ONE look at his management profile confirms that Alan Hughes has made a seismic impact on the world of banking. Having been there and done it he has not so much worn the T-shirt as organised the manufacturing process, chosen the design and materials, and personally motivated the machinists with a sprinkling of his entrepreneurial stardust.
Naked Leader is very proud, pleased and excited to announce that Alan will be speaking at the Naked Leader Conference in October, where he will enlighten delegates on the success story that is First Direct. As chief executive of the UK banking giant his is a story worth listening to.
In his exalted role he has trebled its size and made it profitable whilst increasing its lead as the UK’s most recommended bank. He increased employee engagement and was in the top 50 of the Sunday Times Top 100 employers. Alan also introduced its internet and deposit-backed offset mortgage services, while as general manager in charge of marketing, products, pricing, customer service, economics and research at HSBC Bank PLC, he led the re-branding from Midland Bank.
That’s just the half of it – and his leadership skills, like Naked Leader founder David Taylor, prompted an invitation to become a visiting lecturer at Warwick University where he was awarded Outstanding MBA Teacher of the Year for four consecutive years from 2008. He advises and speaks on the subject as well as marketing and customer service and has advised the National Health Service on leadership and the BBC Governors on developing accountability.
So what are his tips for being a successful leader?
They can be summed up in a single word – confidence.
‘If you are truly leading, by definition you are doing something that others are not doing,’ he says. ‘What that requires is confidence. Not arrogance and not necessarily being opinionated. Just confidence and self assurance and the belief that what you are trying to implement is appropriate and the right thing to do.
‘The incumbents will tell you, and this is my experience with First Direct, that you are wrong, that it’s a mistake. Then when it works and you become successful, they can’t believe it’s true, they think it must be all smoke and mirrors, that it’s impossible to make money. Even people who have a vested interest 10 years down the line are still saying it.
‘So that’s confidence, not bravery, a self-assurance.’
That poise and fortitude is bred throughout First Direct and is at the heart of Alan’s agenda when dealing with such a crucial aspect as customer service.
‘Yes, a customer will want to know aspects of a product such as price, but what they really want is to feel confident,’ adds Alan. ‘When you phone First Direct you can hear the confidence in the person you are speaking to. They aren’t reading from a script, it is their own initiative and they believe in what they are saying and that shines through.
‘Leadership is the confidence to go somewhere different and to instil that in people. It is also the confidence you inspire in others that makes the difference.
‘Whether that’s 10 people or 4,000 it’s a shared context.
‘To a small business it comes naturally and only when you get into the 100s and 1000s does it become more difficult.
‘So the role, the behaviour, of leadership has to change as an organisation grows. The underlying aspect is confidence, in your own mind, in knowing that what you are doing is right.’