How Anne Somers Got Ahead

“If I could change one thing about the world, I would make it more dog-friendly and you would be allowed to bring your dog to work!”

Name: Anne Somers
Company: Cheshire Building Society
Job title: Marketing Director

What made you want to get into brands/advertising/media/marketing?:

It wasn’t really a conscious choice. My early career was spent working as a financial adviser and branch manager for the Yorkshire Building Society and National Provincial Building Society. Due to my ability to understand customer needs and communicate difficult and complex messages to sales staff, I was then head hunted to work in the marketing department.

How did you get into the industry (including relevant qualifications and professional training)?:
I was approached by a senior manager at National and Provincial due to my skills in understanding the customer and ability to communicate to sales teams. Everyone else in the marketing department came from academic backgrounds and he thought that I would be a valuable addition to the team as I came an alternative route, which gave me a different perspective on how to market the Society and its products to customers.

What was good and bad about your first job?:

The only bad thing about my first marketing job was that due to me having a different background to others in the department I didn’t understand all of the ‘marketing speak’ and jargon used – it was like a completely different world to me and I found it quite frustrating at first.

On the positive side, I found all of the previous jobs I had done in customer facing roles to be very useful and I could put everything I had learned and all the skills I had into context and make a huge difference to the organisation in a way that hadn’t been possible before. Having that influence and ability to make positive changes was and still is very important to me.

List your jobs to date:

I started out in the marketing department of National and Provincial Building Society in a campaign manager role, or product implementation manager as it was known. I was then promoted to Marketing Manager at National and Provincial, which merged with Abbey and I then became Group Product Manager for Home Insurance at the Abbey. I remained at Abbey for five years before moving to Yorkshire Building Society and the role of Head of Group Marketing, where I worked for six years before coming to my current role at the Cheshire.

What were the best and worst, and why?:

I have enjoyed every role I have had for different reasons as I have developed, improved and changed in each so I couldn’t say which I enjoyed the most and I wouldn’t say that any have been bad experiences.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?:

I have worked with two people who have been huge inspirations to me. Firstly my Area Manager when I worked as a Branch Manager at Yorkshire Building Society, Nancy Kidd. She was extremely inspirational due to her drive, motivation and intelligence; she had a fantastic ability to encourage you to think about your work in an inspirational and motivating way.

Secondly, my Marketing Director at National and Provisional, Dave Conway. Dave is still very inspirational to me to this day and I frequently bounce ideas off him and seek his advice. He is the person that brought me into the marketing arena and he has a fantastic, insightful way of thinking.

Who in the industry do you most admire?:

They are not in the industry but I admire all athletes, particularly Sir Steve Redgrave. For most of us our jobs can be mentally challenging but for athletes their jobs are both mentally and physically demanding. They also have to come out time and time again and perform – there is no room for an off day.

What is your biggest achievement to date?:

Whilst I was Head of Group Marketing at Yorkshire Building Society we were keen to compete with the larger organisations and realised that TV advertising was the best way of achieving this.

Mutuals are owned by their members and every penny spent has to be justified as being in the best interests of the Society. It is notoriously difficult to measure the return on investment for TV advertising but we did need to justify its worth to members, so we worked on a project to identify the success of the campaign to illustrate how the TV campaign was directly attributable for sales. This project was extremely successful as we were able to justify the spend and the team also won a Financial Services Forum award for Marketing Effectiveness.

At the Cheshire I am extremely excited about the launch of our current mortgage range. We really looked at what consumers needed and designed a comprehensive range of products to offer individuals solutions for their specific needs. We’ve enjoyed a great response from members, positive media coverage and hundreds of best buy appearances.

On what do you base your success so far?:

I would say it is due to my ability to look at things from a customer perspective in a tangible and analytical way. That and sheer hard work and determination!

What are your ambitions?:

The major driver in my career has always been the ability to make change happen and my ambition is to continue to do this. I am also driven in wanting my team to enjoy their job and feel a sense of achievement from my help and inspiration.

Change one thing about your job:

I would love to have more time to achieve everything I want to achieve. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

Change one thing about your industry:

I find that financial providers are too product and price focused rather than customer service orientated. I would love to see some of the larger organisations buck the trend so that others can follow.

Change one thing about the world:

If I could change one thing about the world, I would make it more dog-friendly and you would be allowed to bring your dog to work! Apart from the fact that I love my dog and miss him when I’m away, dogs always put you in a better mood and I think that the world would be a friendlier place.

What is your favourite brand?:

Innocence drinks. They really live the brand and I love the way the concept is consistent through all the customer touch points. The company has come from humble beginnings to become one the most recognised brands in the country. It’s a natural product using simple and pure designs on recycled materials, but its approach to the customer is fresh and fun. It also has an imaginative way of engaging customers in its affinity programmes, the ‘big knit’ with Age Concern is a classic example. Getting the public to knit little hats for the tops of bottles of innocent is a great hook. Not only does, it get the public involved, but it generates customer interest on the shelf as well as raising money for a good cause. Genius.

List your “media diet”:

Marketing Week, Marketing, North West Insider, EN, Daily Mail and as many financial publications as I can get my hands on!

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