Hearts and Minds: Steven Prevost FCMA Describes How a Voluntary Project to Write and Publish a Book of Short Stories and Poems Has Improved Morale among Staff at Lloyds Banking Group-While Also Raising Funds for the British Heart Foundation
Prevost, Steven, Financial Management (UK)
I'd like to tell you a tale about bankers--bankers with a heart. Yes, you did read that correctly. I am senior manager of business intelligence at Lloyds Banking Group. My story is about how I came to suggest, organise and co-ordinate the publication of a volume of short stories and poems by employees at my company--raising money for charity along the way.
Over the past year employees at my company, like those in many other financial institutions, have endured the fall-out of the credit crunch--from daily headlines about the banking crisis and government bail-outs to the massive merger of Lloyds TSB with HBOS--and the insecurity it has caused. While all this was going on, I and a small group of colleagues embarked on a corporate social responsibility project to boost morale and benefit society at a time when it was a struggle to remain positive about our work. The takeover had created uncertainty about the heritage of both HBOS and Lloyds TSB, so everyone I spoke to was keen to be part of something positive and work together to make a difference.
We needed to apply our collective professional skills to finance, manage and deliver the project. Its main objective was to showcase the writing talent of our employees around the country, but another important goal was to generate income for the Lloyds Banking Group charity of the year, the British Heart Foundation.
All this began in late March 2009, when I discovered that a few people in my department had an interest in creative writing (I have been writing since 2004 and have had a few poems and a short story published). Several of these colleagues were interested in the idea of a collection, so I then asked contacts across the UK to suggest others in order that we could assemble a team.
I was careful to limit the number of contributors to ensure focus and minimise the time for delivery. We didn't want people to get involved and then to move somewhere else before the book was finished. We set a target maximum of 12 writers and allowed three months for them to prepare pieces for a first review. We chose the contributors carefully, selecting people who'd already had work published or who could provide evidence of their literary experience. They put their egos on the line when they offered to provide material for the book, which was intended to be sold both internally to their colleagues and externally to the public.
We knew that we could do only a minimum of work on the initiative during office hours and that the writers would have to prepare their submissions in their own time. But one added benefit was that the project brought together people from across the group to collaborate in a way that they would not ordinarily have done, so we all widened our networks.
Our main challenges were to establish:
* Sponsors. This project was a first for us, so we wanted a few people at senior level to back it. The main one was Philip Grant, COO of the wholesale division. His remit was to support the writers by ensuring funding and to provide the gravitas we needed to direct and promote the initiative.
* A steering committee. Our success hinged on knowing the right people with the right skills to get the job done. I've been with the organisation for ten years (first at Bank of Scotland and then at HBOS before the merger with Lloyds TSB). In this time I have led the finance side of strategic core banking system programmes and been the finance representative on a range of projects, so I've met a lot of people in the group. If I didn't know someone with the required skills, I knew someone who knew someone who had them. This was particularly useful when finding colleagues from other locations and functions. The committee covered finance, project management, marketing, communication and distribution. We all knew that we had to fulfil the tasks we'd volunteered for even when our day-jobs were particularly busy because of all the extra work imposed by the merger. …