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Area Four: Birmingham Municipal TSB 1979
 
Reproduction of images and article from the TSB staff magazine Banknotes
 
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Area Four of the Birmingham Municipal TSB covers the whole of the north of the city, from the top of Sutton Park to below Aston Park; and, west to east, from Holyhead to the Castle Vale Shopping Centre.

 

It is a spread of some 49 square miles, accommodating 19 of the Bank's branches (20, if one includes a sub-office in Fort Dunlop, open 14 hours a week, serving 1,750 TSB depositors there and cashing about 2,500 cheques a month).

 

Between them, the 19 branches handle a total of nearly 130,000 accounts and customers' cash balances in excess of 38.1 million - an increase of more than 3.2 million since November 20th, 1977.

 

The branches serve industrial complexes and commercial centres, hectic High Streets and exclusive shopping quarters; vast council estates and up-market residential areas.

Mr Howard W Powell, AIB, area manager, Area Four, Birmingham Municipal TSB. Born in Birmingham in 1918. Central Secondary School 1934-39; Worked in sales and buying department of local firm and GEC 1939; Joined  wartime Army and sent to France 1940-45; Prisoner-of-war 1945-47; Handled disposal of wartime surplus equipment, GEC, 1947; Joined staff of Birmingham Municipal Bank at Stechford branch. Progressed to No 2 and relief branch manager 1965-73; Appointed branch manager of Wheeler Street branch; subsequently in charge of Sparkbrook, Billesley, Aston Newtown and Harborne offices. 1974: Branch Inspector. 1975: Group Manager. 1976 - Area Manager. Married in 1947, Mr Powell and his wife , Joyce (former cashier and mortgage insurance aide with the bank), have two daughters: Lesley, married; and Jane, with the Home Office and attached to the Metropolitan Police in London. A church warden until recently, Mr Powell describes his interests as "reading and people".

                 THE FIGURES CONFIRM IT - GROWTH ALL ROUND

 

With customers' cash balances climbing above 38 million as the year approaches it end to show an overall increase of nearly 10 per cent - before interest - it was small wonder that Mr Howard W Powell, a manager of Area Four of the Birmingham Municipal TSB was a happy man.

 

Each of the 19 North Birmingham branches under his control was registering clear growth - ranging from a spectacular 45.37 per cent (October 20) for the handsome, recently opened Four Oaks branch to a modest 4.38 per cent for the embattled Lozells office, shorn of many of its onetime customers and now gradually restablishing itself in an immigrant community. It is Mr Powell who sets the targets for the area and for the branches taking all local factors into account.

 

"It's my job to motivate", he says. I have to ensure that the staff function as successfully as possible. But the credit for what they have achieved must go to them."The area concept is newer to the Birmingham bank than to most other TSBs. "In 1975," says Mr Powell", the bank launched a group system. The idea was that a senior and active branch manager ran not only his own branch but six or seven others as well. Thus there were eight  group managers to handle the bank's 70 branches. Out of this, in 1976, there evolved the four area system we now have, with the four area managers responsible for twice as many branches but freed from the branch management role."

 

The area managers meet once a month, generally with the bank development and marketing officer, Mr Alban Clemons, in the chair. "We're four individuals and we have four standards," observes Mr Powell. "But we carry out the bank's mainstream programmes and policies in more or less the same way, differing only in minor details of area management."

 

His office is tucked in behind the counter of the bustling Erdington branch, nosing into a roundabout at the head of energetic Erdington High Street, just over a mile from Spaghetti Junction. A staff (the area has 127) situation board tells him who's where - branch, on leave, ill, on a training course or on secondment to  another branch. The distance between some Area Four Offices is a longish stroll, between others it's a distant bus ride. So it's relatively easy for Mr Powell to shift staff between branches to meet an "emergency" .... given always that the relieving cashier can be spared.

Mr John Ward, AIB, manager of the Erdington branch. Born in West Bromwich in 1936. West Bromwich Grammar School 1953; joined staff of Birmingham Municipal Bank 1955-57; National Service (RAF) 1965-69; Relief branch manager 1969-75; Manager, successively, of Balsall Heath, Little Bromwich, Lozells and City branches; 1976 - Appointed Erdington manager. Married in 1959, Mr Ward and his wife, Sheila, have two daughters: Linda, 16, and Beverley, 11. A keen follower of sport, he plays the "occasional" 5-a-side game of soccer.

