A RECORD number of members gathered in a spectacular venue to hear how Darlington Building Society delivered a “strong and balanced” financial performance in 2023.

The historic setting of the Chapel of St Peter at Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland, was packed as the Society’s annual general meeting attracted a total of 171 people, with most attending in person and some virtually.

The Society’s chair, Jack Cullen, told the audience the venue had been chosen because “like Darlington Building Society, it is steeped in history, with strong foundations, and built to last”.

Mr Cullen said: “I am delighted to report that, despite the volatile external environment, the Society has delivered a strong, balanced performance, with solid profitability and continued financial strength.”

He added: “This is combined with excellent progress with our strategic investment programme, which will continue to underpin our success and sustainability for years to come.”

Chief Executive Andrew Craddock, pictured below, went on to announce that 2023 had been “a great overall year in terms of financial performance” with core operating profit increasing by £0.8m to £3m – a 35% increase on 2022.

The Northern Echo:

Total assets rose by 10.9% to a record £923m, cementing “the Darlington” as the 19th largest building society in the UK.

Net interest income increased by 21% year-on-year and Mr Craddock said that would have been even higher had it not been for three key factors:

  • On average, the Society paid a rate to savers that was 0.84% higher than the market average, meaning members were £6m better off than if they had savings with the largest banks.
  • Members took up the offer of a savings review, enabling them to move savings to higher interest accounts.
  • The Society also helped borrowers by keeping its mortgage standard variable rate (SVR) below the market average throughout the year.

The continued growth of the Society enabled it to recruit more staff, and to invest in technology, including the launch of Darlingtononline – a highly successful online banking platform.

It also enabled the Society to maintain its commitment to improving its network of nine branches, with the latest investments being the relocation and upgrading of the Darlington and Bishop Auckland branches.

“Far from closing our doors, like many other banks and building societies, we are doubling down on our commitment to our branches and, to you, our members,” said Mr Craddock. “We know that you value a friendly face, the experience of having a cup of tea, and discussing your finances in a relaxed and familiar environment.”

Members also heard how the Society maintained its commitment to the community, including an ongoing pledge to donate 5% of its profit after tax to community projects. That amounted to £158,000 being shared among 42 local organisations in 2023.

Mr Cullen, in his final year as chair after serving on the board for ten years, told members: “Our robust financial position, and the board’s desire to constantly improve our services, will enable us to deliver even more improvements in the coming years.”