Yorkshire’s two largest building societies come through difficult year but wary of what lies ahead

Yorkshire’s to largest building societies have reported “strong” results for 2020 despite the economic backdrop and pandemic uncertainties.

But both Yorkshire and Skipton building societies are wary of the scheduled end of Government schemes in the coming weeks that have boosted the housing and employment markets.

Stamp Duty Land Tax relief and the furlough scheme have had significant impacts and there is concern of what will happen when this support is no longer there.

Both organisations are in a resilient and confident position going forwards despite differing fortunes in 2020.

Yorkshire Building Society largely maintained profits, which were down 4%, to £161.3m.

Its North Yorkshire-based rival, Skipton Building Society, had a tougher year, with chief executive David Cutter describing it as “one of the most challenging years we have ever faced”.

Pre-tax profits at the 168-year-old mutual were down 22% to £118.8m.

However more than two-thirds of this drop is from an increase in loan impairment charges, which it must estimate upfront before they are incurred. Skipton acknowledged these are “extremely difficult to forecast” given the nature of the pandemic and the impact of Government support schemes.

David Cutter

Cutter added: “Our mortgages and savings division has been heavily impacted by increased impairment charges and our estate agency division, Connells, saw all of its UK branches forced to close for two months.

“However, the resilience of Skipton’s business model has allowed the Society to maintain strong capital ratios throughout and we look to the future with confidence.”

Yorkshire Building Society was more upbeat about the impact on its business from the housing market last year.

It had a record 10,854 first-time buyer mortgages – 40% up on 2019 – as mortgage balances increased by £800m to £38.8bn.

It said the housing market remained buoyant despite the downturn, with activity and house prices both increasing, thanks to Stamp Duty Land Tax relief.

However it says a “slowdown in activity” is likely when the relief ends on March 31, and it is wary about the impact from the end of furlough – which currently runs until April 30 – and the ongoing uncertainty posed by Brexit.

“The Society’s balance sheet strength and profit levels mean it is well-prepared for any adverse economic impacts,” it said.

Mike Regnier

Mike Regnier, chief executive of Yorkshire Building Society, said: “Our statutory and core profits remain healthy, with plenty of capital and liquidity to weather the external environment and enable us to continue to support our customers.

“We have continued to simplify our business and have, once again, reduced our overall cost base while still growing the Society in terms of both mortgage and savings balances.”