The staff of Erdington branch (left to right): Pat Stephens; Lesley Hemming; Pat Williams; Anita Richens; Geoff Malin (assistant manager); Carol Keast (on secondment from Lozells branch); Linda Everill; Diane Hardeman; Michael Potter.

 

The staff of Four Oaks branch (left to right):
Elizabeth Collins; manager Tom Murphy;  Wendy Cory.
The staff of Great Barr branch (left to right):
Diane Lewis; Judy Wilson; David Beards; Karen Goodwin (also seen below); manager Donald Coton; Jeanette Merchant.

 

Area Four branch inspector Mr Christopher L J Bolton, AIB. Born in Birmingham in 1940, King Edward's Grammar School, Aston, 1958-67; joined staff of Birmingham bank at HO, progressing to cashier at Kingstanding branch, 1967-71; Relief branch manager 1971-78; Manager, successively, of Balsall Heath, Holyhead, Witton, Ward End and Sheldon branches, 1978 - Present appointment. Married in 1962, Mr Bolton and his wife, Pauline, have a son, Simon, 8, and a daughter, Rebecca, 5. Gardening is his main relaxation but he enjoys country walks and swimming too.

 

       A SURPRISE FOR THE INSPECTOR

 

His appointment as a branch inspector in July last year came as something of a surprise to Mr Christopher Bolton. For he was 37 "and" he says, "this bank had never before had an inspector younger than 40. So although I hoped to be made an inspector in due course, I was rather taken aback that it happened so soon."

 

Mr Bolton rapidly discovered that his new post called for a deal more initiative than he had imagined. "We've a book of rules which tells us what to look at; and we've a report form. But apart from that, you are left very much to your own devices. By design. Nobody gave me a role. So, basically, I've had to create one for myself, excepting the fact that a lot of the work consists of examining the routine records of each branch to see that things are being done properly. I liaise with the superintendent of branches (called 'chief inspector' in other TSBs) Mr Norman Worwood, at Head Office, and am directly responsible to him."

 

The first reaction of Mr Bolton as he started in inspection was, he says, a sense of loss .... of a branch. "You're no longer the captain of your own ship. But soon you recognise that you've a lot of branches to look after and before long you're thinking in terms of 'my branches' instead of my branch."

 

Apart from matters directly related to customers, Mr Bolton is kept busy visiting the 19 branches in Area Four at a rate of about two a week. But just as often as he drops in on branches "just in case someone needs my help. For, he explains: "I try to be a link between Head Office and branches - someone to turn to for advice."

 

The staff of Lozells branch (left to right)
Bill Hancox; David Turner; Flo Norville; manager John Lafford.

     At home, right from the start

 

Without a doubt, Miss Karen Marie Goodwin is a most thorough young lady, she applied to all the personnel departments of all the major banks in Birmingham before plumping for a career with the Birmingham Municipal TSB. That was immediately after she left Dartmouth High School (in the city's Sandwell suburb) last June, armed with five O-levels and A-level French. She enjoyed maths, wanted a job that would bring her into constant contact with people and elected to go into banking.

 

 

But why TSB? "The Birmingham Municipal TSB personnel people were the only ones with whom I felt totally relaxed," she says. "I felt that I could be at home with the TSB." So on August 1, last year, 19-year-old Karen started work as a junior clerk at the Great Barr branch, thoughtfully close to her Great Barr home. In October she attended a week-long cashier's training course at Head Office and learned to operate a terminal. Next month she returns for another training session. Most of her training has been in-branch, however, and she is already on the counter. She also attends college every Tuesday on a day-release Banking Conversion course which includes accounts, economics, banking and law.

 

"As soon as possible, I want to do the Institute exams," she says. "Working for the TSB is all I expected it would be and I like it even more now that I'm on the counter. The customers seem to appreciate what one does for them and most of them are really pleasant. The TSB itself is certainly providing good competition to the other banks. It caters more for the individual and I'd definitely encourage my young friends to open TSB accounts."

 

Badminton is Miss Goodwin's main source of relaxation. "I used to help with a local Cub Scout group every Thursday night, but that's the night we remain open until 7 o'clock - so I've had to give it up." Adds Karen: "I think this is a good career for a woman. I don't see myself becoming a branch manager. But I'd like to progress as far as I can, perhaps in another field in the bank."

