Firing line  

‘I think I’m the only black board member of a UK building society’

‘I think I’m the only black board member of a UK building society’
Bobby Ndawula, group finance director of Skipton Building Society

Skipton Building Society has very much “dialled up” on diversity and inclusion over the past few years, according to group finance director Bobby Ndawula. But the executive director says there is more progress to make across the industry.

“I think I’m the only black board member in the 43 building societies in the UK, so I think there’s some further work to do.

“If people can see – be it if it’s people from ethnic minorities and women, especially in the executive director role - the more people can see people like them, it really unearths talent. I think it has changed quite a lot but there’s still more to go.”

The society, which is one of more than 330 signatories to the Women in Finance Charter, also employs a diversity lead to focus on diversity and inclusion, which Ndawula says has driven the society forward on a number of fronts.

“If I think back to when I joined, none of those things were apparent. I think that’s not just from Skipton, but I think right across the industry.”

Ndawula has worked his way up to the board since joining from KPMG as a project manager in 2003.

One of the things that has kept him at Skipton for the past 18 years, he says, is the challenge.

“For me it’s ensuring that I always have that challenge, and feel like I’m making a difference. So right from when I started back in 2003 – my first project manager role in finance – I was responsible for moving us from the UK GAAP [Generally Accepted Accounting Practice] to IFRS [International Financial Reporting Standards].

“And I found that a really big challenge, because I had to manage upwards in terms of people who were much more senior than me in terms of their area of expertise, but probably didn’t know as much in terms of accounting standards. So influencing them was a really big challenge.

“Providing I feel like I’m making a difference, adding value, [being] challenged, I think that’s the thing that keeps me at Skipton at the moment. And I guess that’s the advice I’d give to anyone.

“Providing you feel like you’re making a real difference, your views are valued and you feel that you’re helping to build something special, I think as long as that continues, it’s good to stay around.”

One of the main changes that Ndawula has seen during his almost two decades at Skipton is the scaling down of the group.

“In the lead up to the financial crash back in 2007-08, the Skipton Group was much bigger than it was now. The breadth was much wider in terms of the companies that we had.”

In 2010, for example, the society sold Advance Mortgage Funding, now trading as Primis Mortgage Network, to LSL Property Services, and in 2014 its mortgage servicing subsidiary Homeloan Management to financial administrator Computershare.