Ten years at the helm

Ten years at the helm

15th March 2021

By Jim Coupe, Managing Director, Skipton International

This month I’m celebrating an important ten-year anniversary. It’s a major milestone and it’s with my employer, Skipton International.

Ten years. A large chunk of my life, and a highlight of my career. David Cameron was the UK Prime Minister when I began my role. Downton Abbey, a brand-new TV drama about the fictional Crawley family and their tangled World War One lives hit our screens. And ‘The King’s Speech’ was drawing rave reviews at the cinema. It seems so long ago, but somehow it has passed so quickly. It’s been a journey I’ve relished every minute of. Hitting the big 1-0 as Skipton International’s Managing Director has made me quite retrospective and it’s impossible not to look back and ponder.

When I became Managing Director we had 33 employees, all based in Guernsey. Roll on a decade and we have 72 employees, a much larger, centrally-based office, and a mortgage centre in Jersey.

Mortgages have seen significant change over the last decade. Under the impact of the global financial crisis, the Bank of England base rate fell to its lowest level for 300 years just before my tenure. From 5.75 per cent in July 2007, rates had fallen to 0.5 per cent by the time I was appointed. Having lived through the previous decades of double figure mortgage interest rates, this was, indeed, a whole new ball game, and one where rates have fallen further given the turbulent times in which we live.

Skipton’s mortgage book has grown from less than £500m in 2011 to £1,600m currently, aided not least by our UK Buy-To-Let mortgage offering, which we introduced in 2014. Skipton International serves UK expats and foreign nationals globally and understands the difficulties faced in accessing UK Buy-To-Let mortgages. As a lender, we pride ourselves on providing mortgage decisions quickly, and offer a friendly service to all our expat and foreign customers, including decisions in principle by telephone or via our online mortgage calculator.

Naturally, being based in the Channel Islands, residential mortgages for our local communities are our mainstay and something of which we are very proud. We are doing our part to try and help as many people as possible become Channel Island home owners, recently reintroducing our 100% loan to value ‘Next Generation’ mortgage and waiving our mortgage fees for a limited period of time. Despite disruption during recent periods of lockdown we were able to refine and enhance our processes, making purchasing property with Skipton even easier. We are proud of our relationships with the Guernsey Housing Association and Jersey’s Andium Homes helping those in need of affordable housing assistance.

Deposits at the bank have nearly tripled over the last ten years, a time when several banks across the Crown Dependencies closed as their business models proved no longer viable. Skipton has developed and grown during this period to provide real choice for savers across the world.  We are on hand to ensure our customers can save their funds appropriately, with a range of competitive personal savings accounts allowing customers to make the most of savings returns or having access to funds should circumstances change.

In 2018, we launched the Skipton Community Fund to help those lesser known Channel Island good causes and projects to have a meaningful impact within the community. We have now committed almost £100,000 to numerous deserving projects and continue to welcome applications for any local worthwhile project or cause.

When the Covid-19 pandemic first struck in 2020, an extra £10,000 was donated to staff-nominated charities across Jersey and Guernsey who we thought might need an extra helping hand due to the extreme circumstances. We know that helping those little, lesser known causes and projects can have a huge impact.

Our community actions don’t end there. Two of the popular Channel Island events that we sponsor and are heavily involved with are the Skipton Swimarathon in Guernsey, whom we started sponsoring in 2010, and the Skipton Art Series by ArtHouse Jersey, a partnership that will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year, as well. Both these, and other local events that we sponsor or participate in, are personally satisfying – what’s not to like about supporting local community events?

It’s been exciting to win some prestigious awards along the way too: the Guernsey Business of the Year Award in 2016; Moneyfacts Best Offshore account provider 2016 (Moneyfacts Awards no longer include offshore, sadly, so we are currently unable to enter), Best Business for Giving Back in last year’s Wellbeing Awards, to name but a few.  We are also Feefo (the independent online assessor of customer service reviews) Platinum Award winners for our customer service, which is no mean feat.

Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance refers to managing the sustainability and societal impact of companies. These criteria help determine the wider performance of companies, through considering impact on society and the environment, and I am pleased with Skipton’s progress to date. In 2019 Skipton International published our first Sustainability Report, setting targets against four priority United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We will announce progress for 2020 at the end of this month when we publish our next report, which I am looking forward to sharing.

For me, whatever the product or service, it is always about people, first and foremost. Whether servicing our customers, supporting our team or the communities we operate within across the Channel Islands, our people are paramount.

We have spent time ensuring we remain one of best employers possible, taking on board colleague feedback as to how we can become better, providing the best environment possible to breed innovation and success. I am extremely proud of each and every one of my colleagues.

There are a few lessons I’ve learned during the last ten years. Don’t take yourself too seriously, always look at the long-term win, listen and consider everything (you have to read between the lines as you’re dealing with people, not machines), value your service and respect your peers. I like to think I’m an honest and decent person and that I attract like-minded colleagues. Skipton has fostered all of these traits and that’s why I’m still going strong after ten years. The best thing about this job is the ability to pull a successful team together and to see them thrive. Working with so many good people has allowed me to achieve many of my dreams for the company, and will, I hope, continue to do so.

It’s been a wonderful journey that has been a privilege to share with you. Thank you, Skipton International, here’s to the next ten!