Britannia Building Society

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Britannia Building Society
Building Society (Mutual)
IndustryFinancial services
Defunct1 August 2009 (merged into The Co-operative Banking Group)
HeadquartersLeek, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Number of locations
254 (2008)
Key people
Neville Richardson, final Chief Executive
ProductsSavings and Mortgages
£49.3 million (December 2007)
Total assets£36.8 billion (31 December 2007)
Number of employees
5,000 (2008)
ParentThe Co-operative Bank

Britannia was a mutual building society in the United Kingdom. It had its headquarters in Leek, Staffordshire, and was the second-largest building society in the UK (based on total assets of £36.8 billion) at 31 December 2007.[1][2] It became an important provider of both mortgages (including subprime mortgages through its Platform Home Loans subsidiary) and savings, as well as commercial lending.

It merged with The Co-operative Banking Group in 2009, and was legally dissolved as a separate organisation on 1 August that year; it has remained as a trading name of The Co-operative Bank ever since.[3] In January 2013, the Co-operative announced that the brand would be phased out by the end of 2013,[4][5] and began rebranding branches under its own name.[6] However, the Co-operative Bank's own financial crisis resulted in the original plans being abandoned. Many Britannia branches were instead closed, and only a small number were retained and rebranded.


A branch of the former Britannia Building Society in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Britannia traced its history back to 1856, when the Leek and Moorlands Permanent Benefit Building Society was formed. By 1857, the Society had 204 members; by 1921, it had assets in excess of £1m. The Society evolved into Britannia through a series of mergers, firstly with Longton Mutual Permanent Benefit Building Society in 1938 and notably with the NALGO Building Society in 1960—by which time it had become one of the ten largest societies, the Westbourne Park in 1965 (leading to a change of name to Leek and Westbourne) and with the Eastern Counties (as Leek, Westbourne and Eastern Counties) in 1974. The following year, a further merger (with the Oldbury Britannia Building Society) saw the change of name to Britannia.[7]

Britannia also included the engagements of the former Colne and District Permanent Benefit (1977), Westbury and District Permanent (1977), The Glantawe Permanent (1978), Stoke-on-Trent Permanent (1980), Alfreton (1981), Wellington (Somerset) and District (1981), Denton (1981), Over Darwen (1981), Driffield (1982), Colne (1983), Welsh Economic (1984), Blackheath (1986) and Mornington (1991) building societies.

Bristol & West[edit]

A branch of the Britannia in Gloucester displaying Co-operative branding.

The last acquisition was the deposit base and branch network of former building society Bristol & West (bringing with it approximately 700,000 customers) from Bank of Ireland in May 2005. This was the first major re-mutualisation in the United Kingdom (following the earlier demutualisation trend) and brought membership of the enlarged society to just under three million. Bank of Ireland retained ownership of the Bristol & West brand and all other parts of the business.[8]

Co-operative Group[edit]

On 21 January 2009, Co-operative Financial Services (later The Co-operative Banking Group) and Britannia Building Society proposed a merger,[9][10][11] first mooted in October 2008.[12][13] On 29 April 2009, Britannia members voted overwhelmingly to become part of Co-operative Financial Services, the first such merger between different types of mutual under the Butterfill Act.[14][15][16] CFS, which incorporated the Co-operative Bank and Co-operative Insurance Society, was itself a subsidiary of the Co-operative Group. On 1 August 2009, Britannia Building Society was legally dissolved and Neville Richardson, its last Chief Executive, became Chief Executive of the enlarged CFS.[17][18]

Coincidentally, the largest remaining building society, Nationwide, a competitor with Britannia, was itself formed in 1884 as the Co-operative Permanent Building Society to provide services to members of the co-operative movement.[19]


Earlier logo used until 1995

The Britannia group of companies included the following principal subsidiary undertakings:

  • Britannia International Limited[20]
  • Britannia Treasury Services Ltd.[21]
  • Britsafe Insurance Services (Guernsey) Ltd.[22]
  • Platform Home Loans Ltd.,[23] subprime mortgage loans for the use of UK intermediaries (mortgage brokers) only
  • Western Mortgage Services Ltd.[24]

A former member of the Building Societies Association and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, Britannia also subscribed to the Financial Ombudsman Service.


