By Andy Golding, CEO
In 2012, at the start of the journey, when I and the new management team took the tiller, our main priority was to create a viable and straightforward business model. One that focused on niche sectors of the lending market but one that safeguarded the Kent Reliance brand and its customers under the umbrella of its new parent group, OneSavings Bank.
We identified the sectors that we could successfully compete in and ones where we could showcase our underwriting expertise and concentrated on these, including the acquisition of two specialist lending companies to help strengthen our lending proposition in these markets.
The bank also needed to focus on what it did best, looking after its customers. Attracting new and retaining existing savers by offering attractive long term savings accounts was put at the core of the banks ethos. This year I’m delighted to report that well over a third of savings customers are people based in Kent. Better still, over half of our Kent based savers regularly visit one of our branches, justifying our decision to not only maintain our branch network (as others close theirs) but to invest in their redevelopment to improve the customer experience and provide greater service.
Responding to customer needs, interacting in a jargon-free and transparent manner, consistently providing products that regularly appear in the ‘best buy’ tables, has consolidated our position as a leading bank, borne out in our 2014 results.
Over the last year we saw the culmination of this hard work by becoming the first bank to be successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange in over 10 years, and cementing that position we gained entry into FTSE 250. That’s our seat at the table amongst the strongest companies in the UK.
But what gives me the greatest satisfaction? Simple. Our continuing commitment to the county. As a Kentish man myself (sorry, not a man of Kent) I am extremely proud of transforming ourselves into one of the major employers in the region. Since 2012, we have hired in excess of 200 new employees, only 0.4% of businesses within the county have over 250 employees, and we’ll continue to actively recruit from the Kent region.
I am also very proud of our involvement with the local community having formed long-term relationships with the Kent FA and Kent County Cricket Club enabling them to continue their inclusive programmes in getting people of all ages and abilities involved in sport. It is important that as we grow, we continue our responsibility for sharing our success not simply in donations and fundraising but also with volunteering opportunities, something our employees have whole-heartedly embraced. None more so than with our involvement with Demelza Children’s Hospice through running marathons, the ‘Go Dotty’ initiative and even sponsored sky dives. Kent Reliance has also made a significant contribution to Great Ormond Street Hospital via their Peter Pan Accounts, in the last three years in excess of £85,000 has been donated to the children’s hospital.
It’s important for us to remember our heritage and the journey we have taken but we cannot coast on our success. If we are to continue to have a positive impact on the local and wider community we cannot simply roll on the river, but rather set a course for a sustainable future.