[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Have Your Say: Building society merger
Nationwide building society branch

Nationwide and Portman have announced they plan to merge, creating the UK's second-largest mortgage lender.

If the merger is approved there will be financial windfalls for some savers and borrowers.

We asked for your comments on the planned merger. This debate is now closed.

This is a free market and if you are upset just change banks. It is that easy.
Philip Winfield, Dorset

It was impossible to miss all the publicity about "carpetbagging" back in 1997. Anyone at the time that did not immediately set up savings accounts with the minimum amount is just foolish. B&B, Lambeth, Portman have all gone this route now and I've made a nice bit of pocket money out of all of them. It is only a matter of time until Nationwide goes the same way. It's free money at the end of the day.
Chris, London

If the Portman wants to change it should convert to a bank
Tony Bartlett, East Sussex
Portman members should say no to a deal which sells the society at a rock bottom price. The only people who will come out of it well will be the directors who will either get increased salaries or golden handshakes. If the Portman wants to change it should convert to a bank and give members shares based on the value of the society. Alliance & Leicester members who received shares when they converted have seen them increase considerably and the dividends they now receive would be more each year than the 200 less tax on offer to Portman members.
Tony Bartlett, East Sussex

I would like to see most mutual institutions remain. However, as a long-time Portman member, I make an exception in its case as there seems to be no benefit to customers. In recent years the society has been slashing interest rates on its accounts for those with small amounts of money, while increasing rates for those saving several thousand or more. This is not the sort of behaviour I would normally expect from a mutual, and as such the Portman does not deserve to survive on its own.
Dave Aust

I have been a member of the Nationwide for about 10 years or so. I am happy with the accounts that are offered, the only thing I find frustrating is the long queues in branches.
Sam, Leicestershire

People should not get so worked up. Economies of scale rule in this day and age. If you have a Portman account then accept the "windfall" as something you were not expecting. If you are a Nationwide customer hold on because they are bound to turn into a bank and you will get a much bigger windfall. Remember, at the end of the day if you don't like the way things are going then you can always move your account. There are still plenty of building societies on the high street. Higher paying accounts are also available on the internet. Building societies were set up in the 19th Century - we are in the 21st Century, nothing lasts forever. Unfortunately some people will lose their jobs. Hopefully they will find replacement positions.
Paul, Bucks

How it can be said that this method of doing business is in the members interest beggars belief
As a member of both societies I think both companies have acted in a disgraceful manner. Neither company bothered to inform the members prior to announcing the merger, and now we find we as members do not get to vote either. How it can be said that this method of doing business is in the members interest beggars belief. A resounding No to both parties, 200 pound and all.

As Nationwide members, we are unhappy that we are denied a vote. As Portman members, we are unhappy about being absorbed in exchange for a bribe. As members of both societies, we feel that the term merger is a misrepresentation. It is a takeover!
Chris and Jackie Grey, Guildford

This looks like a really bad idea for Portman members to me. The Nationwide is a bloated organisation which hasn't maximised returns for a long time. Add in the completely different customer-service approaches and the unattractive benefits and it suddenly looks like a very poor deal. Portman seems to have performed very well on its own, and I see no reason to change that.
Richard, London

We are already on the road to being a bank
Lisa, Cambs
The prospect of a windfall is obvious incentive to vote for it. Think about the job losses this will create, the Nationwide already said it cannot guarantee any benefits for members. I belong to the Nationwide but see this more as a takeover not a merger. How is the so-called members' society allowed to go ahead with this without a vote? More like a PLC to me. We are already on the road to being a bank.
Lisa, Cambs

I have long been a member of Nationwide and admire it remaining a mutual organisation rather than joining the trend to demutualise. However, the plan to merge with the Portman and offer non benefit to Nationwide members goes against the grain - the benefits all seem to flow in the other direction.
Alan Clarke, Bristol

Two hundred pounds? What a derisory offer. I hope another financial institution gatecrashes the party. I would definitely prefer more cash. The branch overlap issue means that most Portman branches are likely to be closed within five years or sooner.
R Mara, London

As a Portman member I think a 200 bonus is miserly. As a Nationwide member, if I am not to get any bonus I would like to be assured that the directors will also go without any reward.
Mike Butler, Southampton

