Dragging the Dudley into the 21st century

So far these “radical” changes to modernise the 156-year-old mutual have included redesigning the logo, investing in IT and refurbishing its six branches. According to Mr Wood, who was born and bred in Dudley, the society had dipped in profitability when he took over from his predecessor, Geoff Caves, and urgent work was needed to resurrect the brand.

The goal, he said, was to re-establish the society as a “proper local business”. Although he was given no specific mandate when handed the reins, his first step as chief executive was to analyse the image and effectiveness of the mutual and make changes accordingly, without undermining its original ethos.

He said: “We tried to establish what we wanted Dudley Building Society to look like and then went out implementing the strategies.

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“Modernisation was a key part of it, whereby we took the good from what has been there for the past 156 years and tried to integrate that with what the members are looking for today. If you are going to attract a younger generation we need to do things slightly differently.

“We changed the branding, the logo, to bring it into something slightly more modern.

“When I took over, the profitability of the society had dipped significantly and we wanted to make sure the lending was well controlled. There has been a tidying up of our loan book and investments have been made into the company.”

Even though Mr Wood has been keen to attract younger members, he was also respectful of the society’s loyal followers. In the future he said he would like to create an online banking service to serve the growing number of internet users, before adding that postal and branch communication would always exist to serve the needs of others.

During his first two years in the role he also spent a lot of time with his new staff, who he characterised as a key part of the mutual’s image.

To help them understand the direction he wanted to take the organisation into, he introduced six core values for all employees based on empowerment, respect, innovation, responsiveness, community and commitment.

Different perspective

By introducing these values, he said the society could separate itself from competitors and promote a sense of challenging the norm. However, he was also keen to add that no brainwashing was involved, with the values serving instead to “inform the staff of what they might like to think about”.

The big changes that Mr Wood has so far brought in can to some extent be linked to his experiences working for bigger organisations. Although he accepted the limitations of working for a much smaller company, he added that his 20-year spell at Nationwide gave him a different perspective on how businesses are run.

He said: “It can be hard making the transition to something smaller because there were a lot more resources there. You cannot behave like larger organisations like Nationwide, obviously, but in many respects you still have got to be very clear about your regulatory requirements and involvements and you have got to make sure your customers are getting the right deal.”