JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Is Nationwide doing enough to win your vote?

Is Nationwide doing enough for savers to win your vote? Make sure you let them know at their upcoming AGM, says JEFF PRESTRIDGE

Some 16million members of Nationwide will have the opportunity to vote at the building society’s annual general meeting next month. I urge members to do so. It’s your society, have your say. 

Members should have just received voting packs, together with a summary of the society’s 2022 accounts. These financial results are impressive whichever way you dissect them. 

Profits are up from £823million to nearly £1.6billion and assets are growing – £272billion at April 4 this year. It’s a mutual in rude good health and by far the biggest challenger to the major high street banks. 

Voicing concern: Our Give Savers A Rate Rise campaign has provoked angry comments from Nationwide savers who believe they are being short-changed

Whether some of these profits should have been directed into the pockets of savers through higher interest rates is an issue I am sure will get raised at the AGM (for the first time, members will be able to participate online). 

Certainly, our Give Savers A Rate Rise campaign has provoked angry comments from Nationwide savers who believe they are being short-changed.

In light of a rash of bank branch closures this year, it is heartening to know Nationwide is still passionate about its 625- strong branch network. 

A few days ago, it confirmed the society would not abandon any town or city in which it has a branch until at least 2024. Reassuring news, although it won’t stop it closing branches in locations where it has more than one outlet. 

Analysis of the 285 branch closures announced this year by banks and building societies – 14 confirmed by Barclays a few days ago – shows that Nationwide is shutting ten. 

As part of the Nationwide AGM vote, members will be asked to approve the directors’ 2022 remuneration. I am sure some eyebrows will be raised at the fact that recently departed chief executive Joe Garner received £2.1million – £954,000 of it performance related. 

In the previous two financial years, Garner’s remuneration was much lower at £1.2million (2021) and £1.3million (2020), a result of his decision to forgo most of his performance pay in response to lockdowns and the pandemic. In 2019, his financial package was just short of £2.4million. 

Of course, Nationwide will argue that Garner’s remuneration is nowhere near that received by the bosses of the big banks, but that’s a disingenuous argument. 

Nationwide is a mutual whose whole modus operandi is built around serving the financial interests of members. It’s not a profit obsessed bank where boardroom greed is endemic. 

As I said, if your savings or home loan are with Nationwide, use your AGM vote. Let them know you care about how it is run.

Woodford must be held to account by regulators 

I am sure many Woodford Equity Income investors would have been angry last week to see our picture of failed fund manager Neil Woodford out enjoying himself in Salcombe, Devon, where he has a £6.3 million luxury holiday home. 

While Woodford does not seem to have a care in the world, the prospects for his investors get grimmer by the day. 

Last week, cancer treatment firm Rutherford Health – one of the few companies that the remaining rump of Equity Income still holds – went belly up. 

Surely, it is time for Woodford to be held to account by regulators for running his fund into the ground. 

Denise is an M&S star 

Good customer service is a rarity. But last week, shop assistant Denise at my local Marks & Spencer outlet in London’s Kensington delivered it in spades. What a star. 

I had gone in to buy some jeans, a casual shirt, shoes and much needed new underwear. After she had rung the items through the till, she asked whether I had its loyalty card Sparks. I replied in the affirmative, adding that I had the app too. 

‘It might be worth checking whether you have any offers on it,’ she said. I handed her my phone and to my amazement she said I was entitled to a 20 per cent discount. ‘It runs out soon as well,’ she added.

I was quite thrilled. A saving of some £30. All because a shop assistant was prepared to bat for the customer. 

Denise, you are a star. Flying the flag for a great British brand where customer service remains at its heart.