Belfast Telegraph

Progressive boss says deal comes at a 'good time in economic cycle'

By Margaret Canning

A planned merger with City of Derry Building Society in the middle of next year would be the first growth-by-acquisition for Progressive in its 100-year history. Progressive chief executive Darina Armstrong – one of just three women leading a top 100 Northern Ireland company – said the proposed merger was coming at a "good time in the economic cycle". As to who made the the first move, she would not say, but added: "It was the right time for them."

To take place, the merger will have to be approved by 75% of saving members and 50% of borrowing members, when City of Derry members vote by post in March. Progressive has said a branch in Derry will be retained for "at least three years" and it is not yet known whether the existing Progressive premises in the city, or City of Derry's premises, will be used in the long-term.

The merged entity will retain Progressive's name and remain an independent mutual, owned by its members. Colin Jeffrey, chief executive of the City of Derry, which employs five people in the city and has been in existence since 1876, said this week that there had been "very little" negative feedback from members after they were sent a letter with information on the proposed merger, including a Q&A briefing.

He said: "A lot of people are asking questions, and we have two recurring themes: they have been looking for some sort of assurance that staff will be looked after, and wanted some clarification on branch premises and where they can have access to their branch and that's something we are working towards to provide clarification on.

"It's a reflection of the fact that we thought that if we were seeking a partner, Progressive would have been seen as the obvious partner."

He added: "People would view them as a larger version of ourselves with a similar ethos and culture, trading as a building society with a local ethos."

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