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Ian Cornish

Mid-life crisis affects men in various ways. Yorkshire Building Society secretary and corporate affairs general manager Iain Cornish plans to celebrate his 40th birthday in November by running the New York Marathon.

Leaving the Yorkshire dales to pound the streets of the Big Apple may seem an unlikely exchange but Cornish comes from a city background as he swopped life in London for quiet west Yorkshire.

He says: “I had lots of friends in the area and I thought it would be good to live in a more rural environment for a change but it is a big culture shock when you are used to London.”

The move was originally to join Bradford & Bingley 10 years ago, but it is his latest venture at Yorkshire Build-ing Society that is hittingthe headlines. The societyhas joined forces with fel-low mutual Britannia to pavethe way for a national building society network.

Cornish explains it is hoped the initiative will lead to customers being able to visit any building society in the country and make transactions without being charged.

The link-up between Yorkshire and Britannia will establish a network of over 300 branches – Yorkshire has 132 branches and Britannia has 190 – and there is little overlap between them. Letters have been sent to every other building society explaining the project but it will not be until the initiative is operating next year that Cornish will actively be trying to get other companies to join.

He says: “We were looking for things that demonstrate that we are distinctive from banks and were in discuss-ions in with Britannia to seeif there was an area where we could co-operate to benefitour members.

“Our chief executive David Anderson is currently chairman of the Building Societies Association and spends a lot of time talking to other building societies. I think this initiative arose from a conversation there.”

The link-up, due for launched early next year, will be relatively easy to achieve. Cornish says members will benefit from the convenience of this project. Yorkshire and Britannia are both hoping this will attract more members but Cornish is aware there is a danger of losing customers.

He says: “I think it would be naive not to think that some of our customers will go to Britannia and some of their members will come to us. Yet it is important to remember that customers do not necessarily swap accounts after using someone else&#39s cash machine.”

The network is just one of the projects Cornish is working on. His day-to-day role consists of marketing, public relations and strategic planning. The biggest part of his agenda at present is communicating the benefits of being a mutual building society and finding new ways to demonstrate this to members.

One of these projects is the development of the e-commerce operation. The society has an internet site for customers to make enquiries but is planning to upgrade this by having online mortgages and savings accounts. Cornish says these developments are part of an effort to increase convenience for members.

He says: “People travel around and it is not always convenient for them to go to their own branch. We want to develop e-commerce but not to the neglect of our branches. We want members to use us and contact us in a method they choose,not one dictated by us.”

Cornish left school and studied business, economics and statistics without havinga clear idea of what he wan-ted to do.

The options of security and good professional training led him to his first position as a statistician with the Department of Trade & Industry. This position was not purely number- crunching but also involved working on economic forecasts used in setting the budget. It was something he initially enjoyed but soon felt restricted by internal politics. He says: “People only got to senior positions by sticking around for a long time. You did not get on by showing initiative or ambition. You didn&#39t get anything out of it.”

A stint as corporate planner at the Post Office was followed by consultancy work at KPMG Management Consultants where he gained his first contact with the finance world.

A series of European directives had created market opportunities, allowing Cornish to become more involved in finance projects. He says he was enjoying advising finance companies but it became frustrating making recommendations without being able to see them through.

He wanted to work for a finance company and along came the position at Bradford & Bingley.

Cornish&#39s move to Yorkshire gave him a clearer and more focused sense of what he wanted to achieve and he has found working for Yorkshire Building Society to be the tonic he has been searching for. After eight years with the society and a year into his current role, he still finds the agenda exciting. He is now juggling work and family life following the birth of his daughter five months ago.

The only pang of regret Cornish has about abandoning life in London is in not seeing Tottenham Hotspur play football. But things are looking up. He says: “Now that Bradford have made it to the Premier league I am able to watch Spurs at least once a season.”


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