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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Simon English

Nationwide members must rise up and stop the ill-judged takeover of Virgin Money

Should Nationwide’s 16 million members be given a vote on its wild, wild, £2.9 billion takeover of Virgin Money?

If mutuality means anything at all, the answer is obviously yes.

If Nationwide truly had confidence in the transaction, it should be sure it could persuade those members of the merits of the deal.

Instead, it is hiding behind the notion that Nationwide has always grown by acquisition, noting that it didn’t ask members to approve the takeover of the puny Portman Building Society in 2007, as if that were remotely comparable.

One of Nationwide’s functions is to mop up smaller, struggling building societies, to take on the other mutual’s assets, protecting them from the avaricious banking sector.

That is one of the many reasons why, if you were going to get emotionally attached to a financial business, Nationwide would be the only one.

It has been a force for good, a permanent brake on rival banks since 1884.

That status is severely at risk by its move to takeover a business that used to be called Northern Rock (yes, that one).

The Rock, as it was now comically known, was one of many building societies that converted to banks and promptly went bust.

It is a messy company born from the rump of the Newcastle former building society, the Yorkshire Bank and Clydesdale Bank which Richard Branson saw as an opportunity to slap his brand on in the hope of a cash out later.

His Virgin Group gets north of £400 million, some of which must surely be due the taxpayer, if only by way of apology.

Nationwide’s CEO Debbie Crosbie is formerly of Clydesdale so in fairness we must assume she knows what she is buying.

And the society notes that it hasn’t had many complaints from members about the transaction. There is still time for an opposition member group to rise up and shout “Stop” at the top of their voices.

They should.

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