The bank with the community at heart

29 March 2023

Being one of the biggest banks in Sweden, Handelsbanken’s Grimsby branch is using a different approach than your everyday UK high-street bank. Instead of focusing on product campaigns, sales targets and bonus incentives, the team is driven by their sustainable values, building long-term relationships with their customers and delivering a service that is truly bespoke. The Link visited the office at Handelsbanken Grimsby to learn how they keep their customers and community close. 

"We’re rooted in the local community and work to a ‘church spire’ principle, meaning that ideally, we should be able to see all our customers from the top of the local church spire. This means our customers are located close by geographically. In our case, from Grimsby to Louth and surrounding parts of North East Lincolnshire. This way, we keep our customers close and know what’s going on in the area.“ says Julie Williamson, Branch Manager at Handelsbanken Grimsby. 

Several of the nine team members have a background in working for High Street banks, and they think that Handelsbanken’s strategy differs significantly. 

“At many High Street banks, if a customer wants a relationship service with a dedicated manager, they may have to meet a certain criteria, this may be turnover, income or a certain level of deposits.  They often view their business from a transactional perspective, and meet with clients for specific reasons, such as them needing a loan or a mortgage. Handelsbanken is very different from that.” Julie says and explains:

“Handelsbanken’s priority is to build and nurture long-term relationships with our customers; by staying and growing with them through their financial lifecycles. We see ourselves as a ‘relationship bank’, we speak to our customers regularly, educate them and review their finances together on a yearly basis.” 

The team organises discussions and seminars on a regular basis, where customers and local professionals can meet and discuss current issues. “It could be a seminar or a breakfast discussion where we invite local professionals to chat with us about the local economy, current and upcoming trends, or educational seminars for our customers about inheritance tax planning.”

Other events are of a more festive nature. The team especially enjoys showing their Swedish identity by inviting customers to enjoy Swedish traditions and celebrations. “We just had a St Lucia event in December, where we invited customers to come in for snacks, drinks and to catch up with the team and other customers.” 

The Swedish heritage is not only visible in the open events, but also in the office and internal organisation. “We try to work by and live the Swedish culture. Colleagues from the UK go to a conference in Sweden every year, and when you first start a leadership role you get to go to Sweden as part of your introduction. We also have a fika every Friday with mandatory IKEA cinnamon buns.”

The team at Handelsbanken is not only looking after its own customers, but the whole community. Every year, they join forces and spend a day doing charity work. “The Bank encourages all staff to take an annual Corporate Social Responsibility day, which we can use to support a local charity, such as the local foodbank or a homeless shelter. We can also raise money for a charity, and Handelsbanken will match the amount we raised.”

Handelsbanken’s initiatives seem to be a success. According to Julie, the events usually have a great turnout, and the customer circle keeps growing, even without any form of marketing. “I think we have a really good reputation in the marketplace. Instead of relying on marketing campaigns, our business comes from existing customers and local professionals recommending us to their customers. It’s all word of mouth referrals, and these words seem to be in our favour”. 

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