Just like a lot of graduates, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after university. My degree in English language and linguistics meant that there was a wide range of options available to me in the graduate job market. But how did English lead to banking and finance? When I was applying for jobs, I was looking for something that could offer me a daily challenge in an environment that was ambitious yet supportive.
Banking and finance is an ever-changing marketplace and offers a wealth of opportunities for those with drive and ambition. At the heart of Nationwide is a set of principles that govern the way they operate, collectively these are referred to as PRIDE and it was this, along with the diversity of roles represented in the Nationwide Management Development Programme (NMDP) that really attracted me to the Society.
The NMDP is now offered as a series of Specialist schemes. Most schemes run for two years and consist of three eight-month placements which take place in different teams and/or departments giving you a unique insight into the firm. Numerous training courses run throughout the two years and allow plenty of opportunities to share experiences with other NMDP participants, and buddies and mentors are always on hand to support you. I graduated from a Generalist scheme in August 2008 and am now working as a Senior Consultant in the Information Security department.
Understanding customer relations
The first of my placements was in a branch and gave me the chance to experience life at the face of the business. I spent some time serving on the counter, and as host, meeting and greeting customers as they enter the branch, offering information and booking appointments, etc; very much hands-on with the customers. I spent some time shadowing the other roles within the branch, gaining a real insight into retail banking and the challenges therein.
As part of the management team of the branch, I took part in weekly management meetings, playing an active role in managing the performance of the branch on a day to day basis. I set up a number of incentive schemes to motivate the team and being able to share their successes was really gratifying. I was responsible for training and coaching the team in some new technology and had performance targets to meet. This was a great opportunity to develop new skills, and immediately put them to the test.
Building on this, I spent some time working with our area branch coach, providing one-to-one coaching support to individuals across the area (an area is a geographical division made up of an average of 20 branches). I also helped coordinate and run a number of training workshops, delivering presentations and interactive exercises designed to build and develop the skills of our sales teams.
I was also part of the wider area team, who manage the performance of all the branches in its remit. I was actively involved in monthly meetings making decisions on a wide range of business activities ranging from how to improve the performance of underperforming branches, identifying coaching needs, establishing new recognition schemes, reviewing projects, to setting the business plan for the new financial year.
Learning about team leadership
The skills of business planning, target setting and training and coaching that I developed in my branch network placement proved invaluable to me in my next placement as a team leader in the complaints department. More than observing the dynamics of a successful business team, I was responsible for managing one of my own.
I led a team of 15 individuals and my day to day tasks included allocating work and monitoring quality and productivity, as well as managing any sickness and holiday absence. It was my responsibility to ensure that my team had the training they needed to do their job effectively. Each individual had clear targets to aim for and we had meetings on a monthly basis to discuss how things were going, and to talk about any areas of concern. Managing people is very rewarding when things are going well but handling underperformance is challenging and can be very demanding on your time and energy.
Part of my role involved monitoring the workflow of the department and I had to ensure that we had enough resource to manage our workload effectively, recruiting additional staff as necessary. Just as extra work demands extra people, a reduction in the workflow requires less and it fell to me to make the necessary arrangements. Telling someone that they won’t have a job at the end of the day is a thankless task even if they are on temporary working contracts.
I developed training support material to help maximise the efficiency of the team. Part of this work included the identification of any inefficiency in our work procedures, working with other managers to resolve them.
Life after the Development Programme
My final placement took me to the world of Information Security and this is where I have made my home as a permanent employee of the Society.
NMDP really is a springboard into life at Nationwide and gives you a wide-angle view of the business. Without the scheme, I would not be in the career I am now. The responsibility I have in my role is evidence that the training you receive whilst on the scheme is valuable and, whilst a job can never be guaranteed, all graduates of the NMDP scheme have a far wider scope of opportunity than most with such limited work experience.