Portman does a lot for Bournemouth and I fear that will be lost
Adam, Bournemouth
I have had my Portman account for over 15 years. Due to the fact that I didn't have a balance of over 100 on the 11 September, I won't get a windfall. I don't see it is fair that the Portman will not only lose its name but also the headquarters here in Bournemouth. For that reason I vote No. Portman does a lot for Bournemouth and I fear that will be lost.
Adam, Bournemouth

Nationwide prides itself on listening to its customers but we do not get a say this time. The choice is thus, accept it or invest elsewhere.
Lee, Bournemouth

Nationwide promises better rates but it simply does not deliver. Even my bank offers better savings rates than Nationwide. If I had a vote - which it appears I don't - I would vote against. I only keep my money there in the hope that board changes eventually resulting in me getting a windfall. I will then be off to somewhere more competitive.
Graham, Reading

I agree with many of the comments - if this is truly a merger, then the terms should be equal for both sets of members, i.e. a payment for all or none. Secondly, it is a major change and as such it is outrageous that it is not being put to a vote of Nationwide members, where those managing our society have to make the case for change.
Simon, London

I have been a member of the Nationwide for over a year when other banks and building societies refused to take me on because of my previous credit history. I am now paying back what I owe, slowly. Please do not demutualise - it just leads to profits for shareholders before the interests of account holders. Us little people count too.
Julie, Newcastle

My dad opened up my Nationwide account when I first when to university 20 years ago. Sadly I'm still with them. I regret I have absolutely no idea what has differentiated their products from other financial institutions over that 20 year period. Maybe what this market needs is a thoughtful customer base who (unlike me) will switch to force competitiveness.
Bob, Inverness

I am only surprised that so few building societies have merged in recent years
M Bryan, London
Why do people get so emotional about financial institutions. I have accounts in the Lambeth, Portman and Nationwide and will take handsome payouts from both Lambeth and Portman. I am only surprised that so few building societies have merged in recent years as other financial institutions have realised that big is the only way forward due to economies of scale. Roll on the next merger and windfall.
M Bryan, London

As a fairly new member of staff, I was looking forward to being a part of a society that strives to be the best, and even though I still could be, it is looking a little less likely now. So while Portman takes a step closer to becoming number one in its chosen fields, it will lose its established name, it will lose some of its highly experienced staff, it will lose its highly ambitious chief executive and by the looks of some of the comments on this message board, it will lose some of its much valued customers.
FM, Wolverhampton

I won't be sorry to see the back of the Portman. The main beneficiaries from the merger of course appear to the Portman board who will get bigger salaries and pension payouts! The Nationwide - which is a real mutual in name and deed - is doing us all a favour!
Martin, London

I suspect the primary motivation for this merger is remuneration for board members
Kenneth Buckmaster
The most pertinent question wasn't asked: "What's in it for the boards?" I suspect the primary motivation for this merger is remuneration for board members. Anyone who thinks that building societies are anything other than vehicles for the enrichment of those individuals should take a look at the inventive and laughably gross remunerations given to the Nationwide board.
Kenneth Buckmaster

It's been a long wait since B&B privatised, and I got some free money. But now with Standard Life, Lambeth BS, and the Portman, I get three in a year! Woo hoo - keep 'em coming! Can't wait to close these annoying little accounts that I never use.
Alex, London

I hold accounts with Nationwide and have done so for many years. I had always thought that the opinions of Nationwide members were considered important enough by the board of Nationwide to take into consideration before making major decisions. I was therefore taken aback to hear of the proposed merger with the Portman, not from the Nationwide but the media. The chief executive of Nationwide 's mantra "Nationwide customers could benefit in the future" rang hollow, particularly when it became clear he would not be chief executive when the merger took place.
P. Sylvester, Romsey

At least as a mutual, the Nationwide is not at the mercy of the city analysts
Ian Richardson, Nantwich
Mergers and acquisitions have costs associated (legal, redundancies for duplicate roles, consultants etc) so in the long run, more expense will be incurred by the combined business. However longer term, the company will derive cost savings often via headcount reductions for duplicated functions. Members of the Nationwide may see better offers on accounts but staff they may face uncertainty over their jobs. At least as a mutual, the Nationwide is not at the mercy of the city analysts in the London Stock Exchange and banks.
Ian Richardson, Nantwich

