The Cumberland may be 170 years old, but there’s a decidedly fresh look about it these days. It might once have been seen as a traditional business, but it’s now embracing change and innovations at every level under the direction of a new leadership team, headed by chief executive Des Moore.
A new strategy and multi-year investment programme has recently commenced, designed to position the business for the future, alongside its Brighter Banking brand approach, which exemplifies its commitment to making a positive difference in everything it does.
Meet some of the women who are helping to drive forward a new era of change and innovation at The Cumberland – including Fiona Boyce, Enterprise Architect and Shelley Hayward, Head of Talent and Development.
As a child, Fiona was happiest when pulling gadgets apart to see how they worked or helping to mend things around her Cumbrian home.
Fiona was the only girl in her technical drawing class at QEGs in Penrith and developed a natural curiosity for computers. This led to a career in the IT and roles at Cumbria Probation Service and AXA, including a spell working in Paris, before joining The Cumberland as our Enterprise Architect – a role that centres around future-proofing the business and ensuring our IT systems can cope with the increasing demand for digital banking services.
What is the focus of your role as Enterprise Architect?
“I have to look at the business strategy and the direction we are heading and make sure we have the right systems to support that. It’s about planning for the future and thinking about what our customers need.”
“We are very proud of our branch infrastructure, but need to have the digital services to support this. I am working to a five-year plan to ensure our customers have a frictionless journey, whether they are using a branch or accessing us online.”
You’re used to planning months and years ahead with digital transformation projects, but how has the pandemic – and 100s of colleagues suddenly needing to work from home – presented a challenge?
“We are looking at ways of working, how we do things and trying to simplify approaches to project delivery.”
“Our Brighter Working initiative is part of that brief, providing colleagues with the tools to do their job and we’ve got about 320 people included in that project. It’s about being able to undertake the work no matter where you are and to be able to do that just as effectively at home as in the branch or head office.”
The Cumberland is a signatory to the Women in Finance Charter and nearly 1/3 of our senior leadership and board positions are held by women. What does this mean to you, as a woman in the finance sector?
“I’ve been really impressed with the ambition here at The Cumberland. We have a senior leadership team with strong women such as Susanne Parry and Jill Johnston, which is inspirational.”
“It is important to have really good mentors in your career. My mentor at AXA gave me the self-belief that I could go and work in Paris. And it has been the same here. Being a woman in IT gives you a different perspective when problem-solving and it’s been great to be able to demonstrate that here in Cumbria.”
In her role as Head of Talent and Development, Shelley Hayward has focused on supporting and training Cumberland colleagues since July – with the added challenge of many teams working remotely.
Shelley has been instrumental in setting up online video conferences for colleagues on topics such as How Am I? – followed up by training sessions focused on empowering people amid the challenges of working remotely.
These sessions are proving to be immensely popular with colleagues, with over 125 people from across different departments joining in the ‘Power Hours’ as they are known. Other topics have included Strategies of Resilient People, Building Trust and Dealing with Uncertainty.
Shelley, could you tell us more about ‘Power Hours’ and why they’re important?
“The ‘How Am I?’ session is all about giving people the space to take stock of where they’re at. Everybody is juggling so many different things at the moment that we wanted to start with a session that allows people to be a bit vulnerable.”
“We follow that up with one to one coaching sessions, for those colleagues that want it, so we can unpick particular challenges that people are facing. For each topic we have three sessions available running throughout a week and have them scheduled all the way through to the beginning of December.”
Why is training and development a central focus for the business at this time?
“Some organisations are reigning-in training and development during the pandemic, whereas we are only getting busier as we look to do more. Colleagues need to know that the business cares and wants to give them some of the tools to overcome that. We want them to be happy in their work so that they can do the day to day job.”
“It fits in with the whole strategy and focus for The Cumberland, which is about being human and seeing that as a local building society we know our customers – and we can only do that if we are authentic at work.”
How does this programme complement the ongoing cultural change at The Cumberland?
“When I joined in July, people were impressed that – as an organisation – we are investing in learning and development by bringing someone in to head it up.”
“I’m responsible for all training and learning across the organisation which is key to our transformation programme. It’s not just bog-standard training – we’re looking to create a learning culture where people really love what they do and are really proactive about using their skills and talents within the organisation, so it’s a pretty exciting time.”