prides itself on doing the right thing.

The Society was quick to raise savings rates when interest rates increased but was deliberately slower to pass on increases to borrowers this year choosing not to pass on the last 1% of base rate increases to its variable rate owner occupier mortgage borrowers. It recently cut rates on fixed-rate mortgages in anticipation that interest rates will fall.

The Cumberland made charitable donations of £369,958. The main beneficiary was FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria, a partnership embodied by the Kinder Kind of Kitchen initiative which supports 52 food banks across the region.

The Society remains driven by purpose rather than profit and continued to invest in its technology transformation programme. It will ensure the Society is fit to face the future, but chief executive Des Moore stressed that technology would not replace human interaction, and remained committed to its branch network.

He wrote: “We are the last financial institution standing in 16 locations throughout our region. We’ve retained our branches because a significant number of customers prefer face-to-face contact.”

John Hooper will step down at the AGM after five years as chair. He will be succeeded as chair by Jackie Arnold who will be The Cumberland’s first woman chair of the board.

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