DARLINGTON Building Society has been named the UK’s ‘Building Society of the Year’ at one of the finance sector’s most prestigious awards ceremonies.

The Society was presented with the main award of the night at the MoneyAge Mortgage Awards in recognition of an outstanding year of commitment to savers, borrowers, employees, and communities.

Specialists from across the mortgage sector packed into London’s Waldorf Hilton Hotel for the glittering ceremony.

The Society, which has been embedded in North-East life for 168 years, was particularly praised for its support of first-time buyers, paying savers more, and having greater flexibility than other lenders in helping people onto the housing ladder.

Chief Executive Andrew Craddock said: “This national accolade is testament to the hard work of our staff on behalf of members, and I couldn’t be prouder of what’s been achieved despite the economic turbulence facing the country.

“What’s especially pleasing is the award recognises the emphasis we place on putting people first at every level – savers, borrowers, colleagues, and communities.”

Mr Craddock described 2023 as “a milestone year” in which the Society’s major investment in digital technology came to fruition, while also maintaining its commitment to the High Street.

At a time when banks were closing branches nationwide, the Society enhanced its network by opening new branches in more prominent locations in Darlington and Bishop Auckland.

“While investing in the latest technology to give our members greater choice, we fundamentally believe in maintaining a branch network, so members can come and speak to us in a welcoming environment,” added Mr Craddock.

On savings, Darlington Building Society paid an average rate of 3.31% in 2023 – 0.84% higher than the market average. That meant savers were £6m better off in interest than with the largest banks.

Innovative support for first-time buyers included becoming the first lender to collaborate with Own New to boost access to 95% loan to value (LTV) mortgages for those purchasing new-build homes with participating builders.

Heavy investment in a mortgage hub, powered by industry-leading technology, made it  quicker for brokers to help people become homeowners.  Other innovations included the Society becoming the first lender to offer mortgages under the Government’s Help To Build scheme.

The Society also enhanced its reputation as an employer by announcing a comprehensive package including: an additional day’s holiday to support mental wellbeing; a pension contribution up to 10%; a £1,000 cost-of-living payment; a pay rise and salaries benchmarked against the marketplace; and Real Living Wage commitment.

The Society maintained its 2-star Best Companies accreditation as an “outstanding” place to work, with 93 per cent of staff completing the survey. In quarter four, the Society was the country’s highest-ranked building society.

The national award also recognised the Society’s community impact. As well as maintaining its pledge to donate 5% of its profits to local good causes – distributing grants of more than £158,000 to 42 community organisations – it delivered financial education to 1,400 schoolchildren.