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30th March 2019
When it comes to making the most of your money, Chris Brown is in a strong position to share his expert opinion on where to put your savings.
As a Sunderland Football Club season ticket-holder, there may be those who question that opening statement, but Chris has an undeniable wealth of experience in the financial sector.
He has steadily climbed the career ladder since graduating from Newcastle University in economics and accounting, and is proud to have now joined Darlington Building Society as Head of Products and Propositions.
“It’s just a privilege to be part of an organisation that prides itself on being immersed in the community,” says Chris.
Sunderland born and raised, Chris is one of six children, with a father who worked as a public sector accountant, and a mother who was a primary school deputy head teacher.
As well as becoming devoted to his local football club, sports-mad Chris played as an all-rounder for Sunderland Cricket Club and has never lost his love of the North-East.
Initially torn between a career in marketing or accountancy, he started out as a product analyst in the Northern Rock graduate programme in 2003, going on to gain experience in product management and corporate strategy.
He moved into a permanent product management role with UK Asset resolution (UKAR) in 2010, before returning to his roots five years later when he became Savings Product Manager for Virgin Money, the successor to Northern Rock.
His latest step up the ladder came earlier this year when he joined Darlington Building Society, attracted by its highly respected place in the mutual sector, its reputation for supporting local communities, and its commitment to donating five per cent of its profits to good causes.
“Going right back to our industrial heritage, the North-East is a region where there is special emphasis on community and doing what’s right,” he says. “Darlington Building Society typifies that approach and that’s why I wanted to be part of it. Coming to an organisation that believes in helping communities, and does things creatively, really resonated with me.”
Chris is also passionate about the value of ISAs, which are 20 years old on April 6, having been introduced by the Government as a mechanism to encourage people to save, and replacing Personal Equity Plans (PEPs) and Tax Exempt Special Savings Accounts (TESSAs).
“In my opinion, ISAs should be the go-to savings product because they are such a brilliant way of achieving tax efficient savings,” he says.
And yet, Chris is concerned that some members of the public still don’t fully understand the value of ISAs as a way of earning them tax-free cash.
Under the Government’s Personal Savings Allowance (PSA), introduced in April 2016, those in the basic tax bracket are allowed tax-free earnings on the first £1,000 of interest they receive from their savings. That reduces to the first £500 of interest for those in the higher-rate tax bracket, while additional-rate taxpayers do not receive a PSA and must pay tax on any savings income they receive on savings outside an ISA.
Although the PSA was clearly a welcome step, Chris believes that some people are under the misapprehension that it has made ISAs redundant.
“That’s simply not the case,” he says. “The PSA is an annual allowance based on a Government policy that is open to change. However, once your money is in an ISA, it’s going to be protected for as long as you keep it in that wrapper. It gives you greater confidence.”
Security is key for savers and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme offers Government protection on customers’ savings up to £85,000, no matter what happens.
Chris urges would be savers to make use of Darlington Building Society’s extensive branch network (Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Darlington, Guisborough, Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Redcar, Stockton, and Yarm) by talking to his branch colleagues about which ISA are the most suitable for their circumstances.
“At Darlington Building Society, it’s all about doing the right thing for members, and ISAs maximise their savings in an environment that’s difficult because of low interest rates,” he says. “There’s a good reason why they’ve stood the test of time - because in my opinion they should be the first place to put your cash.”
And, of course, with Darlington Building Society there’s always an extra bonus. With five per cent of all profits being invested back into the community, your money is not only working for you but a range of great local causes too.
Here’s to the next 20 years!
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