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Working Lunch Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 15:11 GMT
Cash? No, thanks
Skipton Building Society
Have you ever heard of a building society that doesn't accept cash?

It sounds like a greengrocer who won't sell carrots or a traffic warden refusing to issue tickets.

But that's what one Working Lunch viewer found when he visited his local Skipton branch.

Mark Abbott from Dorset had 600 cash to top up his Tessa.

But he was told that the society did not accept cash except for children's accounts.

Amazed

"I couldn't believe that cash was not accepted at a building society," Mark told Working Lunch.

"I was totally amazed.

"After all, not everyone has a bank account to enable them to deal in cheques."

In fact, if you look at the Skipton's website it makes no obvious reference to the "no cash" rule.

But it does refer repeatedly to cheques being used to open or pay into accounts.

We can't be all things to all men.

Steve Aldous
Skipton Building Society
"It does sound a little odd from a building society," admits the Skipton's Steve Aldous.

"Our customer base is split into two; customers that opened accounts before 1997 - and those customers can and do transact in cash - and those customers that opened accounts post-1997, and we strategically made the decision that, other than children's accounts, they cannot transact in cash.

"We can't be all things to all men. Our strategy has been for a long time that we want to be an investors' building society.

Costly accounts

"We want to be a society where people will come in and get advice.

"That doesn't necessarily tie up with customers who want to come in and pay in 10 and withdraw 10. They're obviously costly accounts to run for us."

Steve says the move was partly in response to the carpetbaggers of the late 1990s, who were opening accounts with just 1 in the hope of making money should the Skipton have floated.

But he argues that the strategy to become an investors' building society has worked.

"We get a lot of new customers coming into our branches and dealing with our head office who want that type of account."

Encourage

But older customers like Mark Abbott remain unimpressed.

"I thought that the government were trying to encourage people to save," he says.

"Not accepting cash is hardly going to get the very people who need to save motivated.

"I know that in the past if I hadn't have been able to save small amounts at regular intervals I would never have managed a deposit on my first property."

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