ANITA Crowther is back in Huddersfield – and she’s more than happy to be here!
The 38-year-old Heckmondwike mother of two became manager of the town centre branch of the Yorkshire Bank only in June, but knows the town well from earlier in her career when she worked at the New Street site for a couple of years.
“I didn’t know that 12 years later I would be back at the branch in a different role, but it is good to be here,” she says.
“I think the town is growing, which is partly thanks to the development of the university. The shops are full and Huddersfield feels like a town where there is an awful lot going on and a lot to get involved in.”
One of Anita’s aims following her return to Huddersfield is to get to know her fellow professionals in the town through the many regular networking sessions and events such as the forthcoming Kirklees Business Conference at the Galpharm Stadium.
“Huddersfield is a much busier town that some of the others I have worked in,” she says. “It is very friendly and welcoming.”
The Yorkshire Bank has been part of the Huddersfield business community for many years and Anita values its strong local ties.
The New Street branch was refurbished a few years ago to make the most of its Victorian decor, creating more space and light. The branch has several rooms for customers to talk to branch staff – with each room named after “local heroes” such as Harold Wilson, Roy Castle and James Mason.
The Yorkshire Bank is part of the National Australia Banking Group, which also owns the Clydesdale in the UK.
But Anita says: “We began as the Penny Bank in Halifax and we have retained our Yorkshire identity. Many of our customers have been with us for many years. Looking after the customer and meeting their needs are our priorities. We strive to provide exceptional customer service and we seek to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
“Banking has changed because it is not always necessary to go into a branch to do everything. There is internet banking and telephone banking, but we still value local branches. In the current climate, customers are coming in for advice and they are thinking more deeply before making financial choices.
“There are 20 staff at Huddersfield with a team of 16 in the bank as well as a savings specialist and a mortgage adviser. We also have a business banking unit.
“Part of my job is to make sure the staff are highly motivated, to help them progress their careers as they move onwards and upwards. Services and sales are our top priorities and to have the team in one location makes communication much easier.
“We have good morale in the branch with a good mix of people with different interests.”
The branch is proud of its community links. The Yorkshire Bank is working with its charity partner Help for Hospices, which means Anita and her team have linked up with Kirkwood Hospice at Dalton.
“We have had a number of fundraising events,” says Anita. “Ten members of staff took part in It’s A Knockout at the DRAM Centre in Dalton and raised £600, which the bank will match.”
Bank worker Sarah Whitworth aims to overcome her fear of heights by taking part in a 10,000ft sky-dive on September 18 to raise cash for the hospice. The bank is helping to boost Sarah’s takings with a cake sale this Friday when a hospice stall will also be set up.
“It is very important to support communities and good causes,” says Anita. “It is something we are keen to do and we enjoy doing as an organisation. It is not just about raising money, but giving back through volunteering.”
Anita’s career with the Yorkshire Bank began 20 years ago after she completed A-levels at Heckmondwike Grammar School.
“I was wondering which career path to follow,” she says.”As a small girl I’d wanted to be a vet, but I had become interested in banking. I applied for a place on a management development programme with the Yorkshire Bank, which provided full training from cashier upwards.
“I wanted to go to work rather than go to university and the programme still gave me the opportunity to study.”
Anita started working at the Dewsbury branch, where she completed most of her training. She was at Dewsbury for seven years, during which time she qualified as an associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.
Anita moved to Huddersfield, where she spent a couple of years before becoming branch manager at Heckmondwike. She went on to become a sales manager looking after five West Yorkshire branches and later took responsibility for 10 sites before the opportunity came to return to Huddersfield as manager. “It was too good an opportunity to miss,” says Anita. “Huddersfield is one of the biggest branches in the network and it is a great place to work. It is a flourishing town. The retail side of banking is very busy and every day is different. You meet a lot of interesting people.”
Anita is unusual in being a “job-share” branch manager. With two small children – George, six, and four-year-old Ruby – she finds sharing duties with colleague Helen Toon provides the ideal work-life balance.
“We have always worked quite closely together and we have similar ways of working,” says Anita. “We make a good management team.
“Job-sharing meant that after I had the children I could continue my career at the same level,” says Anita. Working Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays leaves lots of time to spend with the children.
“We get involved with all the usual children’s activities,” says Anita. “George is a typical boy, who wants to play football, while with Ruby everything’s got to be pink! We go camping, cycling and walking in the Lake District. George also goes to watch Huddersfield Town.”
Anita is also a Guide leader at a Guides unit in Dewsbury, having been involved with the movement since Brownies. “I enjoyed it when I was young and I continue to enjoy taking the Guides through the Guides programme now,” she says. “It is a way of giving something back and it is fun. Guiding touches on a lot of skills and provides people with opportunities they might never have had otherwise.”