Making the customer experience more efficient, never taking growth for granted, why manual underwriting matters – and a talent for engraving coffin nameplates
You joined Darlington Building Society as chief executive in April 2014. What has been your biggest challenge since then?
My biggest challenge has been prioritising the developments we have wanted to make in the society while realising that there is only so much you can do at one time.
I have a great team of people who believe in the future of the society and we are making the progress we want to in steps that we can achieve.
What ambitions do you have for the society for the year ahead?
We had a good 2016 with strong lending growth and we are now looking at the customer experience we offer to make it more efficient for brokers and customers.
We are using consultants to help us create the right processes and five of our mortgage broker firms are helping us with this.
We cannot take growth for granted and need to continually improve.
In your opinion, what is the one thing that most differentiates the building society approach from that of other lenders?
I worked for 29 years in a bank and always believed that we were putting the customer first.
When I moved to the building society it became obvious that it was an embedded mindset here, and it was also helped by the fact that we are owned by our members.
So we can listen to and understand our customers’ circumstances and deliver what they need. Underwriting each case manually allows us to do this.
DBS recently partnered with Uinsure. What was the motivation behind that move?
We were looking for a partner and Uinsure’s attitude was excellent.
It wanted to demonstrate the strength of its products and service. It delivered.
How do you measure customer feedback at DBS?
We use an organisation called Smart Money People to collect feedback from customers online and in branch.
The depth of the feedback is really good and allows us to calculate a net promoter score together with gaining insight into the key drivers of customer satisfaction and the main improvements we can make. It forms part of our customer scorecard that we present to the board each month and enables us to focus on the key actions that will make a difference to the customer experience.
If you had not chosen this career path, what else would you have liked to do?
I would have loved to play a sport but I was not good enough.
Specifically, I would like to have played for my beloved Motherwell Football Club, but it would have been more likely that I was employed to sell the pies.
Who is your all-time hero, and why?
Quite a few friends and family.
But if I were to choose a celebrity, it would be Scottish former footballer Kenny Dalglish. What a player.
Do you have any secret talents?
Not particularly. My first job, though, was working with my dad in his funeral undertaking business. I would wash the cars and I learned how to engrave a nameplate for a coffin.
It’s not really a talent that many would choose to boast about.
What do you do in your spare time?
I spend time with family and friends, together with keeping fit by playing football and squash and going running.
Oh, and I also spend time checking out Motherwell FC on Twitter.
What is the best advice you have received?
Don’t criticise someone until you understand their challenges.
If you were chancellor for a day, what would be your priorities?
Using the benefits and taxation systems to look after the people who most need them.