Ann Callan, Customer Adviser, Ulster Bank
What does your job entail?
As a customer adviser, my job is about talking to customers and understanding how we can help them. We offer all of our customers a Customer Service Review which highlights four important goals:
- How can we help make customers' money work harder?
- How can we help them save money?
- How can we help them to consider the importance of protecting themselves and their family against unforeseen events?
- How can we help them to achieve their goals from big life changing events, such as buying their first home, to setting achievable targets for paying their credit card bill?
We look at each customer’s individual circumstances to see how we can best help them.
Is it 9-5?
Traditionally banking has been about business hours, however, we try to offer our customers a flexible service. Often I meet with customers outside these hours to suit their schedule and this has helped me to build a loyal customer base. As part of our Customer Commitments we open branches on a Saturday and we offer a full service which has been very helpful to many of our customers.
How did you get into this line of work?
After finishing school, I started a Business Administration and French degree at Queen’s University Belfast; however, I always had an interest in banking, and two years into the degree I decided to leave and take up a junior role at Ulster Bank at the University Road branch, just across the street.
Outline your career to date?
I am celebrating 25 years of service with Ulster Bank this year and have spent all my time in customer-facing roles. I spent my first five years in University Road and undertook a variety of roles, from student officer to foreign exchange cashier, before learning an accounts and securities role in Newry. I was first appointed as a customer adviser nine years ago and I am currently based in Warrenpoint.
Tell us about your qualifications/training
I always tell people I have half a degree from my time at Queen’s! And during my time in the bank, I have completed a number of banking exams, including the Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice (CeMAP), which is awarded by the Institute of Financial Services and is the benchmark qualification for the industry.
I have also received extensive training in my role on all related compliance and regulatory practices. I think that the experience I have has been an education in itself and enables me to talk to customers from all walks of life — from bereaved customers to customers in financial difficulty — matters for which sometimes life experience is the best preparation you can have.
What qualities are required for your job — personal and professional?
You have to be customer-friendly, which means being approachable and professional at all times and a bit of humour can go a long way too!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A previous manager once told me that a good rule of thumb when lending money is to think ‘would I give this customer my own money?’ That advice has stuck with me throughout my career, reminding me that we need to lend responsibly in the interests of all involved.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to walk on Cranfield beach with my husband Paul. It’s a great way to relax after a hard day’s work. We enjoy going on holidays and I love to read when I get a chance.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I once featured on a billboard poster campaign in Rathfriland. It was to advertise the mortgage products available at Ulster Bank, but I am still amazed at the number of people who recognise me from it.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
I am constantly inspired by my nephew Jack who has Down’s Syndrome. He has faced many challenges, but he is always happy, full of fun and love for everyone. I love to be in his company (I think this feeling is mutual).