Tom is on a Lloyds Banking Group Degree Apprenticeship in Retail Banking. What has he discovered so far?
Starting out – ‘The light went on’
“I’m not even two years into my apprenticeship and already I’ve moved to another part of the country and been given my own high street branch to manage.
“You could say that I have my Nan to thank – she supported me in my decision to leave university early and to apply for a customer services job at my local branch.
“It’s like the light went on, the day I applied to join Lloyds Banking Group.”
Today – ‘New responsibilities’
“I’m proud to have the job title of Branch Manager. I’m responsible for the branch and I’m studying for a finance degree.
“The finance degree is a key part of my degree apprenticeship, hence the name, and it’s getting me interested in the relationship between politics and the financial markets.
“The extent to which one influences the other is fascinating, and the interplay is complex.
“In fact, I’m developing such an interest in that it may even influence my next career move, which is fine.”
Top tip – ‘Keep being who you are’
“I go to gym most days, and it makes me stronger – I love it, it’s good for me.
“But this apprenticeship, this management position and this degree are showing me strengths that the gym can’t.
“Part of you thinks that when you’re made a branch manager you should change and become someone else.
“But no – you should keep being who you are, building relationships, managing people your way and being true to yourself, which is why they hired you.
“This how I’m becoming a leader and discovering more depths to my character.”
Awareness – ‘Adopt and adapt’
“There’s an insight I’d like to share with you, which has really helped me.
“When you see traits that you admire in others, you can adopt and adapt them to suit your own personality.
“This doesn’t mean you become someone else, it’s just means you become an improved you.
“My apprenticeship is really helping me to gain these insights – and refine my softer skills – so that I can develop as a person and as a professional.”
My journey – ‘I’ve discovered so much’
“I’ve had a few promotions in my five years here. I started as in customer services in my hometown in Somerset and now I’m managing a branch in Surrey.
“The physical move from Somerset to Surrey is only about 200 miles, but it feels like an amazing journey where I’ve discovered so much in a very short period of time.
‘Along the way I’ve built relationships with some incredible characters – all very different – and been inspired by some great colleagues who’ve led and supported me.
“One of the things I’ve discovered is that my colleagues are generally very good at their jobs, but are they’re also very down to earth in their approach.
“What you see is what you get – and that’s important in a bank these days.”
Surprises – ‘Who’s going to walk through the door today?’
“Each day when I come to work, I wonder, ‘who’s going to walk through the door today?’ ‘What questions will they have?’ ‘How will I best answer them?’
“I also think about how I’m going to bring out the best in my colleagues at work – how can I inspire and manage them successfully?”
Strength – ‘Put yourself in their shoes’
“I’ve discovered one way to build the rapport that brings out the best in people is to ‘match’ with them.
“By that I mean find the common ground, speak their language, empathise with them, put yourself in their shoes.
“By doing this I’ve been able to create the right environments for having the best conversations – with colleagues, customers, managers, whoever – and they almost always have a positive outcome.”
Challenge – ‘Own and build the business’
“How would I sum up my job? Well, I see it as a fantastic opportunity to own and build a business.
“Obviously I don’t literally ‘own’ the branch but I have a sense of ownership, of responsibility, towards it. Every day I take positive steps to make sure it performs – and keeps on performing.
“I also use my strengths to motivate and develop my team so that we can be the best bank for our customers. We’re helping Britain prosper and it’s my job to do my bit. I’m proud of that.”
Development – ‘Be understood as a person’
“I’ve has a string of brilliant line managers who’ve understood me, not just as a colleague but also as a person.
“They’ve been really good at helping me to recognise the areas I need to work on. I’m currently working with a regional director who’s helping me to discover the type of leader I am.
“This has encouraged me to take a mental step back and look at bigger picture of myself. It’s made me aware of how I shape my actions, without feeling I have to fundamentally change who I am.”
Insight – ‘It’s about relationships’
“It really is about relating – the way you relate to others and the way they relate to you. I had one particular moment where I realised this, and my confidence grew enormously as a result.
“It was when I had to give a speech in front of 2,500 senior leaders, about my development journey as an apprentice.
“Before I took the podium, I thought, ‘they hired you for who you are, so just be who you are’. It was so much easier after that.”
Study – ‘BSc in Banking and Finance’
“Doing this degree apprenticeship is the best career decision I’ve made so far in my life.
“It’s given me confidence that I can achieve something, a good understanding of the banking industry, and many opportunities to get involved, help others and keep learning.
“Because it’s a degree apprenticeship, the Group pays for me to do my university studies for a BSc in Banking and Finance.
“The balance between work and study is good in this apprenticeship.”
Progression – ‘Keep saying yes’
“If you’re serious about progression, keep saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity.
“You’ll soon discover the Group is much bigger than its high street branches, and it likes to back keen people on their development journeys.
“I’m happy in retail banking management, but I’ve also shadowed colleagues who are working in other areas, and I’ve built contacts and relationships through this.”
Finally – ‘Follow your passion’
“If I decide to make a sideways move, I know the Group will support me. It’s brilliant like that – very open to me transferring my skills and being career-mobile.
“Since becoming a branch manager I’ve discovered a passion for politics and the financial markets, particularly the complex relationship that exists between the two.
“This has developed as my commercial awareness has developed. My apprenticeship has introduced me to broader views of business – especially through my Business and Finance degree studies.
“My advice to you would be to find and follow your passion. Get on a Lloyds Banking Group Apprenticeship and start discovering, learning, exploring – and above all, be yourself.”
The most important thing about managing a branch? Be yourself.