Building societies have the "opportunity of a lifetime" to prove their relevance and importance, the head of a trade body has said.
David Webster, chairman of the Building Societies' Association, said mutuals should make the most of the problems faced by banks since the credit crunch struckt.
Addressing the BSA's annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Webster said: "The disgrace within which our competitors are now held, many of whom owe their very existence to taxpayer subsidy because they were unable to stand on their own two feet, gives mutuals the opportunity of a lifetime to gain people's trust and to prove that they are relevant, indeed essential, to the age in which we live.
"In the light of the position of our competitors, the resilience we are clearly demonstrating to the outside world and our fundamental business ethic, mutuals have a tremendous opportunity to emerge as even more successful in the future."
BSA figures showed that net mortgage lending by mutuals contracted for the 27th consecutive month.