Harpenden earns mutual respect

“Once members are with us they tend to stay with us. It is the same on the mortgage side. We don’t get many who remortgage away from us. On the savings side, aggregator websites have helped us, while with mortgages we receive lots of recommendations from brokers.”

Harpenden Building Society has profited from a recent surge in the property market and, according to Mr Marsden, this year it broke its record for the highest number of mortgage-related enquires. Its mortgage business was up 200 per cent for 2013, which Mr Marsden attributed not only to improving markets but its specialist lending products that cater more to borrowers requiring complex arrangements.

Article continues after advert

From its 22,000-plus membership, the number of borrowers is around 1000. Its number of investing members, however, is more than 21,000, which Mr Marsden said is mostly linked to the fact that its saving vehicles cater to a more mainstream audience. According to Mr Marsden, Harpenden Building Society offers a range of commoditised products like Isas and bonds and also boasts one of the highest proportions of children savings accounts in the sector.

In addition, he explained that aggregator websites have increased the exposure of Harpenden Building Society’s competitive savings range, which in turn has transformed the mutual organisation into a national name.

Despite having just six branches, the chief executive said its members now live all over the UK, with some coming from as far afield as Newcastle. This, he explained, has been boosted by postal and online accounts, which he claimed “is a convenient way for people to transact with the building society without coming into a branch”.

Whereas some building societies maintain a local or regional focus, Mr Marsden is more than happy to accept membership from all over the country. However, that has not taken anything away from its local community projects, with the building society still playing an active role in Harpenden and its surrounding areas.

In the past two years the building society twice won Corporate Social Responsibility awards and Mr Marsden won a leadership award in 2013 for his own contributions, as well as being invited to Downing Street by Samantha Cameron for his company’s charitable contributions.

He added: “We are really engaged with the community and support charitable organisations or even loosely led groups in the form of sponsorship for school fêtes and fundraising events through to wider things through our two trust funds, which give out larger donations.

“We have helped to build Scout huts and school playgrounds when funding dried up. We also funded vehicles for the disabled. Overall, despite now having members all over the UK, we still primarily want to give back to the local community.”