Belfast Telegraph

Why the future of our economy is safe as houses

Declan Moore, head of sales and marketing at Progressive Building Society, believes the worst of our housing crisis is over

Tell us about your business

Progressive Building Society is an integral part of the life of Northern Ireland since it first opened its doors under the Progressive name in 1914.

Progressive is Northern Ireland's largest locally owned mortgage lender offering a wide range of mortgage and savings products via the society's 12 branches spread throughout Northern Ireland. A strong and vibrant organisation it has grown to become one of the UK's top 10 building societies.

What is your unique selling point?

The society's staff has a tremendous reputation for service to its members. Coupled with a very high staff retention rate our customers can rely on seeing a familiar and friendly face each time they call into one of our branches. Service satisfaction surveys of Progressive members regularly score in excess of 4.5 out of 5.

Who are your customers?

Anyone looking for a competitive mortgage or savings rate.

Ever since the beginning of the banking crisis Progressive has been seen as a safe haven for savers' funds and its membership now includes many savers resident in Great Britain in addition to our many Northern Ireland customers.

What have been the biggest challenges for your business over the last year?

Maintaining our staff numbers at a similar level to that which existed before the banking crisis in order to maintain our high quality of service.

Another key challenge was remaining profitable whilst most of the financial sector has been returning losses.

Where do you see the opportunities for your business in the year ahead?

Our view is that the worst of the crisis in the housing market is behind us. Consequently, the society has introduced a very competitive mortgage package for first time buyers in order to stimulate increased demand in the Northern Ireland market.

We are hopeful that this initiative will lead to a lift in our mortgage lending in 2012.

How do you view the health of the Northern Ireland economy?

Northern Ireland has been cushioned from the worst effects of the government's spending cuts and we should be well placed to benefit from the recovery when it comes.

Should the Executive do more to help local business?

It should continue to work towards a reduction in the level of corporation tax and undertake improvements to infrastructure, particularly in areas of high unemployment.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Create a robust business plan using the best advice available whilst recognising that events don't always match up to our plans and be prepared to adapt to the changing circumstances as they arise.

Progressive Building Society is the sponsor of the Excellence in Marketing category