Posted on Tuesday 5 November 2019 by Ulster Business

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Kevin Kingston, Vicky Davies and Stephen Matchett speak to John Mulgrew

Danske Bank has made a big move in creating two deputy chief executive (CEO) roles to help boost business, engagement and further bolster a strong public face for the organisation. Ulster Business sat down for a chat with chief executive Kevin Kingston and his new deputy CEOs

“The three of us make a very good team,” Danske Bank chief executive Kevin Kingston says, warmly, over an early morning coffee at Panama Cafe, close to its Belfast headquarters.

The bank boss was speaking of the appointment of his colleagues, Vicky Davies and Stephen Matchett, to the role of joint deputy chief executives (CEOs).

It’s a bold move, and Danske is the only bank in Northern Ireland which boasts the senior roles. The pair have already helped shape the burgeoning performance of Danske Bank in their respective roles over the last few years, and will continue to do so alongside their new additional responsibilities.

“We are the biggest bank in Northern Ireland and we play a crucial role in fuelling the economy in Northern Ireland – at a time of increased economic and political uncertainty it seems like the right thing to do, to be investing in our management structures,” Kevin tells Ulster Business.

“We want to make sure that whatever the opportunities and challenges that NI and the bank may face in the next year or so, that we have the capacity to do what we need to do to continue to support our customers.”

It’s been another busy year for Danske Bank. It posted an operating profit of £47.8m in the first six months of 2019, up 3% year-on-year.

“Vicky and Stephen have been instrumental in the progress we have made over the last few years. Vicky in terms of her strategic insight and support to me in terms of our organisational development, and Stephen in terms of his commercial and financial insights,” Kevin says.

“The three of us make a very good team. We play to each other’s strengths. A lot of the progress we have made in the last few years is down to, in no small part, these two people sitting beside me.”

Vicky is managing director of strategy and corporate development within the bank, while Stephen has been Danske’s chief financial officer for the last five years.

For Kevin, the two new deputy chief executive roles comes at a key time of increased uncertainty around Brexit, and the future economic landscape – so creating the front-facing positions will help develop and grow engagement with customers and a large range of stakeholders.

“We will continue to support Northern Ireland, as we have done for the last 200 years – it’s a role we must fulfil, especially in the event that the economy is more challenging in the months ahead.”

Kevin says the bank is putting a renewed and sharp focus on helping and supporting customers in the event of a difficult economic environment, post-Brexit.

And aside from the business metrics, Danske Bank was also named as Northern Ireland’s Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community. That’s something which Kevin and his team place considerable pride and value in.

“The thing I’m most proud of is the work we have done to be named Northern Ireland’s Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community,” Kevin says.

“We want the bank to be a force for good in the community. We are serious about that and we have four strategic pillars around our customers, stakeholders, society and our colleagues.” For Kevin, it’s about getting behind initiatives and “creating a legacy”.

PROFILE: VICKY DAVIES

Vicky Davies has settled in to her deputy chief executive role quickly – representing Danske Bank at the single largest delegation of Northern Ireland businesses to take their message to the heart of Westminster this summer.

“The new deputy chief executive roles are a sign of the commitment the bank has to Northern Ireland,” Vicky says. “It’s a reflection of that and an outwards statement of intent to our customers and competitors. It’s also an opportunity for Stephen and I to expand our remits and our contribution to the bank.”

A Cambridge University graduate, Vicky joined Danske Bank from Ulster Bank in 2012 as Head of Business Development, before progressing to become managing director of strategy and corporate development. In 2016 she became the bank’s first ever female executive board member.

“My current core role is to devise and guide the strategy of the bank, plotting the course of its development over not just the next year, but the next five years and beyond” she said.

With the new role that will also include spending more time with customers, industry bodies, and putting a face to the name amongst key stakeholders, as well as a sharpened internal focus – for example getting closer to the risk management aspects of the bank.

Vicky and her fellow deputy chief executive Stephen Matchett have already been undertaking important executive roles, but the new posts will bring their roles and responsibilities to the fore.

For years Vicky has been heavily involved in the burgeoning digital end of the bank, being close to the introduction of a number of mobile platforms and channels. On this, she says, “In the digital space, this year we have seen more than four million digital logons from customers each month and a 19% increase in digital transactions year-on-year.”

Then there’s the Catalyst Belfast Fintech Hub on the ground floor of Danske HQ – a modern incubator and hub which in the space of little over a year now boasts around 70 members.

“We wanted to help these businesses and also benefit from having their entrepreneurial spirit to rub off on our own colleagues,” she says. Vicky personally mentors some of these companies, hands on.

She also chairs numerous committees within the bank and has a strong interest in its equality, diversity and inclusion agenda – having formed Danske’s Gender Diversity Network in 2017.

Vicky lives in Holywood with husband Bill and four young sons. On Brexit, she’s optimistic, given the strength of the bank’s position heading into the UK’s exit from the EU. “We hope there will be a good outcome. We are leading our competitors on a number of metrics, and that gives us a great springboard going forward.”

PROFILE: STEPHEN MATCHETT

Danske Bank’s other new deputy chief executive, Stephen Matchett, has held his core role as chief financial officer (CFO) for the last five years, and is a familiar face to journalists when it comes to discussing the minutiae of its results each year.

“Danske Bank’s role in society is key, and we have an integral role in the economy here. The new leadership positions will see Vicky and I become more present and visible when it comes to customers, stakeholders and partners across the community” he says.

A former Bank of Ireland executive, who began his career working for professional services giants PwC and Deloitte, at Danske Bank Stephen oversees a finance unit that also includes the treasury, economics, data intelligence and legal departments.

Like Vicky, Stephen is also involved in leading in the Bank’s equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, and he is the senior management sponsor of ‘Enable’ – the Danske Disability Network.

“My core role as CFO is traditionally slightly in the background – the changes now bring a public aspect to that, both within the wider Danske Bank Group and Northern Ireland.”

It’s been a busy year for Stephen, and the rest of the bank, including being named Northern Ireland’s Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community.

The Bank has also placed a renewed focus on its environmental impact and climate change. It’s already removed plastic cups, bottles and other packaging from its buildings, and is opting for more renewable and recyclable alternatives throughout its various operations.

Stephen, who lives in Belfast with his wife Carrie and two young sons, is also a member of the CBI’s UK Financial Services Council.

The Financial Services Council is made up of senior representatives from a diverse range of financial services organisations and insurers, including Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Santander, Aviva, MasterCard Europe and RSA Insurance Group.

Looking at Danske Bank’s most recent financials, Stephen says while it remains an uncertain economic climate, Danske Bank is continuing to grow, year-on-year.

And on Brexit, he says the Bank is preparing and planning by looking through two lenses – a focus on controlling costs, while also seeking out growth opportunities.

“We want to maintain where we are at through this period of uncertainty and prepare ourselves for when the clouds clear – that’s the ambition.”

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