Ulster Business

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Leaders in Business: Aisling Press, Danske Bank


Aisling Press

Aisling Press

Aisling Press

Aside from the considerable pressures dealing with face-to-face customer support amid the coronavirus crisis, Aisling Press has responsibility for 650 staff and some 400,000 personal banking customers across Northern Ireland.

The Downpatrick woman took up her post as managing director of personal banking at Danske Bank as the pandemic set in. And it was a period like no other for essential workers, and ensuring both customers and colleagues were safe and taken care of.

“(The period) was hugely challenging and rewarding. I was very keen to be involved,” Aisling told Ulster Business. “It was very clear what the challenge should be – there was working from home from the UK Government, but I had to bring 300 people out every day to the front line to maintain services for customers.”

Aisling’s banking career began straight out of school, when she joined AIB – where she would work until joining Danske Bank more than five years ago.

Since then, alongside her titles and career progression, she’s undertaken a raft of leadership qualifications and those focused on her personal career development – from financial services qualifications, to a master’s degree in executive leadership and studying as part of the Clinton Institute at Queen’s University in Belfast.

“Personal banking includes our branch network, our local contract centres… we have a private banking team, under-writing mortgage team, direct mortgages and local mortgage consultants here in NI.

“We have 400,000 (personal banking) customers, which is around 20% of the market.

“I spent 29 years with AIB before I came across to Danske bank. Up until that point I had a few different roles… across business banking, head office operations, transitional projects – and predominantly leading large numbers of people. That’s what my passion is.

“During Covid I communicated all day, every day – everything was about that. With our front end, there were people in branches – we created processes to service customers, keeping them safe.

“We had to mobilise part of our contact centre to work from home.”

Aisling says “leadership had to be front and centre of everything”. “They needed to know what was happening and have visibility.”

She said that included lots of training, retraining and new skills being taught amid a changing environment.

As far as her own style of leadership goes, Aisling says she’s “not a micro-manager but a hands-on manager”.

“I think they are two very different things. I trust the people on my team to do the managing, and I have to – with 650 people it simply wouldn’t be possible.

“I believe in a huge amount of communication and visibility as a leader.

“The days of giving people the company goals and then stepping back are long gone. We have a very different work space.”
She says Covid-19 highlighted the need for enhanced emotional support and consistent and clear communication.

“We joined the Best Companies index in 2020. We want to be a great company to work for. We came out as a two-star ‘Outstanding’ company, but we have bigger ambitions.

“It feeds into our training – we have accredited coaching, leadership training, we have our Belong network, Gender Diversity, our Disability Network, Gender Diversity, our Rainbow Network, domestic abuse policy and family and parenting policies. We do a huge amount of work in that people space.”

Looking ahead, Aisling says the company goals include “helping customers, colleagues and communities thrive”.

“It’s hugely important to us and we monitor it very closely. We are investing a huge amount in digital as it’s what customers want, and Covid has accelerated that.

“We don’t aspire to be like a Starling or Monzo – we can offer digital support to customers, but with a very local edge.”

And there’s also a strong focus on the ever-emerging ‘green’ agenda – something which is now part of a large organisation’s day-to-day thinking. That includes bringing in a carbon neutral mortgage as well as heading towards carbon neutrality in the near future.