Jason Gledhill is particularly pleased with his new job.
A 25-year career in banking has taken him to almost every part of West Yorkshire, but he’s never worked in Huddersfield – until now.
And as the newly-appointed area commercial director for HSBC, covering Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield, he’s keen to get to know more about the town.
“I’ve been learning my new job with a new bank,” he says.
Mirfield-born Jason, 42, who has lived in Pontefract, Dewsbury and Morley, has joined HSBC from Barclays, where he was based in Manchester with the corporate banking team.
He began his career with Lloyds Bank in 1998 at Batley and went on to spend 20 years with the bank.
“I went to Ackworth School in Pontefract,” he says. “When I left school, I wanted to get out there and do things. I was what you might call an active learner! I had no wish to go to university, but I was attracted to the financial industry. I don’t really know why.
“My first job in the bank was making the tea and working on the counter.
“My path from there took me through retail banking to branch management positions working in areas like customer service and business banking. It gave me a good grounding in the nuts and bolts of the bank.”
There’s one major lesson Jason has taken to heart. He says: “In 1988, the ‘buzz’ phrase was ‘Customer First’. “Twenty-five years on, I still think in those terms. I ask myself ‘What would the customer think about the things we are doing?’ . Whatever a bank does, there is a customer at the end of it.”
Jason is settling into his role based at HSBC’s New Street branch.
“I’ve completed my 90-day plan learning about the organisation and I have met people in the organisation and our key customers,” he says. “After Easter, with all the internal planning done, I now have more time to be out and about.”
A key message he aims to get across is that all banks are not the same. Says Jason: “I joined HSBC because if I think I am really good at my job, I want to be with the best bank.
“Throughout all the problems the banking industry has faced, HSBC has continued to lend money. We loaned over £12bn to SMEs last year. We have grown lending by 3% when nationally it has fallen by 5%.”
Jason sees HSBC’s global reach and the fact that it avoided the fate of Government ownership that befell other banks as key to that success.
Its international connections are also helping UK firms to boost overseas trade.
Says Jason: “I have a team of people focused on domestic business and a team focused on international trade. If a company requires help in matters such as foreign exchange, we have people who really understand how that works.
“Not so long ago, we had a three-way video conference with a UK company that wants to trade in France and our HSBC colleagues in that country.
“One of our international managers has supported a company wanting to build a manufacturing facility in Brazil. We have used videoconferencing to link up with HSBC in Brazil to progress matters.
“As the BRIC economies, such as Brazil, develop with a growing middle class with money to spend, we are seeing trade opportunities growing all the time.”
Closer to home, Jason is getting to know Huddersfield’s professional community through networking events. “I have already attended the legendary First Friday Club,” he says. “HSBC has a lot of established links with local businesses and the professions. Now I am finding out about the people we work with.”
He has also been taking soundings from customers about the current economic climate.
“People still see trading as tough,” says Jason. “These are still difficult times, but those businesses involved in manufacturing – particularly advanced manufacturing – selling domestically or internationally seem to be doing okay.
“There are a lot of companies that are no longer going in reverse – they are starting to grow and be profitable.”
Says Jason: “We keep hearing that the banks or closed for business. But four out of five small business loans are being approved. We are open for business and we want to help businesses grow. We want to talk.
“If it is a good business with good management generating cash then we want to help.”
Says Jason: “Throughout my banking career, I have always liked working with businesses that make things. You see something going into the back door of a factory that you don’t recognise – and see something coming out of the front door that you can see and understand. It’s great to be able to say you have helped that happen.”
While Huddersfield is the centre of Jason’s working day, home – for the present – is in Rossendale. “I’m from Yorkshire and my wife is from Yorkshire – and she’s keen to move back,” Jason says.
The family’s principal sporting allegiance is to rugby league club Leeds Rhinos, although Jason plays rugby union with Rossendale.
“I used to play as a junior for Featherstone and Morley rugby league clubs,” he says. “Now I play ‘social’ rugby and help coach the under-12s team, where my son is a player.
“When I was 23, I broke my leg quite badly playing rugby and I played golf instead.
“I came out of retirement because my son got involved at Rossendale and I was asked to play. I hadn’t been on the pitch two minutes when I scored a try. I thought; ‘I can still do this!’
“I play on the wing because that way I can always pass the ball to someone else or kick it into touch to avoid a tackle!”
Jason also watches football and cheers on Nottingham Forest. “My brother was a Liverpool fan in the late 1970s, so I took the next-best team at the time, which was Brian Clough’s Forest.
“I always look out to see how Huddersfield Town and the Giants have done, though.
“It is good for any town to have successful sports clubs. Town and the Giants help put Huddersfield on the map and when they win it puts a smile on people’s faces.”