11 Jan 2021

Nationwide to lead cross-sector group aimed at helping find ways to rebuild post COVID-19

  • Expanded group consists of major UK retailers and consumer groups and will meet each quarter
  • Panel will measure and assess impact of Brexit and Covid as nation hopes to recover and rebuild
  • Nationwide focussing future efforts on four areas: Home, Work, Financial Wellbeing & Community
  • Initial research from Ipsos MORI reveals changing societal needs across these four areas of life

Nationwide is to lead an expanded cross-sector group that will see major brands joining civil society to help the UK recover and rebuild in the wake of Brexit and Covid-19.

It comes as Britain’s biggest building society launches new research alongside Ipsos MORI that sets out the scale of the challenge in helping the UK recover and rebuild, as well as pointing towards a brighter future, at what remains a difficult time for the nation.

The UK Consumer Insight Panel, which will meet quarterly, builds on previous collaborative work Nationwide did in bringing together organisations to identify issues resulting from the UK leaving the EU back in 2016. However, with the consensus view of the group being that there is an even greater need today to respond to the rapidly changing issues and pressures faced by consumers, the group will be extended to include other sectors.

In addition to Nationwide, the enhanced panel will include: Asda, Citizens Advice, Fairer Finance, Ipsos MORI, Kingfisher, Money Saving Expert, Resolution Foundation and Which?.

Relevant outputs from the panel will be published to help spark national debate, provide insight and share knowledge. The first meeting will take place in February.

In partnership with Ipsos MORI, Nationwide has defined four areas in which the nation needs to be supported in order to rebuild with confidence: Home – how and where we live; Work – how and where we do our jobs; Community – how we interact with the world and each other, and Financial Wellbeing – how we support ourselves and others in times of need. Nationwide has commissioned Ipsos MORI to explore these themes this year, with reports being published throughout 2021. The insight will help Nationwide determine how it can best use its position as a member-owned organisation to support the nation and help guide the direction of the panel.

Today Nationwide sets out its ambition by launching a report that provides an overview of these four areas, exploring the challenges the UK faces today and how it might look tomorrow. Initial findings highlight some clear issues. The report establishes what people are looking for in their homes of the future – from more space to becoming greener; a vastly changed workplace opening up opportunity; an increased need for financial and mental wellbeing; a desire for a greater sense of community and a lack of financial resilience across households and businesses.

Joe Garner, CEO of Nationwide Building Society, said: “The pandemic is very much a human crisis. While the near-term outlook has recently darkened, we cannot wait until the pandemic has fully passed before considering how we can rebuild for the future. There is a chance for a regeneration of society that builds on what we have learned in 2020 - from the way we have supported one another to the way we work. We believe we can show that it’s possible for communities and businesses to support one another to deliver real change.

“We are joining some of the UK’s biggest brands and consumer groups in building a comprehensive picture of where we are today and where we can get to tomorrow. As a building society founded on the principle of cooperation, we believe that this is a time when it is important that we act together. We call on leaders across business, government and civil society to join us for the mutual benefit of our communities at a time they most need us. We believe that lasting change can only ever be created through consensus and collaboration.”

Initial findings (horizon scan and economic analysis):

Future of Home: Lockdowns and home working have created a renewed focus on the quality of housing and highlighted the need for affordable, good homes for both renters and buyers. Sustainability will form an increasingly important consideration. During the pandemic, more than a third of Gen-Z were also concerned about their ability to pay rent, rising to over four in 10 millennials. This shift in rental demands has created severe problems for landlords, with around 30 per cent planning to sell in the next year1.

Nationwide has remained very active in the first-time buyer market throughout the pandemic and has created a £1 billion fund to support the greening of residential properties and has pledged that at least 50 per cent of its mortgage book will be EPC C rated by 2030. The Society, which is also campaigning for better rental standards, is continuing to identify ways it can help people to have a place fit to call home in 2021 and beyond and is keen for more businesses to support in this way.

Future of Work: Britain has experienced one of the longest periods of homeworking in history which has led to many experiencing loneliness and longer working hours. For many, working from home was impossible - 46 per cent of construction workers were furloughed and 44 per cent of cleaners and restaurant staff are at risk of redundancy2. For gig economy workers, only five of 120 platform companies offered some form of compensation for loss of earnings. Furthermore, those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to have seen income reduction and the young are disproportionately likely to have lost jobs.

Nationwide has first-hand experience of moving from a largely office-based organisation to one where around 13,000 were working from home at the height of the pandemic. The Society needed to build 5,000 laptops within weeks to enable staff to do their jobs remotely while it also provided wellbeing and support for colleagues. Some 6,600 employees signed up to Nationwide’s wellbeing app, accessing over 180,000 minutes of content. The Society will determine how best it can balance the flexible benefits of working from home with the benefits a traditional working environment brings.

Future of Financial Wellbeing: Large parts of society have moved from ‘just about managing’ to ‘unable to manage’, with some six million adults in the UK reporting having fallen behind on at least one bill during the pandemic. Others are better off. The divide is social as well as economic: the unemployed are twice as likely to claim they are not coping with the stress of Covid-19 than those who are working, and research shows that 50 per cent of adults feel the pandemic has impacted their mental wellbeing.

Nationwide has moved quickly to provide support at a difficult time and is just as committed to finding new ways of supporting its members in future. The Society provided 246,000 mortgage payment holidays and 91,000 payment breaks or interest-free periods on personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts up to the end of September. More than 750,000 were also signed up to the Internet Bank since lockdown, with 2.1 million additional downloads of the Mobile Banking app. In addition, a tailored telephone support line was launched for those who solely banked in branches.

Future of Community: Strained community relations and a schism within society had manifested around the time of Brexit. However, lockdown initially boosted a sense of local community, with 45 per cent reporting a greater sense of connection with neighbours and nearly a third (31%) with people from their local area3. The pandemic has also caused an upswing in localisation with nearly six in ten (59%)4 in the UK shopping at more local stores. The idea of liveable communities may become more important as 2021 progresses and high streets adapt, but the desire to live rurally may increase and cities may lesson in appeal. Ensuring investment in and management of communities will be essential in making them attractive places to live.

Investing locally remains a priority for Nationwide as it continues to place a value on a branch within a community. Nationwide has pledged to not leave any city or town with a Nationwide branch without one until at least January 2023. While this doesn’t mean it won’t close any branches, it provides a relatively long-term vote of confidence for the UK high street. The Society also unlocked and unrestricted £10 million of social investment funding in order to support charities at a tough time.