AS more and more people come to rely on the convenience of digital banking services, and branches disappear from the high street, one man is out to ensure that Erewash can always handle its money with a personal touch.
Thomas Lane, 23, is the borough’s first community banker, employed by NatWest to deliver services wherever customers want them, and spread the word about good financial practice.
He said: “Its a new role which NatWest introduced last year, there are 89 of us nationwide and I cover Ilkeston, Long Eaton and Derby city centre.
“Its an important role too, as the way that people do banking changes, and as we see more and more people living longer but perhaps unable to reach the bank. There is still a need for that face-to-face approach to doing business.
“A lot of it is down to personal preferences. It’s very particular to each customer. Some people just like being able to talk to someone. Others are really happy being able to things quickly online. We provide the full range of options so that everyone can choose what they want to do.
“No one expects the bank to come to them, they’ll be surprised. We’ve always changed what we do to meet customers’ needs and this is a brilliant new initiative.”
NatWest has been in the headlines in recent months after it announced plans to close hundreds of branches around the country, and many parts of Derbyshire have lamented the loss from their high street.
Thomas said: “I understand that, but even though a building is not there, we are making sure there is still a presence in the community.
“I’m spending a lot of time in the Ilkeston branch, and I see how much it is still valued. I can’t see it closing, and NatWest has said there will be no further closures before 2020.”
In attempting to replicate all the traditional services without the traditional counter, Thomas’ role is wide-ranging. A typical week involves everything from school assemblies to home visits, drop-in clinics, and talks to community organisations.
He said: “The bank is aiming to train one million people in the UK by 2020 about common banking scams, how to spot them and stay safe and secure. We’re starting from children all the way up.”
Giving people the confidence to enter the new era of banking is one of the biggest hurdles for the industry and Thomas is dealing with that on the front line.
He said: “One of the biggest challenges of a new role is that not many people know about it. I’ve been ringing groups up and offering to come and talk about scams, and some people don’t quite understand why I’m calling.
“Once they’re engaged it’s all fine, and I really enjoying building that trust with individual customers and being out there as part of the community.”
In delivering services, Thomas gets to draw on five years of experience at NatWest, and many more of working with figures.
He said: “I began working in my mum and dad’s catering company in Nottingham, and I was always good at numbers. After that I began as a tech expert at NatWest, supporting customers as they developed the knowledge to use alternative ways of banking.
“Then I went to work in the Nottingham city centre branch as a cashier, customer service assistant and became a senior personal banker, talking customers through all the products we offer and building up relationships.”
He added: “There’s a different skill set involved now, especially doing things like talking to groups of children. If I tried talking to a Scout group like I do with a Probus group it wouldn’t work at all.”
To talk to Thomas about booking an appointment or any other service, call 07711763204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.