28 March 2024

Over the weekend, colleagues gathered at Hardwick Hall for an evening of celebration at this year’s Colleague Awards.

Celebrating all that is great and good about our Society, the ceremony highlighted some outstanding achievements throughout the year.

Awards were presented by Board member and esteemed journalist, Peter Barron. As Darlington is the newly-crowned Building Society of the Year, winners of this year’s Colleague Awards can officially say that they are the ‘best of the best’ in the country.

Winners are nominated by colleagues, making these awards even more special. Here’s a run through the eight accolades and the champions of the Society.

Team Player of the Year

Naturally striving for excellence and a good outcome, not only for the team, but the organisation as a whole, the winner of this category goes over and above simply doing their job. Their actions are based on what is best for everybody.


  • Ann Walpole – Mortgage Direct
  • Julie McAleer – Branch Network
  • Kath Leighton – Branch Network
  • Vicky Seaman – Member Experience

Winner: Vicky Seaman

Colleagues described Vicky as being genuinely caring, instrumental in change, a true team player who nurtures strong relationships.

Community Champion

Demonstrating a strong community culture, putting those less fortunate into the spotlight and encouraging others to make a contribution. That’s what the Community Champion award is all about.


  • Nicki Tweddle – Lending
  • Christie Nelson – Mortgage Support
  • Ann Walpole – Mortgage Direct
  • Nicky Donaghue – Branch Network
  • Trish Brown – Executive Support

Winner: Nicki Tweddle

Colleagues described Nicki as being an inspiration, a tireless fundraiser, passionate for the cause and the most charitable person in the organisation. What praise!

Member Experience Champion

The Member Experience Champion puts the member first, generating a strong message about our organisation and the service levels we provide.


  • Maureen Mitchell – Savings Direct
  • Sandra McGrath – Branch Network
  • Paul McWeeney – Member Experience
  • Michelle Tunstall – Application Support

Winner: Paul McWeeney

Colleagues described Paul as being constantly supportive to the team, a brilliant role model, a member champion, dedicated and driven.

Rising Star Award

Destined to move to greater challenges within the organisation, the Rising Star award goes to an individual who is keen, enthusiastic, and positive about their role within the Society, and constantly strive for excellence.


  • Claire Cooper – Change
  • Eden Holmes Carrington – Business Development
  • Joe Wilson – Mortgage Support
  • Craig Hall – Savings Direct

Winner: Craig Hall

Colleagues described Craig as being calm and collected, eager to learn, going from strength to strength and excelling in his role.

Rising Star: Branch Network

As above, the branch network Rising Star strives for excellence. The go-to person in that area of the business, and ‘one to watch’


  • Aidan Kruger
  • Rebekah Thorpe
  • Naman Hussein
  • Chantell Stephenson

Winners: Rebekah Thorpe and Naman Hussein

Colleagues have described Rebekah and Naman as being authentic and sharing, assets to the organisation, patient, kind, listening, driven and ambitious.

Head Office Team of the Year

This was a highly contested category, however one team constantly delivered during the year, striving for excellence both internally with colleagues and externally with third parties and members, embodying the culture of a cohesive team and organisation.


  • Business Development
  • Mortgage Direct
  • Financial Support
  • IT
  • Products & Proposition
  • Savings Direct
  • Underwriting

Winners: Savings Direct

Our Savings Direct team consists of Jonny Snee, Gabi Harker, Jeannette Bowes, Maureen Mitchell, Craig Hall, Simon McCabe, Victoria Wanless.

Colleagues have described the Savings Direct Team as being fully engaged, able to manage massive high volumes of work, providing excellent member service and hugely supportive to the business.

Inspirational Leader of the Year

A truly strong category, with some very powerful nominations. Respected, admired and an individual that everyone enjoys working alongside, through their energy and enthusiasm the Inspirational Leader of the Year inspires everyone to give their best, ensuring the Society continues to be a positive place to work.


  • Jonny Snee – Savings Direct
  • Andrew Craddock – Chief Executive
  • Louise Thorpe – Executive Team
  • Louise Lord – Lending
  • Vicky Seaman – Member Experience

Winner: Louise Thorpe

Colleagues described Louise as being approachable, inspirational each and every day, incredibly supportive and the heartbeat of the team.

Branch of the Year

Winner: Yarm

Our Yarm branch team consists of: Kath Leighton, Matt Cuthbertson, Alison Rock, Kuljit Singh
and Tom Street

This category is selected through an assessment of branch performance, which this year proved particularly challenging, given the many positive outcomes we achieved across the branch network during 2023.  However, Yarm stood out for a number of reasons this past year:

  • A change in team dynamic after new colleagues joined the team enabled Yarm branch to create a shared vision to provide excellent member experience and comradery.
  • Best Companies engagement survey awarded the branch with a 3-star rating, more commonly associated as ‘World Class’.
  • The branch saw growth in the following areas: retail balances, members and accounts.
  • The team strengthened relationships with their chosen community groups, making a positive impact on their local community.
  • Consistent fantastic feedback, month on month, from our members.  Yarm achieved an NPS score of 92 for the year.

Member feedback cited the Yarm branch team as “caring, dedicated, knowledgeable, professional and always eager to help”.

Significant milestones

Colleagues are the beating heart of Darlington Building Society. The long-term commitment to some of our peers is testament to what a fasntastic place to work we have built as a team.

The following colleagues are celebrating a decade of service at the Society:

  • Michelle Tunstall
  • Jayne Barrie-Curtis
  • Cheryl Allan
  • Alex Robson

And the following who this year will have been with us for a phenomenal 20 years:

  • Lorraine Donaghy
  • Julie Temple
  • Louise Thorpe

Congratulations to all winners and finalists – it’s no mean feat being shortlisted amongst such talented, committed and positive colleagues. And thank you to all colleagues who took the time to nominate their champions.