In profile: An illustrious banking career which began at branch in Norwich
08:00 16 April 2014
He began his career at the Lloyds branch in Gentleman’s Walk, Norwich, in what he describes as the ‘Captain Mainwaring era of banking’. Thirty-eight years on, Graham Lindsay’s role as a group director sees him striving to restore some of the traditional values that existed when he started. Stephen Pullinger reports.
It is a high-flying career that has seen Graham Lindsay take his family to all parts of the country but he has never lost his affection for his home city of Norwich – and still avidly follows the fortunes of the football club.
However, while he has watched the ups and downs of the Canaries over the years he is painfully aware of the fact that the reputation of bankers has – in recent times – been more of a Pompey-style slide.
And that is something he is passionately keen to address in his role as Lloyds group director for responsible business which he took up two years ago.
He said: “When I started out, the three members of the community held in the highest respect were the vicar, the doctor and the bank manager. In the intervening years, it is undoubtedly the bank manager’s reputation which has suffered the most.
“I am intent on taking our industry ‘back to the future’ and reminding ourselves of some of the values of the past.”
While enshrining some of these values in a new responsible business report, entitled Helping Britain Prosper, Mr Lindsay, 55, is keen to point out that “not every element was right in the Captain Mainwaring era”.
“It was very parent/child. Our parents used to dress up to go and see the bank manager,” he said.
The former Norwich School organ scholar, who grew up in Rocelin Close, Old Catton, said there was no history of bankers in his family.
His father John had been in charge of the joint Norfolk and Norwich councils computer department installing the very first computer system – but he was drawn to the profession having visited the Bank of England as a teenager.
Disappointing teachers that he did not want to pursue music or go to university he applied to local banks – “I did not want to work in London” – and Lloyds offered him a job at its branch in Gentleman’s Walk, Norwich.
“I started in the long hot summer of 1976. I remember walking into the machine room – 16 girls and me – and sorting cheques into alphabetical order,” he said.
Mr Lindsay said he always had a real passion for the customer and relished the fact that he had a longer time on the counter and in the machine room than he would have had as a graduate entrant.
“What I gained in those first two years was a real sense of perspective and a deep understanding of what we ask our staff to do,” he said.
He is pleased to see the opportunity of starting at a more junior role and climbing in seniority to the top re-emerging with the bank now committed to a programme of apprenticeships and active recruitment at all levels.
During a meteoric rise, Mr Lindsay was promoted to his first managerial appointment at Leadenhall Street in London at the age of 26. And by the time he became the senior manager at Harrogate in North Yorkshire, the father of two recalled his young family had already completed five house moves.
Since then Mr Lindsay has gone on to lead significant branch networks and been HR director and interim head of marketing functions.
Following the HBoS merger in 2009, he sat on the retail board heading up the customer experience and communications functions for the retail bank; more recently, before his current role, he had been the commercial and mortgage director for Lloyds TSB and Bank of Scotland.
Since moving from Buckinghamshire to the Suffolk/Essex border he has become a Canaries’ season ticket holder again and regularly visits the city to see his father, now 85, and his sister Jane, a nurse in Norwich for 33 years.
He has become the Lloyds Banking Group ambassador for East Anglia, liaising with MPs, journalists and such groups as local economic partnerships.
The enforced bailout of the banks left the public angry and bewildered about the enormity of what had happened.
New words such as sub-prime lending entered the common vocabulary and, in a twinkling, the reputation of bankers was dumped alongside used car salesmen and estate agents.
The wisdom of 125pc mortgage deals began to be questioned and government ministers led the attack on the ‘reckless lending’ of banks.
First one bank then the next wrote off eye-watering amounts as a result of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and the government was forced into unprecedented bailouts to save the very banking system from collapse.
Amid all the recriminations, it suddenly became aware to the public how far the wheel had turned from the days of the ‘Captain Mainwaring’ bank manager to whom their parents’ generation had turned for a mortgage in trepidation.
Pained by the huge dent to the reputation of his profession Graham Lindsay admits that everyone in the industry has to take a share of the responsibility – but he is equally adamant that bankers are not the “bad people” they have become in the public eye.
As the outlook for banks improves once again, he feels he is well placed to lead the big challenge of rebuilding customers’ trust. “After nearly 38 years in banking and having started in ‘the era of Captain Mainwaring’, I am well placed to understand the values of the past and to rebuild them for the future,” he said.
Mr Lindsay passionately hopes to leave a positive legacy in his new role as Lloyds group director for responsible business.
He is proud to take the leading role it gives him in the commitments the bank makes to its customers, staff, the community, environment and stakeholders.
And he hopes his roadmap to the future – a responsible business report entitled Helping Britain Prosper – will instil once again the best of the values that became second nature to him in Norwich’s Gentleman’s Walk branch.
The plan sets out seven key commitments in its quest to be “the best bank for customers”.
It pledges to help more customers get on the housing ladder; help customers plan and save for later life; take a lead in financial inclusion to enable all individuals to access the products and services they need to make the most of their money; help businesses to start up and scale up; help businesses and individuals succeed with expert mentoring; strive to bring communities closer together and better represent the diversity of customers.
Mr Lindsay also oversees community affairs and is responsible for the £85m budget the bank spends in and around the community.
He is proud that the bank managed 34,000 staff volunteer days last year, just one of many examples of work in the communities.
The group has also committed to send 20 staff a year for three years on 12 month secondments in deprived areas, helping communities connect with possibilities of support, for example from businesses or charities.
Mr Lindsay said: “One good example I can recall was in Tottenham where one of our staff was able to secure much needed carpet for a boxing academy for youngsters expelled from school from a local carpet manufacturer.”