The region’s biggest building society today announced details of its multi million pound investment programme, which is set to create a total of 100 new jobs in 2016, following on from the 80 new jobs introduced in 2015.
In addition to improvements to branches and infrastructure, the investment includes a wide variety of new positions across the Society and its wholly owned subsidiaries including Newcastle Strategic Solutions, which is one of the leading providers of outsourced savings management services in the UK. In addition to Customer Services roles, further positions will include additional development roles in IT and roles to support the growth of Newcastle Financial Services Limited, the financial advisory subsidiary; HR and mortgage operations. Fifty roles are immediately available and full details can be found at www.newcastle.co.uk
The Society is also planning to accelerate its investment in the way it delivers its service to customers with improvements to its branch network, telephone and digital offering all part of a £10m programme. The programme involves the opening of a number of new branches, a comprehensive upgrade to others and closure of some less well used facilities, plus a completely new website to be launched in the Spring and other technology and infrastructure upgrades.
The first phase of the plan has already seen three branches in the region upgraded. Cramlington and North Shields have been redeveloped, with a complete new look and much improved meeting space. At Chester-le-Street an entirely new branch now replaces a smaller and dated facility.
Two new city centre based Advice Centres will be opened in Newcastle and an innovative new strategic partnership with Stockton Borough Council is planned, which will enable the Society to re-establish a presence on Yarm High Street and offer traditional building society services and financial advice as part of a redeveloped library facility. The pilot is expected to be the first of a number of other community partnerships.
Significant changes are planned for the Gateshead area, where the Society will launch a new signature branch. The new branch will provide enhanced service to customers of the existing Gateshead and Low Fell branches which will be closed. As customers’ needs and behaviours change, inevitably some branches become less well used or viable. Due to falling usage at Wallsend and Heaton these branches will also be closed and customers will be welcomed at the recently upgraded North Shields branch and the new, city centre facilities. Operations at Newcastle’s Hood Street will be upgraded to an entirely new branch and Advice Centre, to be conveniently located at Portland House, close to the Laing Art Gallery and City Library. There are no redundancies anticipated as a result of the planned changes and all existing staff will be provided with the opportunity to step into roles, either in the branches or other available positions. Customers at individual branches will be kept up to date with the detailed changes as they are developed over the coming year.
The overall aim of the investment programme reflects customer feedback which shows that, whilst the use of online channels is increasing, people in the North East still value branches and the ability to speak to people when making important financial decisions. Andrew Haigh, Chief Executive, said: “Our strategy is to provide long-term member value and be a strong modern day, regional building society. This investment programme recognises the importance of offering members the choice of both digital and a modern and effective branch network. It is a long term commitment to help ensure that we can continue to offer our customers an excellent, face-to-face service within the communities in which we operate. This is a positive step for Newcastle Building Society as we continue to invest in developing our products and services to meet the changing needs of our customers.”
“Our new Advice Centres will provide readily available face-to-face investment, mortgage and protection advice and will be based in Newcastle City Centre. We recognise that customers want face-to-face advice and these facilities will allow us to focus on doing just that and over extended opening hours. Much of the investment in our branch refurbishment programme involves increasing the space available to cater for customers who want advice. This helps us provide a better experience, better value and more choice for customers.”
In addition to improving its physical presence in the region, the Society’s investment programme also extends to continued development of its digital services and telephony systems. An entirely new website, which will launch shortly, will include greater mobile functionality and more interactive financial content. The improvements extend to intermediaries who support the Society and who can now benefit from enhanced online business submission services.
Summarising the plans Andrew Haigh says, “This is an exciting time for Newcastle Building Society as we build upon the tremendous progress we have made throughout 2015 and we look forward to welcoming new staff to the Society team as we deliver these plans through 2016. This programme of investment will enable us to continue to provide excellent service and good value products to our members, who own the business, with increased choice as to how they engage with us, including a much improved branch network and digital offering.”