On Friday 18 March years 12 & 13 students had a very interesting and thought provoking presentation from a local banker. Mr Doug Hughes is a Corporate Business Manager at Svenska Handelsbanken, working from their branch in Guildford.
Mr Hughes had been invited to talk to the students about his work, and about the role of banks in the economy. He explained how he grew up in Cranleigh, attended a local school where he played sport enthusiastically, and then opted not to go to university, preferring to go straight into work. His parents suggested banking as a career because there is plenty of opportunity for advancement, and a lot of different aspects that one could concentrate on. He applied for a job with NatWest bank in 1986 and joined their training programme, starting at the bottom doing routine clerical work – this in the days when there were no computers and all the many operations involved in processing cheques were done manually. He progressed to different positions in local branches, and for a time worked in a division head office in London.
In 2011 he moved from NatWest, which had by then been taken over by RBS and in 2008 had been bailed out by the UK government during the global financial crisis. Handelsbanken are a Swedish bank which is making inroads in the market place especially concentrating on small & medium sized businesses, and high net worth individuals. At the centre of their ethos is a commitment to excellent customer service, which they achieve through developing personal relationships with all their clients. Unlike the big High Street banks, all decisions on lending either for business or for mortgages are taken at local level. Mr Hughes has personal authority to make lending decisions up to a limit, and he has a loan “book” of about £50m.
He enjoys his work, and offered some advice to the students as they prepare for the work place:
– Learn to get on with all types of people – you may not like them, but you must be able to work along with them
– Be prepared to go the extra mile for your employer – it will be noticed and you will be rewarded
– Make the most of opportunities – be prepared to make a move if it is to your advantage
He was asked about borrowing money for house purchase, and explained that banks now look very carefully at a borrower’s ability to sustain the repayments. Whilst in the past banks threw a lot of cash at borrowers that definitely doesn’t happen now. His advice – save all the cash you can towards a deposit, and follow the advice above to maximise your earning power.