Our responsibilities: mutual societies

Mutual societies are owned and democratically controlled by their members and usually aim to benefit members or the community.

There are more than 10,000 mutual societies in the UK. These include:

  • building societies
  • registered societies (including co-operative and community benefit societies, formerly known as ‘industrial and provident societies’)
  • friendly societies
  • credit unions

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update: General meetings

We are aware that some mutual societies are considering a number of options, including postponing scheduled member meetings, such as Annual General Meetings (AGMs). Societies are concerned that this could lead to them breaching their own rules or legislative requirements.
It's for societies to reach their own decision as to whether to go ahead with any planned meeting, taking into account any relevant Government guidance, their own individual circumstances and, where appropriate, legal advice. Societies should take reasonable steps to ensure they meet any obligations they are under as soon as reasonably practicable. Societies will want to consider alternative arrangements such as making use of video conferencing where permitted.
The rules of an individual society govern the relationship between a society and its members. It's important members are afforded the ability to exercise their rights under the rules of a society. Societies may want to take their own advice to consider any risks arising from action taken by members as a result of a breach of their own rules. We have no role to play in determining disputes over society rules.
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 has made it easier for societies to hold meetings virtually. Schedule 14 of the Act contains a number of helpful logistical provisions, notwithstanding anything in the rules of a society. Currently, these provisions apply to meetings due to take place up to 30 December 2020.  
Where, following Government guidance, the postponement of a general meeting results in a breach of a legislative requirement, it may fall to us to make a decision about what, if any, action we take. We don't consider it to be in the public interest for us to take action in this context where we can see that a society is taking steps to ensure they meet the legislative obligation as soon as reasonably practicable. Members of societies will, of course, retain the ability to take action in accordance with their rights under the rules of a society. 
For those societies that have listed securities, they should continue to consider and comply with their obligations under MAR and the relevant FCA listing rules.

What the FCA is responsible for

We are responsible for:

We are not responsible for:

  • registering co-operative and community benefit societies or credit unions in Northern Ireland

The FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) are also jointly responsible for regulating mutual societies carrying out regulated activities. For example:

  • all building societies and credit unions are authorised to accept deposits
  • some friendly societies are authorised to carry out contracts of insurance

Regulated mutual societies have access to the:

Borrowers from societies with consumer credit activities registered with the FCA also have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service on issues relating to their loans.

Members and customers of societies not regulated by the FCA and PRA don’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the FSCS.

Page updates

28/10/2020: Information added update on general meetings during coronavirus.