Mr Michael G Crofts, AIB, manager of the Birchfield branch. Born in Erdington, Birmingham in 1946. Oldknow Road School 1963-71; Joined staff of Birmingham Municipal Bank at HO, progressing to senior cashier at Birchfield 1971-74; Relief branch manager. 1974 - Manager, successively, of Stechford, Aston Cross, Castle Vale and Birchfield offices. Married in 1965, Mr Crofts and his wife, Ann, have two sons: Anthony, 12, and Andrew, 7. He plays golf and football (for the Area Four 5-a-side team in the multi-event inter-area sports competition).

When Mr Michael G Crofts took charge of the Birchfield branch in June last year, he became the youngest man - at 31 - ever to be appointed at BM3 (branch manager, third grade) at the Birmingham bank. He heads a staff of six handling about 7,500 active accounts and customers' cash balances totalling about 3.1 million. The office is sited in what is mainly a residential area but which includes a thriving industrial complex and more than a sprinkling of commerce.

 

"I find," says Mr Crofts, "that there has been a tremendous change in the last 18 months or so. Certainly in the past 12 months we've all responding to our general manager's call for an increased effort in marketing to make the public aware of the bank's extensive range of new services. We have an area manager whom we can respect and who can motivate us and for the first time we're beginning to feel like bankers rather than Corporation servants. A lot of credit must go to the General Manager, Mr Hoccom, who has successfully led the transition from Birmingham Municipal Bank to Birmingham Municipal Bank Trustee Savings Bank. Now we feel we are on a par - at least - with other High Street banks. We've the extra services we needed and we also have a big advantage in that we've managed to maintain the friendly image on which this bank has always thrived. We're also beginning to reap the benefit of the Head Office marketing campaign launched a year ago. Until then this whole bank region had never been tapped from the marketing point of view."

                                      A CHALLENGE TO RELISH

 

In the Trustcard pre-launch film Roger M Garner appears as manager of the Birmingham Municipal TSB's Castle Vale branch. Yet although he was indeed appointed to that post, he never actually took it up. Instead, he was seconded to the bank's Development and Marketing Department as a marketing officer. "I jumped at the opportunity," he says, "marketing has long attracted me as a means of self-expression: I was once labelled (it's on my record card) by a former manager as being able 'to sell a carpet to a Persian'!

 

"Marketing has only being on in the bank for just over a year and I relish the challenge it affords. I also enjoy working with the development and marketing officer, Mr Alban Clemons, and with my colleague, Mr Robert Linley. "We're guided by Head Office policy. The General Manager, Mr Hoccom, is most forward looking and his approach from the top rubs off on everybody."

 

The marketing team handles Press and local radio contacts and is highly active, making some 20 audio-visual presentations a month at schools, colleges and factories - anywhere, in fact, where an audience can be assembled. "We're so busy that I wish there were 36 hours in a day," says Mr Garner. "I believe banking is fun and that's what I try to put across, using humour and flippancy in small doses."

 

Instead of managing Castle Vale he has been there with the marketing team on a two-week publicity drive. For with the closure of the only rival (JSB) branch there, the Birmingham Municipal TSB suddenly found itself with the only branch on a huge council estate and was quick to take advantage of the fact.

 

Nor is the marketing team averse to working night and day to meet the needs of factory workers. In the vast Cadbury-Schweppes plant for instance, which has some 5,000 employees, the team manned an information stand day and night until 1:30 in the morning for a week to cope with the various shifts. "Ally such exercises to advertising and posters on buses and elsewhere and it's not hard to understand why many more Birmingham people than ever before are aware of the TSB," observes Mr Garner.

 

"And Trustcard should be the icing on the cake."

 

Talking of Area Four, to which he is normally attached although now serving all the bank's areas, Mr Garner says:

 

"The area manager, Mr Powell, has been my teacher to some extent since 1976 and one couldn't ask for a better fatherly figure to assist one."

 

And he adds: "I love banking, I love the TSB. It's good for me and, in turn, I hope I'll be good for it."

"WE'RE FAR BUSIER"

Marketing officer Mr Roger M Garner, AIB. Born in Birmingham in 1946. Sheldon Heath Comprehensive School 1962-74; Joined staff of Birmingham bank at age of 16, progressing to cashier and relief cashier, 1974-76; Relief branch manager, 1976-78; Opened Four Oaks branch as its first manager, 1978; Seconded as marketing officer. Married in 1970, he and his wife, Kathleen, have a daughter, Lisa, 5, and a son, Christopher, 3. A keen sportsman, Mr Garner plays soccer, tennis and table tennis and represents the bank at green bowling. He is also keen on music and gardening.

 

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