A former make-up artist and mother to a little girl, Jen now works on the Direct Channels team at Bank of Ireland. We caught up with her to talk about how she made her career move, what she enjoys about working at Bank of Ireland and how you can follow a similar career path.
Can you tell me about your background? When did you first get interested in a career in banking?
It’s funny because my background is totally different. I studied to be a fully qualified make-up artist and worked for a year in over the counter sales.
I really enjoyed the customer interaction but I found the sales aspect challenging. The targets were unattainable, and I felt the emphasis on customer satisfaction got lost along the way. I felt it was time for a career change and a friend of mine who worked in Bank of Ireland suggested I apply for a job there.
I started my career with Bank of Ireland as a customer service representative focusing on 365 banking queries. I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment and engaging customers on a one to one basis.
Once I settled into the position, I got an opportunity to improve my skillset with the Institute of Banking. With both financial and study support from Bank of Ireland, I completed my APA and ultimately my QFA. Once accredited I applied for an internal position within Personal Lending, where I currently work as an advisor.
What skills are important to excel in your career?
- Actively listening to each customer ensures that you know exactly what they need and enables you to deliver the best service possible.
- Problem-solving. With lending, the queries can sometimes be complex so being able to communicate and think logically is important. It’s important to be able to recognise the root of each issue to ensure positive action for your customer.
- Communication is probably the most important component of this role. As this is a phone-based position, it is vital to relay all information to customers clearly and accurately. If you ensure all lines of communication are clear, then you can easily build up a rapport with each customer.
Talk us through a typical day at work: Is it a regular 9 – 5? What are your day to day tasks?
Each day varies, but within Direct we are continuously busy! There is never a dull moment and the days fly in. For the most part, I take inbound calls, any outbound calls are mainly following up with customers who have submitted online applications.
The inbound calls can vary in subject and of course length! Some customers will simply be looking for an update on the status of their existing application and others will require you to complete a full application and credit risk assessment. I could take on average 25 calls per day and I act as a trusted advisor to my customers at all times.
I really enjoy building a rapport with them and want to fully understand their individual requirements. As you settle into the role, you quickly become an expert in your space and resolving customer queries becomes second nature.
Becoming an expert in your area and having a working knowledge of Bank of Ireland overall is hugely important.
As I have worked with Bank of Ireland since 2012, a priority of mine would be identifying my customer’s needs and discussing other relevant Bank of Ireland products which suit those needs and will ultimately make their lives easier.
What’s your favourite part, or parts, of your job?
There’re a few different things;
- I really enjoy the role overall. Getting to process & approve loans for customer’s brings great job satisfaction.
- The convenience. I have a little girl, so the work hours and location are perfect. The parking is free too which makes a big difference.
- The team around me is great and everyone gets along with each other, in some of my previous jobs, this wasn’t the case.
- The team leaders in Bank of Ireland are very supportive and want to develop their staff.
- The career advancement is fantastic. The opportunity to constantly upskill and increase your education is amazing.
What’s one thing someone from outside your industry would find surprising about your day to day work life?
You don’t need to have sales experience or banking experience to do the job, the most important part is the APA/QFA qualifications and a customer-centric approach.
You are trained and developed in each area and become very comfortable in the day to day job. Although the team falls under Direct Sales, it is certainly not your typical sales job.
There is no cold calling involved and our SLA’s are very achievable. The overall aim is to deliver the best for our customers, and ensure we match their individual needs.
What’s the opportunity for progression?
I started in a customer services role and progressed into the role of Personal Lending Advisor. From this area, you could follow a pathway into Mortgage Advisory or Small Business and Agri- Lending.
This is just one progression path that’s available but everyone finds their own niche and the opportunities cover a broad spectrum.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work as a lending advisor?
I would say go for it! Bank of Ireland is a great place to work and the opportunities are endless. To get involved in Direct Channels you need to have completed your APA exams. If you haven’t or are planning on doing them still, get in contact as there are often opportunities to fast track this process!