Sainsbury's Bank deputy chief executive Derek Bottom is stocking the shelves with the Sandler suite in a bid to beat the high-street banks.
Bottom must be the Government's dream come true. He firmly believes that the public can be persuaded to save without advice as long as they are continually urged to do so through store-based advertising and mailshots.
He thinks it can be done cheaply. Both of the bank's new Isas – a FTSE-100 tracker and a UK equity fund – have no initial charge and a 1 per cent annual fee.
“We think now is the time to save through equity Isas. What we are offering across all of our products is simplicity.”
He does not share the scepticism of many in the industry that supermarkets may not be the ideal place to sell investments and thinks that the message that people have to save more is getting through. Now it is a matter of making it cheap, accessible and easy to understand.
“Supermarkets tend to be the place where people expect to see other products available. You can already buy bicycles, TVs, washing machines. It is only a small step from there to financial products.”
He thinks the dominance of high-street banks can be challenged, saying they have relied on the apathy of consumers rather than targeting them with products and services they want.
“We can take on the high-street banks, they are not focused on consumer interest. There is a huge amount of apathy among consumers which the high-street banks feed off.”
But he is not so optimistic as to think that simply offering a few Isas on the shelves of supermarkets is going to be the answer to the UK's savings problem. He says it will take a step-change in thinking among consumers before the issue of people taking responsibility for their retirement is properly addressed.
“Selling Isas through supermarkets on their own is not going to change the UK savings habit overnight but we believe in the spirit of what Sandler is trying to achieve.”
He predicts that not only will Sainsbury's Bank extend the range of investment products it offers but also that other non-traditional retailers will enter the savings market.
Bottom is keen to emphasise that he is a team player and wants to ensure that the efforts and dedication of his staff are given a fair hearing. He enthuses about the culture at Sainsbury's Bank, saying it is full of young, dedicated and talented people who are determined to make a success of it.
“Everyone in a small business has to contribute and add value to that business. There are too many businesses which allow themselves to become so big that they lose track of what they are trying to achieve. That will not happen to us.”
Having spent 20 years at Bank of Scotland, Bottom is well versed to speak about the differences between big and small companies. He started as an 18-year-old clerk in the local branch in 1978. Over the next 20 years, he worked in 15 branches, in commercial as well as retail banking. By the time he left in 2001 to join Sainsbury's, he was head of savings and money transmission.
A keen athlete, Bottom and six friends are planning to cycle 200 miles in 24 hours this summer down the A9 from Inverness to raise money for a local charity. Two years ago, he took part in a similar charitable venture, walking 56 miles in 24 hours through the Scottish Highlands. Despite the fact he is raising money for good causes, Bottom also enjoys the challenge, something which requires him to push himself to the limit.
He regularly goes skiing with his wife, son and daughter to Tignes in the French Alps where he prefers going above the tree line – at 10,000ft – skiing on virgin snow.
Bottom is devoted to his family. Outside work, he says they do virtually everything together, especially when it comes to sporting activities. They often go swimming, cycling and hill-walking.
His other great passion in life is football – specifically Celtic, having grown up in Glasgow. He is looking forward to the match against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. He has moved from the west coast to live in Dunfermline but has not lost his Glaswegian accent or his allegiance to the Bhoys.
Born: Glasgow, February 1960
Lives: Dunfermline with his wife, son and daughter
Education: East Bank Academy, Glasgow
Career: Joined Bank of Scotland in 1978 as a clerk, spent 20 years with the bank in a variety of positions working in commercial and retail banking, e-commerce, and was head of savings and money transmission by the time he left BoS in 2001. Joined Sainsbury's Bank in March 2001
Career ambition: Challenging traditional high-street players in the provision of financial services products
Life ambition: To be successful at whatever I put my hand to
Likes: A challenge, trying things I haven't done before
Dislikes: People who are satisfied with mediocrity
Peers say: “Douglas is ambitious, innovative and massively customer-focused.He is completely determined to ensure that the products and services he offers are in the best interest of his customers and he has always been that way.”
Car: Audi A6