Brexit should have 'minimal impact' says Progressive chief

Progressive Building Society chief executive Darina Armstrong., with the mutual's latest annual report. Photo: Darren Kidd / Press Eye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

PROGRESSIVE Building Society boss Darina Armstrong insists the outworkings of Brexit should have "minimal impact" on the future prospects of the much-respected mutual organisation.

"Regardless of how the negotiations go over the next two years, we as a business don't expect to be hugely affected, positively or negatively, at a macro level," she said.

"However, there may be confidence issues for people going forward. Will they feel confident enough to borrow to buy or build a house? Will there be an appetite for spending? Will the culture move back to one of caution?"

She was speaking as Progressive, the north's largest locally owned financial institution, revealed that new mortgage lending in 2016 increased by 11 per cent to £205 million (up from £185m).

That helped 1,300 people to buy a new home and another 600 to contribute towards building their own house.

Progressive has no major exposure in commercial property (99.6 per cent of its mortgages are for residential properties in Northern Ireland), and it says it will continue to maintain its century-long tradition tradition of prudent lending.

Savings increased to £1.579 billion in the 12 months to December 31 - up from £1.516 billion a year earlier.

At the year-end Progressive's total assets had risen to £1.795 billion, and the mutual maintained its solid financial position with post-tax profits of £9.37 million (though this dropped back from the 2015 equivalent of £11.1m).

Ms Armstrong added: “While the local economy faced uncertainty throughout 2016, the rate of growth was better than many had predicted and this was reflected through another strong financial performance from the society.

"Across our branches mortgage lending has increased, helping people buy, build, and improve their homes, which has contributed to the local market and the wider economy. Our savings balance also grew by £62 million to £1.578 billion which has been achieved by offering some of the best rates in a very competitive marketplace.

“Over the last year we have continued to re-invest in our branches, staff training and new products to meet the needs of our members and our growing customer base. Throughout the year we remained committed to supporting and contributing to the local community. We donated £91,000 to charity, benefitting 70 local and regional worthy causes."

She added: “Progressive is looking forward to the future with confidence and we will continue to operate as we always have - as a traditional building society, offering good value savings and mortgage products and excellent customer service for the benefit of all our members.”

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