Darren is currently the Head of Nationwide Now and manages teams in Bournemouth, Northampton and Dunfermline. He started his career with us back in 2000 and has since had several promotions within the Retail network.
A career in branch can offer exciting challenges
I started working in Nationwide in 2000 as a Customer representative in the branch network. Although I was only 16, I knew I wanted to build a career for myself and I was driven to work hard to achieve this.
“ I’d made the big move from Ireland to England, leaving my family behind in the hopes of pursuing a good career and really making a good life for myself. ”
After studying my GCSE’s, I decided I didn’t want to go down the academic route, but I also knew I enjoyed working with people and doing work that showed results. When I saw the role advertised at Nationwide, I saw it as an opportunity to get my foot through the door and kick-start my career.
I found that going into the world of work offered a lot of exciting challenges and opportunities. I’ve always preferred hands-on learning, so I was motivated to work hard as I found my job challenging, yet enjoyable.
Working in Branch gave me the opportunity to get to know our customers and really understand what the purpose of Nationwide was. As I gained more experience within the team, I was able to take on more responsibilities. From the year 2000- 2007 I undertook various branch roles which included; personal banking manager, branch manager and customer service manager.
Initially, I found that my biggest challenge was moving away from home. When I knew I was planning a weekend back to Ireland to see my parents and brother I’d be so keen and pack my bags weeks early! Looking back now I can tell that relocation actually helped me to progress my career quite quickly.
Because I’d already relocated from Ireland, I no longer saw relocation as an obstacle. Whenever I saw an opportunity to develop and try a new role, regardless of location, I would apply and try to make that next step. I was always happy to make that move.
A branch career can offer you development
In 2007, I took on a senior role as a Senior Branch Manager. I remember feeling really proud of myself and feeling prepared for this next step; I always like to check my progress and keep myself on track. At this point in my career I re-evaluated where I was, and I was extremely proud of my hard work, but knew I wanted to continue to climb the career ladder.
I set myself the goal of becoming an Area Director by the age of 30. And surprisingly enough, in 2008 I was identified as a future leader within the Society and promoted to Area Director (I was 26)!
“ I can definitely say one of my proudest achievements is to have been the youngest Area Director at Nationwide. ”
My responsibilities included leading a team of District / Area Managers responsible for branches and Consultants, directing 6 different locations within the UK, and driving superior customer experiences within my locations.
The development I’ve had whilst working here has been incredible, I’ve been really lucky as I’ve had encouraging and supportive line managers throughout my career.
“ I’ve never been held back when I’ve wanted to go for a new role. I think Nationwide recognises talent, and invests a lot into individuals within the company. ”
I’ve been a part of a few of the internal management development courses, and these really helped me to develop my strengths further and also improve on my development areas. This also helped me to see the vast amount of opportunities available within the Society.
2008 was a great year in my career, and probably still one of my 'callout' years; I was awarded Employee of the Year on the same night my team were awarded Team of the Year. My team were ranked number 1 out of 98 large branches consistently every month during that year, so it was great to be able to have this hard work recognised.
I think if there’s one thing that my career at Nationwide has taught me, it's never give up. When people say you can’t do something, believe that you can.
“ I’ve also learnt that it’s important to do right by people. Growing up my mother always told me: you’re as good as anyone, but no better than anybody! ”
A career in branch can expose you to different progression opportunities
My current role is Head of Nationwide Now, and I’ve been in this role for over two years. Nationwide NOW demonstrates how traditional branches and innovative technology can work together to transform our customer experience and shape the future of banking. It enables our customers to use a video chat link and talk directly to a mortgage advisor from our operating centres located throughout the UK. This allows our branch network to deliver financial help, guidance and advice to more of our customers via a real-time HD video link to a consultant based at one of our central locations.
Being a manager of such a new innovative technology really shows me how far Nationwide has moved on. When I first started working here, 16 years ago, technology wasn’t anywhere near as savvy as it is now.
A lot of the transactions I processed as a Customer Rep were heavily reliant on having that immediate interaction with the customer. Fast forward to now and we have this fascinating technology here to improve the lives of our customers, and help them get what they want. We’re the first financial services organisation in Europe to exploit CISCO Remote Expert technology to deliver a virtual, more efficient sales force.
I would say that moving from an Area Director to my current role has been my biggest career transition to date. I think this was mainly because the role I came into was a brand new role that no-one had done before.
“ I had to manage a channel from scratch in a position where it’s all eyes on me to make it a success, but oddly enough I’m the type of person that gets excited over challenges like that! ”
The best part of my role now is being around people. I love being able to lead and inspire my team. I travel cross-country weekly to make sure to spend time with my team and really build a good rapport across the teams I manage. I recognise that at the end of the day, Nationwide Now is successful because of the branch teams working hand in hand with the teams in our contact centres.
My job does come with a lot of travel, but I know the importance of knowing when to switch off and recharge my batteries. I try to keep my weekends as my days where I can relax. I take holidays frequently during the year. I’m a big fan of tennis too, and this year I went to watch the US Open in New York. I’m also planning on taking a break later this year and going to the Miami Open.
“ If there’s any advice I could give to someone reading this blog and considering trying something new in their careers, it would be to just go for it and learn how to do the role when you get it! ”
Have a plan about where you want to get and be flexible about how you get there. It may be that you take a secondment, a side step or even a promotion.
Just put yourself out there and be brave, you never know where it’ll lead you!
Interested in starting a career in new innovative technology? Take a look at our Digital & Mobile Banking Graduate Scheme