CAREERS: Job interview

Name: Paul Swainbank

Name: Paul Swainbank

Job title: Sales and marketing director

Company: Stroud & Swindon Building Society

How did you get into marketing?

I was at Abbey National in the early 80s when it was a building


Abbey then had ambitions to be a plc. I was involved in the launch of

their Granny Bond and Cheque Account products.

What qualities do you need to succeed in this industry?

You need to have the audacity to pull off what others talk of doing but

never quite get around to implementing. Tenacity is useful in seeing a

gap and then going for it.

What was your big break?

Joining TSB post-privatisation. The senior management team was very

progressive, open-minded and ’hungry’.

How does the industry differ from when you started?

It was more complacent then, with fewer new entrants. The barriers to

entry are now significantly lower and there has been more change in the

past ten years in financial services than in the previous 50.

What is your view on demutualisation and is Stroud & Swindon likely to

follow this trend?

Mutuality allows the building society sector to put the customer first

rather than compromising between customer value and shareholder value. I

have operated in a plc and the difference at Stroud & Swindon is that

staff are literally focused on looking after customers personally. In my

first few weeks, it has been striking to see how strongly Stroud &

Swindon branch managers defend their responsibility, for instance, in

dealing with individual mortgage customers. This customer focus would be

lost with a focus on share price. Stroud & Swindon strategy is to

promote mutuality and thereby customer value. This organisation is

committed to remaining independent.

Which individual has influenced you most in your career?

I have been lucky enough to have had several inspirational individuals

as bosses over the years, although I would have to say that I have

admired from afar Peter Wood - the Direct Line business model is the

most fundamental paradigm shift in financial services of recent


What characteristics do you look for in the people you do business


I tend to go for tenacity and free-thinkers, although you always need to

have some constrainers. Commitment and delivery is also critical to

success in financial services.

What are the challenges for the financial industry over the next few


The building society sector has massive opportunities, particularly in

truly being ’closer to the customer’. Mutuality is virtually synonymous

with customer value and there is no question of a conflict between

shareholders and customers. We just need to demonstrate it louder and


What would be the one piece of career advice you would give?

Trust your intuition. If you have not got enough - and nobody has - work

on it and back it.

What has been your biggest mistake?

Rejecting the opportunity to launch a direct bank in 1987.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Launching TSB PhoneBank as a new proposition and facing the thrills and

spills of a new business venture.


1987 - 1995: Director of channel marketing, TSB Bank

1995 - 1997: Managing director, telephone banking, Lloyds TSB Group

1997 - 1999: Business development director, financial services, Europe,


1999 - present: Executive director, sales & marketing, Stroud & Swindon

Building Society.


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