Belfast Telegraph

Progressive thinking and flexibility key to success

Michael Boyd, deputy chief executive of the Progressive Building Society, talks mortgages and attitudes to savings.

How did your career bring you to the Progressive?

By chance really, I had completed my training at PricewaterhouseCoopers, as it was then, and recently qualified as a chartered accountant. I fancied more out of accountancy than auditing and considered that banking may be an interesting area. I had completed three interviews with a local bank when I got the offer as a financial accountant in Progressive. The bank took what seemed like ages coming to a recruitment decision whereas Progressive made a decision very quickly. On that basis I thought Progressive was the more responsive and decisive organisation - that's what made up my mind.

Who are the three people to whom you owe your success?

Firstly it would have to be my parents for allowing me the latitude to make my own career decisions in the early days. All the senior management at Progressive have been very supportive over the last 18 years. They have all provided me with their wise counsel, patience and open mindedness during my time at Progressive. Obviously my wife Cherith and family.

How has the mortgage market in Northern Ireland changed in the last decade?

The last decade has seen both the highest house price appreciation and the largest house price reduction of any region in the western world since records began. 2005-2007 saw astronomic growth in the house market here as property prices became unaffordable in Dublin and investors looked north for better affordability. The 50% price increases in the 12 months to September 2007 were never going to be sustainable but not many foresaw either the depth of the fall or the length of the downturn. The last 12-18 months have shown a return to sustainable growth in the housing market as consumer confidence returns.

Has Progressive changed with it?

Fundamentally, no. Progressive has always had a very responsible approach to lending, an approach that has been developed in the traditional building society model, mutuality, where savings from members is used to fund local home ownership. The mutual model has stood the test of time where building societies like the Progressive have not been exposed to the level of financial upheaval that banks have and are not driven by the need to deliver stakeholder dividends. As an organisation we were true to our principles, to the markets we know well and remain committed to our values of lending responsibly. Others thought this model was too traditional but Progressive celebrated 100 years in business this year and our strategy paved the way for the Society being the only sizeable financial institution in the whole of Ireland to remain profitable throughout the last decade.

Progressive recently marked its centenary. Is it likely to be around in another 100 years?

Without a doubt - Progressive will remain relevant in the years to come by keeping our members at the heart of our decision making. This is a people business - we know how people's lives change, the opportunities as well as the challenges. We also know how important it is to be flexible for those needs.

Can you make any predictions about Northern Ireland house prices?

House prices appear to be about 20% underpriced here but it is likely to take further three years or so for this difference to be caught up, but a 20% increase would certainly be sustainable locally.

Have NI attitudes to savings changed much over the last 10 years?

The biggest change in the last decade has been that savers are now much more aware of the institutions with which they deposit their hard earned savings. No longer are they only focused in the rate they attract on their savings but it's now about how safe are these banks and building societies.

Sport or arts?

Sport, particularly rugby.

Evan Davis or Jeremy Paxman?

Evan Davis for me. He is a very knowledgeable economist.

Saver or spender?

With four kids it can only be spender

Mrs Brown's Boys or Father Ted?

Mrs Brown's Boys

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