Nationwide Building Society

The Nationwide Building Society, or Nationwide, is the largest building society in Britain. As well as being Britain’s largest building society it is the largest Building Society in the world. It is also the second largest savings and mortgage provider in the UK. Nationwide has 900 branches, employs 19,000 people and has total assets of £202 billion.

As well as the traditional savings and mortgages products, Nationwide aims to offer a full set of services including current accounts, credit cards, personal loans, investment products, insurance and pensions. Through Nationwide International Ltd, based on the Isle of Man, it offers access to offshore savings accounts with higher savings rates and better tax rates for non resident taxpayers. Nationwide has been a leader in Internet banking, being the first company to offer internet banking in May 1997.

Nationwide used to be seen as one of the best providers of savings and mortgages, but many consumers have recently criticised it for worsening its terms. It has also changed its policy and now charges fees for overseas use of its debit and credit cards, something it advertised as something that differentiated it from their more commercial competitors. It has been criticised for closing down a number of branches, although Nationwide claims that many of these were duplicate branches as a result of recent mergers.

In the confusion of the credit crunch, particularly after the former building society Northern Rock went bankrupt, Nationwide was perceived as one of the safest financial institutions, getting a large amount of new funds. Nationwide has grown during the credit crunch as Nationwide has been requested by the government have merged with troubled building societies. These troubled building societies have included the Portman, Dunfermline, Cheshire and Derbyshre building societies.

When building societies were converted into banks, Nationwide was one of the most vociferous advocates of keeping its mutual status. For a long time it had been the third largest building society after Halifax and Abbey, but after they both converted it found itself as the largest. As a result of this, and of its successful defence of its mutual status, it has become an unofficial spokesman of the building society movement and the mutual finance sector in general. It has many bank functions due to its size, for example is the only UK building society that does not rely on a bank to clear its cheques.

Nationwide has portrayed itself as a consumer champion, refusing to get involved in some of the higher risk lending during the housing boom, not having differential rates for preferred borrowers or savers and campaigning against cash machine charges.

The head offices of the Nationwide are in Swindon, Wiltshire. As a result of a previous merger a large part of the administration functions are carried out in Northampton. Nationwide Building Society was formed in 1884 in London. Its goal was to provide housing and simple financial services to members of the Co-Operative movement. Originally it built houses, although later it simply advanced mortgages. It has merged more than 100 times with other building societies.

In 1969 the Co-operative Permanent Building Society, was the fifth largest building society in the country and had one million customers and in 1970 the Co-Operative changed its name to Nationwide, taking its name from a popular light weight documentary series. In 1987 it merged with the Anglia Building Society.

Nationwide suffered one of the biggest security breaches in British banking history when a laptop was stolen from an employee’s house, which later attracted a £980,000 fine.

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