Meet Charissa Chang, Business Relationship Manager, North West at Allica Bank

charissa chang

Tell us about what you do here at Allica

As business relationship manager for the North West, there’s three key things I do at Allica. The first is to act as a bridge between our small and medium-sized business (SME) customers in the region and our credit team. I provide support throughout the application process, helping them get together the information our credit team need to understand their business and make a decision quickly. Understanding the issues and challenges facing local businesses is therefore an important part of the job.

The second is to act as a point of contact for brokers, accountants and solicitors that have introduced their clients to us. Many of our customers work with these introducers because of the insight they have on the market, so a large proportion of our customers come to us this way.

Finally, I help train new colleagues that join the team. I was one of Allica’s first employees and I enjoy sharing the experience and knowledge I’ve picked up along the way.

You look after businesses and brokers in the North West. Do you know the area well?

Absolutely. At the start of my career I was based in West Yorkshire, where I grew up. Then, seven years ago, I left behind the white roses and crossed the border to Sale, Greater Manchester.

Right now, my patch covers the whole North West along the M62 corridor, from Yorkshire to North Wales. But I’ve been working with small and medium-sized businesses and brokers in the North for my entire career.

In fact, I’ve been around business owners since I was a child. I have several family members and friends that run their own firms: kitchen & bathroom showrooms, hair & beauty salons, a butcher, food outlets, and an event management company, to name a few. Needless to say, I understand the challenges businesses face in the North of England and Wales.

What is it you enjoy about working with small and medium-sized businesses?

It’s so rewarding to make a difference by giving established SMEs the funds they need to achieve their goals. Take an independent shop or bakery, for example. The owner might borrow from us to invest in refurbishment, open in a new location, or purchase additional stock. A few months later I can check in and see the real impact our funds have made on the business, their employees, and the local area.

What made you decide to join Allica Bank?

The opportunity to be part of a team launching and building a new bank doesn’t come around often. I thought it’d be an amazing way to test my skills and add to my experience.

As soon as I met the team, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. All along the way, this has felt special. The feedback we’ve got from customers and brokers is proof of that.

What’s something you’re most proud of?

In early-December, our team won three awards at the 2020 NACFB Awards. This is an amazing achievement given we’ve only been trading for a year, and it’s certainly unheard of for a new bank to win that many awards in one night.

As well as being named Commercial Mortgage Lender of the Year and Patron of the Year, I was especially proud that my colleagues and I were awarded Business Development Team of the Year, too. It’s just a shame we weren’t able to all be in the same room to celebrate!

Tell us more about your team

There's currently eight of us, with a great blend of different backgrounds and complementary personalities. That diversity is important – it allows us to support different types of brokers and businesses.

We’ve doubled in size during lockdown, which is great – but also strange. However, despite not having met some of my new colleagues, I already feel like I know them really well. Working from home, we’ve now all met each other’s families and seen where each other live – it’s actually a great way to bond.

How was your experience of Allica transitioning to lockdown?

One day we were out and about meeting brokers and their customers, and the next we were confined to our home office. That was tough.

But we didn’t have time to stop and think about it. Enquiries kept coming in, so we had to adapt fast. Our team was all of a similar mindset – we just cracked on.

More generally, I’d say we’ve handled it well as a company. Our leadership team cares a lot. They’ve been really supportive, making sure we’re coping on an emotional level, injecting a bit of fun whenever they can.

Anything you’re looking forward to next year?

Going back out on the road will be great. I can’t wait to visit our brokers and sit down for a coffee and a chat again. Listening to partners and customers is a really important part of what we do and that’s best done face-to-face.

What job did you want to have when you were growing up?

I always wanted to be an architect. I still get a buzz when I take a walk and see the work that’s gone into the design and construction of our city centres.

I’m a particular fan of older structures. Modern buildings are impressive feats of engineering, but you can’t beat the character and permanence of brick and carved stone.

You’re given a week off and can do whatever you want. What are you doing?

I’m fed up with grey skies and endless talk of the virus, so – providing there wasn’t a pandemic on, of course – I’d fly somewhere really hot like Dubai and put my feet up. That said, I’m always at the beck-and-call of my four-year-old daughter, so proper relaxation might not be an option!

What would you say to someone considering whether to apply for a job at Allica?

I’d say go for it. Allica is a new business with so much potential and it’s a great time to join given the products and services we have live and in development.

We’ve got a great, experienced team at the helm taking us in the right direction. The impact we’ve made in such a short time heralds great things for the future.

Fancy joining the Allica Bank team? We'd love to hear from you! Check out our careers page to find out how.

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