Vicar's Blog - A Day with Lloyds Banking Group

As part of my journey through Lent, I’m spending a day a week in the shoes of someone else. How can the Church understand the needs and challenges of its congregations and that of society if it doesn’t immerse itself in the realities of daily life? I was keen to find out more about Lloyds Banking Group as they are the largest private sector employer in Calderdale, employing around 6500 people located at both Trinity Road Campus, and on the edge of Copley Village. Twelve years ago in the economic crash of 2008 the Borough very nearly lost the Bank until Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minster came to the rescue. Halifax has been synonymous with Financial Services for the last forty years or more. It was the Loyal Georgian Society, the first Friendly Society in Great Britain, that founded the Halifax Building Society, eventually bought out by what was known as HBOS, and now owned by Lloyds Banking Group. Catherine Rutter is the new Managing Director of what is called The Halifax Bank, and what is also called Connect, which is all the outward facing communication between the Bank and its customers. Sadly, Catherine was recovering from surgery on the day we were meant to have together, and I was fortunate to have David Ditcher, Head of Connect Leeds, to be my companion for the day.
The main control centre for Connect is in Lovell Park, just on the edge of Leeds city centre. Here is a team of people who provide a Call Centre, that covers the whole country and beyond, in helping every day citizens with their financial needs and requirements, from insurance, mortgages, credit loans, debt relief, debit accounts, and many other services to numerous to mention here. As a major employer across the nation, not just in Yorkshire and the Humber, they are keen to provide long term secure employment for the communities they serve. Not only are they profit making, but with a social conscious and with a strong ethic towards charitable work for both national and local good causes. Banks since 2008 have rightly been on the end of a good thrashing, blowing open that which was not transparent, and large bonuses to executive directors and shareholders. I was left with no doubt that Lloyds Banking Group are working very hard to change their own image and want to be regarded as a business which is sound to invest in and cares about the communities they serve.
Having met Dave Ditcher who mapped out the day for me, we went to meet Sally Howard to discuss the Banks plans for Helping Britain Prosper. There can be no doubt that we have all seen how automation is affecting Banking. Here in Calderdale, local branches are closing, and those that remain open have few Banking staff inside them. More and more banking is transacted via computer, phone, and Ipad. There are still a sizable group of the population who struggle to use these new ways of communication and security hence the Bank is keen to support those unable to access Banking in the same way, and to provide as much support as they can. Lloyds have a full programme across Yorkshire to help us in our financial services. Firstly, engagement with schools and colleges to provide Financial Capability Sessions, helping children and young people from a young age understand the rules of income and expenditure, learning how to budget and use a debit card, how to save, and how to avoid debt and spending beyond their means. Secondly, providing support for a different generation who find all this online activity difficult to access and confusing. On site and off site digital education for local communities, enables some of the barriers for older people to manage their financial needs and concerns. Thirdly, the Bank takes the environment and climate crises seriously, and is committed to becoming more and more paperless, protecting the nations environment through its business practices and ethics. Fourthly, to provide work experience and Apprenticeship opportunities across the regions. My next appointment was with the Head of Operational Planning and Recruitment. Yorkshire is a significant recruitment area for Lloyds Banking Group, with both high level graduates and those seeking Apprentiships. The Bank has strong links with local Universities and Further Education Colleges. Opportunities in Calderdale happen to be for those with higher grade roles, enabling people across the region to continue their careers without necessarily having to re locate. I was impressed to hear about the effort that goes into matching the right skills with the right people, and the long-term care of the work force generally. Particular care is offered to those living with autism and who much to offer the Bank, alongside a very positive attitude towards a culture where BAME is taken seriously.
Opportunities for internal Apprentiships was something I’d never considered, and many organisations with long-term employees could really benefit from this example. Between 2012 and 2020 Lloyds Banking Group have provided 8000 Apprentiships alongside some 30 week disability placements.
Over lunch, I met with a room full of people committed to fundraising for charitable causes. Locally in Leeds they had raised over £1000 for books and equipment for Little London Primary School which is in the shadow of Lovell Park. At a national level the Bank is raising significant money to support Mental Health UK, which supports vulnerable young people from 14 – 18. Two members from Leeds, including Dave Ditcher, will be taking part in the Bank’s program Defy the Odds, by cycling across the world to raise money for the charity. The Bank offers every employee the opportunity to have Volunteer hours, and to support local charitable giving. The Minster has in the past benefited from the Regional Community Fund when we put a new floor in the front of the Nave and when we needed to install a new Public Address System. Volunteer hours include being a School Governor, mentoring children, helping young people write CVs, interview techniques, providing a placement for Work Experience, as well as tree planting and other worthy outdoor activities.
In the afternoon I had the privilege to see first-hand the very specialist team called Moments of Truth. The team provides an empathic customer experience to some of their most vulnerable customers in key moments of truth eg. Bereavement support, customers diagnosed with Cancer, those with power of attorney, and those who are Hard of Hearing. The staff in this team all have a solid understanding of financial services and have been additionally trained to support those customers who are experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety. Sitting next to an excellent telephonist, the first call took some 45 minutes to support a daughter living in France, whose Father was now in a Care Home in Cornwall and trying to manage his finances with power of attorney in place. There are 40 members of the team working between 8am and 8pm seven days a week. I can honestly say I was impressed by what I saw and heard.
By the end of the afternoon my head was spinning with everything I had seen and heard, and rapidly trying to process. The day finished with a de brief with Dave Pitcher, Head of Connect Leeds, who had been my companion. Hopefully next time I’ll get to meet Catherine!