In 1999, Britannia was one of seven building societies unsuccessfully targeted by the carpetbagger Michael Hardern.[25][26] To fight this threat to its mutual status, in 1998, the Society announced that new members would in future be required to assign any future windfall payments to the Britannia Building Society Foundation, a charity set up for this purpose.[27]

On the merger with Co-operative Financial Services, members of the former Britannia Building Society became members of the Co-operative Group. The membership reward scheme was replaced with the Co-operative Membership scheme on 31 December 2009, when members began to earn dividend based on their account holding and borrowing with Britannia.


Britannia was official sponsor of Stoke City F.C., which played in the Premier League between 2008 and 2018, and lent its name to the club's stadium. It also sponsored Ipswich Town F.C.'s west stand at Portman Road, the Britannia Stand, which was renamed the East of England Co-operative Stand in 2012.[28]

Britannia also maintained trade union affinity partnerships with UNISON—the Public Service Union (successor to NALGO), the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Unity (formerly CATU).[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Building Societies' Assets Archived March 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Building Societies Association, July 2008
  2. ^ Building Societies Database Archived March 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine KPMG Financial Services, August 2008
  3. ^ Registered in England and Wales No. 990937. The Co-operative Bank is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, No. 121885
  4. ^ Co-operative Bank to close 37 branches BBC News, 24 January 2013
  5. ^ Britannia Building Society: Unions disappointed at name change BBC News, 25 January 2013
  6. ^ "Branch updates". The Co-operative Bank. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  7. ^ Extract from Building Societies Yearbook 2007/8 Archived November 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (pp.163/4, 168, 185/6, 155 and 172) Building Societies Association (retrieved 10 January 2008). Golders Green Permanent originally changed name to Britannia in 1946 (p.158) and to Oldbury Britannia in 1955 (p.147/8)
  8. ^ Bank of Ireland to sell its Bristol & West branch network for £150 million Archived September 16, 2010, at the Wayback Machine The Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland, 24 May 2005
  9. ^ Britannia and Co-operative Financial Services unveil plans for super-mutual[permanent dead link] Britannia Media Centre, 21 January 2009
  10. ^ CFS and Britannia to create 'super mutual' Archived January 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Co-operative News, 21 January 2009
  11. ^ Haurant, Sandra CFS joins Britannia to form 'super mutual' The Observer, 25 January 2009
  12. ^ "Britannia in Co-op merger talks". BBC News. 12 October 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  13. ^ Hopkins, Kathryn Britannia and Co-op explore mutual tie-up The Guardian, 13 October 2008
  14. ^ Britannia members back super-mutual merger with The Co-operative Financial Services[permanent dead link] Britannia Media Centre, 29 April 2009
  15. ^ "Britannia/Co-op merger date set". BBC News. 29 April 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  16. ^ Sunderland, Ruth A mutual desire to be at the centre of banking The Observer, 5 April 2009
  17. ^ Merger Creates Powerful Force in Financial Services[permanent dead link] Britannia Media Centre, 3 August 2009
  18. ^ New-look CFS ready to take on the banks Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Co-operative News, 4 August 2009
  19. ^ Mansbridge, Albert Brick upon Brick: 50 years of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society London: JM Dent & Sons, 1934
  20. ^ Registered in the Isle of Man No. 50583. Licensed by the Manx Financial Supervision Commission to take deposits
  21. ^ Registered in England and Wales No. 03416197
  22. ^ Registered in Guernsey No. 30499. In Voluntary Liquidation[permanent dead link] La Gazette Officielle, JS980418/7/15
  23. ^ Registered in England and Wales No. 02334606
  24. ^ Registered in England and Wales No. 03191608
  25. ^ Jones, Rupert Britannia puts carpetbagger to ballot test The Guardian, 19 January 1999
  26. ^ "Britannia faces £3m ballot bill". BBC News. 22 April 1999. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  27. ^ Britannia Building Society Archived July 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine The Sentinel, 4 February 2009
  28. ^ Gooderham, Dave (11 July 2012). "Updated: Britannia Stand becomes the East of England Co-operative Stand". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  29. ^ The Added Value of Membership Archived December 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine UNISONPlus Membership Services (retrieved 15 August 2009)

External links[edit]