It is sad to see the continuing demise of the building society sector for yet another year. However, I think this is not unexpected given the continuing pressure in the financial services sector for cost efficiencies. It is quite clear from the last five years Portman's continuing growth by acquisition meant it was either moving towards demutualisation or being groomed for takeover. I believe that despite denials by the Nationwide board, its merger with Portman is a step towards becoming a bank. Clearly, it needs to grow to seriously challenge the big four banks. It would not surprise me if Nationwide looks to merge with other smaller societies. I am also certain that other societies like Britannia will also be under pressure to look at merger opportunities in the sector.
Atul Maru, Bristol

This can be nothing other than a management sell-out, with five Portman board members having new, higher paid positions on the Nationwide board, whilst most Portman branches close and hundreds of staff are made redundant. There is no benefit to Portman members, below a small bribe, which they will pay for many times over in higher rates and worse service. All in all, the fat cats get fatter, the public get nothing.
C, London

I fear that a merger with the Portman is not going to modernise thinking within Nationwide
Kathy, Newcastle
I have been a Nationwide member for 20 years, and have many different accounts with the society. Until recently I had my mortgage there too, but have moved to a more flexible product that allows me to offset all of my income against my mortgage. I fear that a merger with the Portman is not going to modernise thinking within Nationwide and force it to consider offset mortgages and other more modern products. So the Portman merger means nothing to me and I would guess to 99% of Nationwide members - the only beneficiaries will be those who gain a more handy branch, but who knows how long that will last?
Kathy, Newcastle

I think it is totally unfair that Portman investors will get at least one windfall of 200, possibly more, and we Nationwide customers get nothing. How can that be right? Although my husband and I have been a customer of the Nationwide for over 20 years and have savings and investments with them, I will transfer the lot if we get nothing and so too will the rest of my family.
Helen McGinty

Oh dear, no sooner are my long standing accounts with the Lambeth swallowed up by the Portman, than they are cannibalised by the Nationwide. Sometimes life is hard.
Naomi Sajeri, Manchester

I willingly agreed that I would not be entitled to any windfall payments of any kind in the future
Ann Oates
When I opened my mortgage and personal accounts at Nationwide a few years ago, I did so because I support the principle of mutuality. I willingly agreed that I would not be entitled to any windfall payments of any kind in the future. I am very happy with the service which I receive from Nationwide.
Ann Oates

I am a Portman customer and am amazed at the comments above about Portman quality of service. I can honestly say getting my mortgage with them was the worst customer experience of my life. A free hundred quid back from the merger is at least some compensation! The reason Portman can be so aggressive on mortgage pricing is surely because they cut back on customer services. I can't see it getting any worse.
Phil MC

I would like someone to explain the reason why us Nationwide members will not be getting a windfall like Portman members. I have been with the Nationwide for over 20 years and during that time feel that I have not benefited in any shape or form. So it would have been nice for the board to recognise those members who have had a long standing relationship and give us a bonus for our loyalty.
DH, Thornton Heath

If the FSA was anything more than a bunch of stooges it would kick this merger into touch without hesitation
PB, Hitchin
This merger is against the public interest as it reduces competition in the financial sector for no good reason. As a member of Nationwide I lose the option of moving my business to one of the few substantial mutual societies left, which far outweighs the phoney benefits being trumpeted by Nationwide management. If the FSA was anything more than a bunch of stooges it would kick this merger into touch without hesitation.
PB, Hitchin

One reason for being a Portman member is the good, local service and customer care I receive. The merger "cannot rule out job losses" - this translates as it will not protect your local branch. I, and many other, members will be voting No - it is our building society, not the directors, and 220 is a silly, insulting bribe to us.
John Rivers

The merger appears to be a sensible move and I am a member of both. However, I hope Nationwide lives up to its promise of better savings rates because at present they are quite simply poor!
Paul Saunders, Chertsey

I prefer one of the big five banks where you get more attention when you have a problem
A Round, Didcot
The local Nationwide branches in Oxfordshire are too small with only two counters and long queues. So it is ok for savings but not my bank account, as there is too little customer service. I prefer one of the big five banks where you get more attention when you have a problem or have more complicated matters to discuss.
A Round, Didcot

The evolution of the One Big Company that rules all and no-one votes for gets closer. I changed my mortgage from Portman to Nationwide earlier this year (Portman couldn't match NW). I don't expect any windfall though!

