Regional building societies become first to begin UK’s only Masters for customer-owned financial firms

7 October 2015

A select group of employees from the Ecology, Skipton and Yorkshire building societies have this week started their studies in the UK’s first mutual focussed Masters programme.

The programme – an MSc in Leadership and Management – has been created through the Building Societies Association (BSA) and the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University.

The three year MSc in Leadership and Management includes all of the elements that would be in a standard business school Masters on this topic, such as: Leading and Managing People, Corporate Governance and modules on Financial, Operations and Marketing Management, Strategy and Planning. But, unlike a more conventional business school Masters – which focus almost exclusively on operating in a PLC/shareholder owned business structure – woven throughout will be the practical, cultural and ethical approach required to lead a modern mutual.

A total of 26 staff drawn from 17 building societies of all sizes, including Ecology, Skipton and Yorkshire have signed up to the three year part-time programme. Students will spend between 12 and 14 days a year, across four modules, at the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University as well as undertaking significant personal study. They will also be supported both by the Loughborough tutors and a society mentor.

Ecology CEO, Paul Ellis, said: “As a mutual we believe in investing in our young leaders for the benefit of our members and customers. The Ecology views culture, values and mission as central to our governance, so we are delighted to be participating in the first programme of a national training scheme devised and run by mutuals for mutuals.”

David Cutter, Skipton Group Chief Executive, said: “We’re delighted that two colleagues from Skipton are among the first intake of students for this pioneering Masters programme. Mutuality represents something tangibly different in UK business. And having the values that we, and our regional building society companions share, form an integral part of this programme can only help develop our own people and sector strengths even further.”

Sean Mileusnic, Head of People Development for Yorkshire Building Society, said: “We are excited that two of our colleagues are enrolled on this innovative Masters programme organised by the BSA and the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University. The course is unique in being specifically aimed at mutual financial services, and will provide the students with the skills needed to meet strategic and managerial challenges in a highly competitive industry.”

BSA Chief Executive, Robin Fieth added: “The rigour with which a building society has to be led and managed is no different to that of a PLC. But customer-owned businesses take a different approach to how they operate and make decisions. Their focus is not on maximising shareholder value, but on delivering real and sustainable value to current and future generations of members. Profit is important for growth, strength and stability but it’s about making enough rather than going for the maximum. This programme provides the rigour and focus to develop the mutual leaders of tomorrow.”

Professor Stewart Robinson, Acting Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University said: “This is a unique and exciting joint initiative. It is designed to equip participants with the skills needed to meet the strategic and management challenges they face in an environment where competition and regulation are constantly increasing. The School has considerable expertise in delivering professional development programmes and a well-established reputation in the analysis and support of the mutual sector. We look forward to delivering this Masters programme in conjunction with the BSA and welcoming our new students onto campus for their induction programme.”