Mix human-centred design with culture activism and you get a bank with a unique people value proposition

The principles of human-centred design might not be what people immediately associate with high street banks, but challenger GB Bank is doing things differently. This new specialist bank is dedicated to regenerating communities across the UK by providing much needed property development finance with incentives for sustainable and zero carbon developments. GB Bank is focussed on building communities and the management team is focused on building its own team community by making its workplace the best its people have ever experienced. Here Chief People Officer Jenna Baker talks about the bank’s progressive journey and its approach to become one of the most flexible employers in the financial sector.

“From day one we have been focused on our culture, creating an authentic people orientated organisation. This is something which I believe sets us apart as a start-up because many organisations only consider this stage when they start to grow. Our people value proposition has been an important part of the business strategy from the start. “Starting out during a pandemic has made this more challenging, adapting to remote working and the fast growth of our team. However, we recognised immediately the increased need to cement our mission, vision, and values. The extra work required to achieve this has been invaluable. This was the first step on the journey to adopting human- centred design; from then on we moved to creating our policies with our people, not for them. It has been a game changer.

“Take flexibility, which is one of the things we have always embraced and is something our team thrives on. Everyone owns their own time, and it can be quite hard sometimes for new starters to adapt to the fact we don’t work a typical 9-5 day. “Everyone, including our senior management team, is responsible for managing how they get the job done to suit their life. We believe this is one of the reasons why everyone at GB Bank feels so passionate about their work. We live and breathe this flexible working environment everyday, so we know how well this works, but we were delighted when it was independently verified by Flexa100’s list of the world’s most flexible companies! GB Bank is #69 in the list and is the only UK bank to have received this recognition from Flexa – something we are extremely proud of.

“Our recent culture survey backs this up and is an authentic and powerful indicator of how our people feel about working for GB Bank. 97% of our people have said they would recommend GB Bank as a great place to work and believe the leaders (Executive Committee) at GB Bank demonstrate that people are important to the company's success “Our culture is unique and it's what makes us special. However, we are not resting on our laurels – we are aware it can be hard to maintain this unique culture as we grow, and we are growing at a rapid rate! To help us we have created a ‘Culture Activist’ initiative. Our Culture Activists are colleagues who are accessible to all of the team and listen closely to their opinions and needs. We want our values to be authentic and for every person to understand they play an important part of how we evolve to being the best place to work. “Culture Activists support all people and receive vital feedback on what is and isn't working. They also generate great ideas – one of the most recent is welcome e-mail. This includes all the smiling faces of our team with tailored welcome messages to make our new joiners feel part of the GB Bank family. We also use a fantastic on-boarding system called HiBob. It’s the little things in there that really make the difference to a new starter, for example there is a specific area that answers all the questions that people often would like to ask but deem a bit ‘silly’. Having these answered up front can help give peace of mind and makes people immediately feel at home and part of the team.

“We’re at such an exciting part of our journey. We recently secured our provisional banking licence and our aim is to launch preferential rates for sustainable and zero carbon developments and developers. Our prestigious new offices have also now opened and reflect our culture perfectly with a fresh design that has created an office space into a creative, agile, and empowering environment to work.

“Our people will always be the foundation of our success and our current recruitment drive is focused on attracting more brilliant talent who will also help us achieve our dream of being of the best team-designed places to work in the UK.”

“We know that a big part of a person’s decision to join, or stay with, a company comes down to its culture and ethos and our journey and approach shows how passionate we are to be the best and most flexible place to work.”