Advance has existed since the mid-1970s and we can trace our history back to the Abbey National Staff Association and Bradford and Bingley Staff Association. Each of those organisations were created by employees of the then Building Societies in the UK, who wanted to have an independent employee voice to represent them collectively, with management. Over the years, the employer has evolved significantly and today the businesses that were once those building societies and their subsidiaries, are part of the global Santander banking group and Advance represents their employees in the UK.
From almost the very beginning, Advance had certificates of independence issued by the UK Government's Certification Officer, which confirmed their status as an independent trade union and that continues today. Along the way Advance has worked with other trade unions in the financial services sector and associated industries, to get more for our members. We have also worked with colleague trade unions in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere, as Trade Unionism is a global movement where working collectively achieves more.
The union was established in 1977 as the Abbey National Staff Association (ANSA) following a vote by employees of the Abbey National Building Society, who considered either establishing a trade union just for themselves, or joining the then "National Union of Bank Employees - NUBE" (subsequently the "Banking, Insurance and Finance Union (BIFU)", then "Amicus" and now part of "Unite"). The workers overwhelmingly voted to establish their own independent trade union and it received a Certificate of Independence, the following year.
The Abbey National Building Society originally based in the South East of England, developed a UK wide operation and was hugely innovative. In the late 1980s the society moved the majority of its growing head office function from central London to Milton Keynes. It was the first Building Society to demutualise and became a public limited company in 1989. Through the years ANSA has looked after the interest of employees as the business grew from savings and mortgages, further into banking, insurance and other parts of financial services. At various times the business expanded into other financial services' products including the Cornerstone estate agency, share-dealing services and a healthcare insurance. Business subsidiaries in Spain and Italy, and off shore in the Channel Isles and Isle of Man even meant ANSA gained a small number of non-UK members, although the majority of ANSA's members have remained in the core business.
In 1996, Abbey National plc purchased the National and Provincial Building Society and talks between ANSA with the National and Provincial Staff Association almost lead to a merger. However, these were called off by NAPSA and did not proceed. In 1997, the established ANSA leadership were unexpectedly defeated in the elections and a new team began to modernise the union. They affiliated to the Trade Union Congress in January 1998 and later that year the union changed its name to the "Abbey National Group Union - ANGU". The Union negotiated additional benefits, such as minimum wage and paid adoptive leave well in advance of legal rights to these benefits.
Abbey National plc continued to develop, acquire and sell new parts of its business and this included a large Treasury Services division, Abbey National Life Insurance, Scottish Mutual and First National Finance Corporation, which meant at its largest, the Abbey National group employed over 35,000 workers. Existing ANGU members often took jobs in these new parts of the Group and the union also welcomed colleagues who joined the Group through their employer being purchased. Where no existing trade union recognition existed ANGU pushed for recognition in these new parts of the business which meant that at times different parts of the Group had different agreements with the union, on their right to negotiate pay and conditions, or represent individuals.
In 2002, Abbey National's new Chief Executive began a new strategy to refocus the bank back to its core business and the Group began to reduce significantly in size, selling many of the subsidiary businesses. In 2004 the remaining Abbey National Group was purchased by Santander a Spanish based global bank, but retained the Abbey National name. In 2008 Santander also purchased the Alliance and Leicester, another demutuialised building society and the branches and savings business of Bradford and Bingley, which had been taken over by the government following the financial crisis.
The "Union for Bradford and Bingley Staff and Associated Companies (UBAC)" merged with ANGU once more boosting the number of members in the union. Santander rebranded the Abbey National businesses as Santander UK and the union renamed itself as "Advance", a name chosen to reflect an organisation that is moving things forward. It is also a phrase used for some financial transactions, linking the union to its industry and of course while it tries hard to deliver results through working in partnership with the employer, should disagreements lead to industrial conflict, it also signifies a body confident enough to take the battle to the other side.