Nationwide is now a bank in everything but name. I like many others will not be voting for the existing board - next time they see fit to give us a vote.
Pat Quinn, Corby

It would seem that many of those complaining about a lack of a windfall clearly do not understand the basis upon which a society operates - it is owned by its members. As a Portman employee and Nationwide customer it does seem an unlikely marriage. I do feel that we have been let down. Only customer-facing staff have had any guarantees regarding job security - management clearly wants to retain a friendly customer face.

I will consider my vote very carefully as I do not want them turning into a bank!
Ian, Marlow
I'm a member of both and whilst I have no problem with Nationwide and Portman "merging", I do have worries about a sell-out a few years down the line. So I will consider my vote very carefully as I do not want them turning into a bank!
Ian, Marlow

Members of the Portman are in the exact same boat as members of the Nationwide because when Portman and Lambeth merge, members of Lambeth are due at least a 400 bonus whereas Portman members are not due one. In fact on BBC2's Working Lunch, it was claimed that Lambeth members are due two bonuses - one from the merger with Portman and one from the merger with Nationwide. I am a Member of Portman and will look forward to the merger.
Brian Carson

As a member of both Portman and Nationwide, I find that Portman is the Waitrose to Nationwide's Tesco. I don't think its a good idea.
Claire, London

Well, if we can't vote, we'll do it with our feet instead. We have two ISA accounts and two e-savings accounts. We're off.
Michael Johns, Swindon

I worked for a company before it purchased another firm, we were promised all sorts but were then made redundant within six months. The merger is the same as the Portman offers great service and customer care, This will be lost when they are swallowed by the Nationwide.
Richard Wallace, Folkestone

Without the 200 incentive the merger wouldn't stand a chance
Ian Jones, Southampton
If the benefits of both mutuality and the merger are so obvious then why does Nationwide feel the need to offer 200 to each Portman member to approve it? The truth is that without the 200 incentive the "merger" wouldn't stand a chance of being approved by the required 75% or more of those voting. I am a Portman member and will be voting against.
Ian Jones, Southampton

I have been a Nationwide member for many years. I live in Greenwich and the nearest branch is in Lewisham or at Bank/Cheapside. Quite a trip! Yet, just 10 minutes walk down the road is Portman. If they rebrand it as a Nationwide, I will be very pleased. But if they get rid of it, then the merger will be meaningless to me.
Kay Read, Greenwich

I'm a member of Nationwide and also have accounts with other banks so I can move my money to where it gets the best interest. Most of it hasn't been with Nationwide for some time, so let's hope this "merger" (i.e. takeover) allows them to offer us a better rate. I wouldn't bank on it though (sorry!).
Rod, Oxford

I think you'll see great mortgages come through late next year - watch this space
Mark M, Bournemouth
I think both sets of members will benefit - how much depends on the products they take. Economies of scale is important, and I think you'll see great mortgages come through late next year - watch this space. I'm sure they know they have a lot to prove. An additional profit of 100m through Portman should help keep savings rates high and mortgages low. It seems like people are still on the carpetbagging one!
Mark M, Bournemouth

Many people are asking why Portman members are getting a "windfall" and not Nationwide members. This is because it is compensation for Portman going to Nationwide and Nationwide is not changing. There will be more benefits to both people as well.

Does it really matter what members of either building society think, because at the end of the day the merger will go ahead regardless. I am a member of the Nationwide and would like someone to tell me why we are not getting a bonus.
Carol Hibbert, Essex

I am a Portman member and the 200 is a very nice gift. I don't see the advantage of building societies. Better rates do not happen. I recently remortgaged six months ago. I shopped around and the best rate I got was from one of the high street banks. None of the building societies came close.
J, Slough

The board is wrong not to allow me to express my opinion with a vote
Neil, Witham
As a member of the Nationwide I am disappointed that I am unable to vote on such a major issue. I also fail to see why Portman members should receive cash when Nationwide members will not. This is a merger of no benefit to me and I feel that the board is wrong not to allow me to express my opinion with a vote. My guess is they are too scared of losing. If you are really committed to mutuality let the members decide. Shareholders would certainly be consulted over a deal of this size.
Neil, Witham

