Britannia is a mutual building society, with branches in most towns.
I have both a mortgage and a savings account with them and have been in several branches near where I live recently, for one reason and another, so I thought I’d review it!
THE MUTUAL BUILDING SOCIETY
What this means is that Britannia is not a PLC, and beholden to shareholders, it is a society owned by the members. so when they make a profit, they distribute a portion of that as fairly as possible to all the members. The way they have devised is a loyalty scheme, whereby once you’ve been a member for two years (with either a mortgage, a savings account, a credit card etc) you get your share of the profits via a points scheme. The more points you have, the more profit you get, up to a maximum of GBP500 a year. You accumulate points by having a range of products. it’s quite good, because you have to take out a mortgage with someone, so I figured why not them! It was a long wait, but I got GBP120 this year, just for doing nothing (on top of the interest on my savings). Not bad!
The branches I have been in have all been conveniently located on a high street. Their company image is red and white, so the stores tend to have red sofas and chairs and red carpets. This makes it all appear cheerful. Every store I’ve been in has been immaculately clean and tidy, and generally they have good space as you go in, so with a pushchair it’s not a squeeze. They don’t have automatic doors though and their doors open inwards, so with a pushchair, that’s a bit hard.
Obviously not every member of staff is the same, but generally speaking I have been very impressed with their customer service. the branch I usually use is quite small, and they recognise me and say hello to my children. I was in a different branch just yesterday and was amazed at how nice all the staff were. We were greeted before I’d even got in the door and everyone smiled at he baby in the pushchair and said hello. On more than one occasion when I have in the branch for any length of time I have been made a cup of tea and my daughter has been given crayons and paper to draw with. I dropped in “on spec” the other day as I wanted to see if I could have a word with mortgage adviser about switching my product now the base rate has gone down etc, and she wasn’t there, but the branch manager talked me through a few things, phoned the adviser and she drove over from the other branch where she was working that day especially to seem me! I didn’t even have an appointment. I really felt they could not do enough.
However good the customer service is, what really matters with a mortgage is the rate you pay. As I have been looking to change mine I’ve been investigating. I think it’s a bit pointless to list examples here, as they may change without notice, but if you want to know more then their perfectly straightforward website is:
What I will say is they have a decent range of mortgages – trackers, fixed rates, discounted, offset, so something for everyone, but none of the rates or deals seemed very good to me. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this society on the back of getting a great cheap deal. But maybe in the current economic climate that is how they are all going – the emphasis on responsible lending rather than a feeding frenzy. They certainly didn’t have any of those deals where the initial interest rate is really low but after three years they sting you badly and some people might not be able to afford it. I guess that’s responsible lending, but not such a good idea if you want a cheap rate and aren’t a “sub prime” customer.
The same is true of savings – a good range of products, some good rates but nothing amazing. you get good free advice whenever you ask for tit though in terms of spreading your savings across different products and making sure you don’t tie up more capital than you should, using your tax free allowances etc. If you’re not very clued up on all that they will help you out.
When you ask about things you get very clear, helpful but quite technical advice.
Our previous mortgage company took an age to process the application and we were almost unable to complete on the house on the day the removals were booked because of it! Britannia took about 6 weeks, which I thought was fine, and though they asked for lots
of documentation they did manage not to lose any of it and we didn’t have to deal with anybody in Hyderabad to get an answer to anything!
I’d say they are one of the better building societies I’ve dealt with. They aren’t hugely trendy , but I do think they are giving out good, honest advice, good, safe products and excellent customer service. I’d recommend them anyway!