Published: 27 June 2022
Our Risk team went from zero to 3-star rated in just one year. That’s the highest possible rating from the Best Companies employee engagement survey.
Leading the team, Chief Risk Officer, David Bews shares: “Of all the successes and deliveries in the past year – my first year at Darlington – the Risk team receiving a 3-star rating was the most rewarding as it’s based entirely on colleague feedback.”
David joined Darlington Building Society in December 2020, at the very peak of the pandemic.
“Working remotely made getting to know colleagues a little more challenging, but there was also a lot of opportunity. I quickly worked out how they preferred to work and leaned into that. The pandemic helped many businesses adapt their operations much faster. I was therefore able to bring a new perspective to the department and implement changes at pace.”
Restructuring the Risk operations model was key to the success of the team “I wanted to provide a modern working environment that was representative of a dynamic, fast-paced organisation.” David explains.
The team also underwent a restructure, with revised job roles, promotions and plenty of development opportunities. David continues: “Reviewing roles gave each member of the team new responsibilities and challenges, in which they have thrived. The scope for career development in the Risk team is open-ended and colleagues are essentially able to set their own development curve.”
Listening to what colleagues want, and how they prefer to work, helped David to develop a working environment that his team evidently enjoy being a part of. “They weren’t about weekly Zoom quizzes, which were common at the time. We adopted a qualitative over quantitative approach to our catch ups, with key speakers on occasion, which were far better received and more engaging for us.”
Breaking down communications barriers was also pivotal. “We brought in a ‘Stop, start, continue’ exercise. It’s about speaking up to influence change, and it gives everyone the chance to share their views on what they think is – and isn’t – working. Feedback is carried to senior leaders and it has given the team a sense of ownership and responsibility.”
Working in the Risk team
The Risk team has a tremendously important role at Darlington Building Society. They help to ensure the Society remains compliant, keep up to date with the latest regulatory requirements, and drive the business forward ambitiously and responsibly.
David shares: “We are privileged in our access to information, because our remit spans the full organisation, so we can share best practice based on a wealth of data. Because Darlington Building Society is a smaller organisation, relative to larger banks, there is a feeling of inclusiveness that doesn’t go unnoticed. Access to the senior leadership team, including the Chief Executive, is commonplace, so you have the platform to make a real difference in your role.”
David continues: “One of the skills required to be part of the Risk team is the ability to balance the risk and compliance element of the role, proportionate to the business’ needs. We’re breaking the stereotype of Risk departments being ‘blockers’. We are problem solvers, collaborating to find solutions so that other teams can drive the business forward in a safe way that protects the Society and its members. ”
What’s to come?
After a great start, the Risk team looks set to continue on its award-winning path. “There’s no ‘end date’ for the Risk team’s journey. The roadmap is under constant development, with crucial input from the team along the way. We’re always thinking about how we can positively challenge and change. We want to build a culture of continuous improvement and with such a strong and committed team, I am really looking forward to seeing where it takes us.”
From the team’s perspective
There is a wealth of experience and skills within the Risk team:
Luke says of his time so far: “Joining the risk team straight after university was slightly daunting. The team however made the transition seamless. There’s a great support network and encouragement to constantly learn on the job. There is a strong culture of helping each other at Darlington Building Society and everyone on the team always makes themselves available.”
Alison has worked at the Society for almost 30 years. What is the secret to her longevity?
“I think one of the reasons I have stayed here so long is the opportunity to take on new challenges in different areas of the business. I have even completed a 6-month secondment with IT, which was definitely outside of my normal skillset. I find the new structure that David has implemented, and my new role, is probably one of the most enjoyable jobs I have done. The Risk team is an eclectic mix of people and personalities with various areas of expertise, but together we are a great bunch of people who enjoy working together.”
Marie worked with the Society previously before moving on to work with a big bank. She is now back with Darlington and explains that: “Having worked for the Society for around 6 years I decided to leave in 2021 when a new opportunity was presented to me in the commercial banking field. I felt the opportunity would give me chance to develop further, especially going into a larger organisation. However, after a couple of months I missed the Society. Bigger is not always better.
“I also missed the variety of work, and the flexibility. Darlington Building Society has given me so many opportunities to learn new aspects of financial services and I knew David was fantastic to learn from, and a supportive manager. Coming back was like coming home.”
For more information about what it’s like to work at Darlington Building Society, or to see the latest career opportunities, visit our careers page.