Monday, 4 July 2011

An Irish institution bites the dust

I couldn't help feeling a little bit sentimental when I got a notification on Friday last that the EBS Building Society has been replaced by EBS Limited with immediate effect. While it may seem like just a name change and has no impact on customers' accounts, it's actually more than that. It's the demise of the old Educational Building Society, a mutual society founded in 1935 to help teachers and civil servants to buy homes. In its place is EBS Limited, a limited company which will soon become a part of AIB.

It is a shame to see an old mutual society disappear like this, even if the name will continue. Mutuals are owned by their members and would traditionally offer better value for money than private or public companies, which are run for the benefit of their shareholders. I can remember that EBS had a reputation for consistently offering competitive interest rates to their members before the property mania gripped us all.

Admittedly, EBS did lose its way somewhat in recent years as it tried to compete with the other mortgage lenders. It entered the commercial lending arena just as the wheels were beginning to come off, a move from which it never really recovered.

Shame how some bad decisions over a relatively short period of time can bring down a reputable society with a history spanning over 75 years.