Tim Bowen – Penrith Building Society CEO talks culture and leadership

This article is being published from the BSB by a guest writer, Penrith Building Society CEO Tim Bowen.  

When I became CEO of Penrith Building Society in 2018 creating the right culture was a priority for me and, as a result, the Society has gone through significant change in the last two years.

I previously worked in plc’s where I learnt a huge amount about what it takes to be an effective leader (having worked for some of the best leaders I know and the odd one who, quite honestly, was not). By fostering an inclusive environment and flattening our structure, we have given everyone in our Society a voice. Coupling this with a set of values that we all understand and work towards was one of the most important first steps. For me, staying true to your own personal values is essential as well as aligning with an organisation that shares those same values.

Additionally, putting our members and colleagues at the heart of the decisions we make as a business remains a priority for the Executive team and Board. These factors, among others, have had a hugely positive impact on the performance of the business across all metrics.

The leadership team in the Society have and continue to work to ensure that all staff have:

  • Consistency in the strategic direction and objectives of the Society to ensure every member of staff knows where we want to go, why we want to get there, how we intend to do it and the part that they play as individuals and as one team.
  • Autonomy regarding the decisions they make daily with the knowledge that it is okay to make mistakes, learn from them and become a more effective colleague.
  • Clarity and definition in their roles, (or as much as you can in the smallest building society in the UK where staff must wear many different hats daily).
  • A clear understanding of the behaviours we expect them to display and role model.
  • Focus from the business on all aspects of mental and physical wellbeing.
  • A voice and opinion that is heard and valued.
  • Clear and transparent communication about what is going well and where opportunities to improve exist.

Our results in the BSB Survey have followed the same upward trajectory as the Society’s financial performance which, I must admit, I did not envisage. It would be easy for the leadership and Board to look at the results and think that we have cracked it. However, there are always areas we can improve. As a result of our strongest set of engagement results in 2019, in 2020 the Society will move forward with a more straightforward people plan that includes three pillars: motivation, unity and wellbeing.

Being a member of the BSB means that the Society has access to superb industry insight and guidance on standards, policy and an excellent outward view of how we are positioned in the financial services industry culturally against peer groups. We gain an extremely detailed, insightful and inwardly facing view regarding our people, which from a cultural point of view has helped us to clearly identify areas of focus and opportunities to improve.

Today I am immensely proud of the culture that every member of staff has helped create at Penrith Building Society. A culture that has helped to improve staff engagement, member experience and ultimately, change our Building Society for the better. It remains my responsibility to ensure that we continue to improve in every area, and I remain convinced that by looking after the biggest asset in any business – our people – this will result in a high performing business.