Creating trust with customers will be our biggest challenge, but the most important one6 mins read
By Mark Stephens, CEO of Allica Bank
When starting a bank, the most important thing you can have is trust. If you want people to deposit their money with you or use your products, it doesn’t matter how good your customer experience is if they don’t trust you.
At the very heart of this is integrity – a term that sits at the heart of Allica Bank’s three core values (alongside being straightforward, and collaboration). Whether it’s a customer, commercial finance broker, member of staff or contractor, people must have faith that what Allica says it will do, Allica does.
Having been granted our banking licence in September 2019, acting with Integrity will be critical to building this trust. Allica Bank might not have a long track record or a brand name most people recognise. But it can be done. We’re building a bank dedicated to empowering small businesses to succeed – we just need to show people that we mean it.
Being brought up in a military family, honesty and integrity were drilled into me from a very young age. I’m a big believer that you should treat people – internally and externally – as you want to be treated yourself. And in every business I have managed, I have done so with that ethos.
The way to achieve this is by being open and honest, even if it’s something people don’t want to hear. You have to get things out in the open and let people know what you’re going to do about it. I may not always get it right, but that must be the intention. Sometimes this has led to some people saying I can be a little too direct, but you have to say it as it is if you want people to trust you.
It’s a matter of consistency
The problem is that many people have lost faith in the wider financial services industry due to a lack of consistency. People don’t know what they should expect from their financial service providers anymore. And this is no more evident than with small businesses.
That’s not to say that the Big Banks don’t have integrity – I believe they do. But being such large organisations means the service drastically varies. It’s rare that a business owner can ring up and talk to one customer service representative about all the products they have with that bank. They’re more likely to find themselves being flip-flopped between departments, having to relay the same information over and over, and rarely with the same level of service.
To be able to properly trust a business, you should know what to expect every time you deal with them. I’ll give you an example. I recently bought my mum a new fridge from John Lewis. Now, I’m not a big shopper, and certainly no expert on kitchen appliances. But they gave me advice on the best product for my situation, with no pressure to make a sale, then came and fitted it a few days later. I chose them because this is exactly the service I expected and trusted them to provide. And they didn’t disappoint.
Big isn’t beautiful
When building Allica, I’ve always said that I don’t want to be the biggest. I want to be the best. My aim is to build a bank that is known for consistently providing great value for money and unbeatable customer service. A bank that is renowned for its integrity.
Of course, unlike John Lewis, we don’t have a large existing customer base that already knows who we are and what we stand for. We’re having to start from scratch. But, for me, that’s a great opportunity. We’re not trying to change a culture that already exists. We’re starting from anew.
We’re able to embed our values into the very heart of our organisation from day one. You can see this in our recruitment process, for example. We hire people based initially on their cultural fit with the business – how they match up to our values – and then look at their abilities. After all, you can train technical skills, but behaviour is much harder to teach.
Similarly, discussing our approach to integrity is widespread throughout Allica’s day-to-day operations. From employee performance reviews, induction material, meeting structures, and marketing collateral, they’re embedded from the ground up.
That’s why we decided on these values from the very beginning of Allica. Because it’s part of our DNA.
Staying true to our values
The small business community desperately needs a bank that can bring these principles to the table. Allica has a fantastic opportunity to use our cutting-edge technology and in-house human expertise to provide a sector-leading customer experience. But, most importantly, we can use them to build consistency and trust, too.
As any growing business can attest, staying true to your principles can be a trying task as you expand from 50 to 150, or even 1,000 staff. It takes real discipline to maintain that culture from the first to the last person, day in, day out.But, with the right will and determination, there’ll be no stopping us. Trust me.