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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK


Bradford & Bingley windfall

Members of Bradford & Bingley (B&B) have voted to convert the UK's second largest building society to a bank - putting millions of customers in line for average windfalls of up to £1,000.

Jonty Bloom: "Supporters of the Building Society movement claim that savers and borrowers will lose out"
B&B's board is now likely to either float on the stock market and give its members free shares, or accept a takeover bid. Either way it would trigger windfalls for up to three million members.

The result was unveiled at the group's annual general meeting. Around a thousand members gathered to vote on the deal and more than 1.5 million people responded to a postal ballot.

Windfalls on offer

However, the decision is a bitter blow to the management of the B&B who had been fighting for it to stay a building society. Managers had claimed that they would have been able to continue to offer lower borrowing rates and higher saving rates if the company had not turned into a bank.

[ image: Other building societies could now come under threat]
Other building societies could now come under threat

The turn-out was high - with almost two-thirds of the 2.5 million members eligible to vote, registering their opinion.

The result will put increasing pressure on other societies to follow B&B and convert to banks. The decision could actually mark the beginning of the end for the building society movement.

If B&B could have overcome the threat of conversion it would have dealt a significant blow to the carpetbaggers - people who have joined building societies solely in the hope of receiving large windfalls.

However, now the carpetbaggers will be given fresh ammunition to continue their war against mutual organisations.

Stephen Major, a plumber who lives in Northern Ireland - had called the vote on conversion.

Since then B&B has mounted a £5m media campaign in an effort to fend off the attempt to convert it into a bank.

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