If this is supposed to be a merger, why are only Portman customers getting a windfall? I've been a Nationwide member for many years but I don't stand to gain from it.
Anthony, London

I am a member of both building societies. I will be sorry to see the Portman go as it always seemed to offer more personal service. Every time I go into the Nationwide it is long queues and impersonal service. I hope it does not close down my local Portman branch as it is a great example of how to give great customer service.
Siobhan, High Wycombe

I think the merger will be a good thing - enhanced product ranges and number of branches
Daniel Evans, Peterborough
I am an ex-employee and still a member of Nationwide and I find it sickening to see people talking about the old "carpetbagging" syndrome and "why not at top of best buy tables". Mutuality is about long-term good value, not one-off loss leaders. It is not a difficult thing to grasp. As for queues - they are usually caused by people still insistent on using the branch for services that could be done elsewhere. How many people in that queue are withdrawing money when they could do it at a machine? I think the merger will be a good thing - enhanced product ranges and number of branches.
Daniel Evans, Peterborough

I opened 30 building society accounts with 100 solely for the purpose of possible flotations/mergers. The 200 from the Portman is way too low. I want more for my 100 which has been sitting quietly for over five years.
Mr Nelson, Belfast

Aw bless you only got 200. My heart bleeds. I bet you wish you had invested that money in a real investment now, not relied on chance. A 200 return on 3,000 for 5 years - you would have got more interest from a bank (no pun intended).
Andrew, Merthyr Tydfil

To Mr Nelson of Belfast - I'm utterly delighted for you. It's a pity some hadn't gone bankrupt to "reward" you for your selfishness in undermining the concept of mutualism for your own benefit.
Stuart Edwards, Hitchin

Looks to me like this is Philip Williamson's big exit party. Can't see any other benefit for the merger.
Anthony Elliott, Leicester

The Portman is a major employer in Bournemouth and supports many worthwhile causes within the town. I fear - maybe selfishly - that this will be to the detriment of the local community. The Portman was an example of a business working with the community, sadly other larger businesses have failed to do so!
Mark, Bournemouth

This is clearly a case of Nationwide taking over the Portman
Christopher Wright, London
This is not a merger. A merger should be an equal coming together of two businesses. This is clearly a case of Nationwide taking over the Portman. If it was not, members of both societies would receive a "bonus" payout. As it is, only the Portman members do as compensation for being taken over by Nationwide. As a Nationwide member, I am fed up hearing how it has "returned millions to their members" when it never tops the best-buy tables. It would be more equitable if it became a bank and gave us all a bonus. Maybe then they could compete with the likes of the Halifax.
Christopher Wright, London

As a long-time member of Nationwide I cannot see any obvious reason why the business should buy Portman's business. Were I a Portman member I would certainly have arguments against it as I can see very little in it for them either.
Rob, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Mergers generally benefit those who need it most - the consumer. I have been a Nationwide customer for eight years and in the last several months, interest rates have been cut on one account and just last week I was informed my credit card is going up 2%. Hopefully this merger will reduce these trends and actually act in the members' interest!

On a staff level, this merger feels like a bit of a sell-out
D, Birmingham
As a member and member of staff of the Portman, I feel this move is good for the company and its staff. Staff have been promised positions within the new society. Also, the range of products will increase, and many Portman members will relish the prospect of online banking. However, the merger may be one step to far for old Lambeth and Staffordshire customers who have already had takeovers within the last 12 - 18 months. On a staff level, this merger feels like a bit of a sell-out. For years we've been told that we can be the best and that the company is growing, even though we are staying as a building society. Overall the move is good, Nationwide has a good reputation and this will enhance the reputation and size. Hopefully Portman can give something to Nationwide to make it a better company all round.
D, Birmingham

I am a member of both Nationwide and Portman - so in theory I stand to benefit. But I frequently find lack of staff and longish queues at most Nationwide branches (though not quite as bad as the banks). My verdict: they like to tell us they are mutual but then behave like a bank when it suits them - it can only get worse as they get bigger - god help us!
Andrew, London

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

Money Box



Download or subscribe to this programme's podcast

Podcast Help

Building society merger
15 Sep 06 |  Moneybox
Nationwide and Portman to merge
12 Sep 06 |  Business
Portman to take over the Lambeth
06 Mar 06 |  Business
Nationwide cautious as profits up
19 May 05 |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific