How do you become a Senior Relationship Manager?

Written by Jeni Holcroft 11 months ago.

The world of work can be daunting for young people, where everything you learned during your years of education is put to the test. What strikes me most about Will Islip, a Senior Relationship Manager for NatWest Commercial Banking, is his confidence, motivation and dedication.

Following his graduation six years ago, Will stepped into a branch role, and his career went from strength to strength. He’s spent the last two years flourishing as a Senior Relationship Manager, and with such swift progression.

We spoke about what it takes to be a great Senior Relationship Manager for our customers, a charity trip to Malawi and why ‘PIE’ inspires him.

Building the right relationships

His current role keeps him busy, as he looks after around 60 clients in the SME space in South Yorkshire – all with a turnover of £2-£30 million. No two days are the same, as his clients work across a number of different sectors. As his job title suggests, relationships play a vital part in his success, but there’s much more to it than that. “You need a strong internal network to do well for the customer. You learn about their key drivers and support their next ambitions, whether it’s personal or business related, like funding their next project or a Management Buyout.”

To make sure he fully understand the needs of his clients, Will sits down with them to look at their key strategic goals for the next 12 months, their plans around these goals and what work they need to do to meet them. “It could be production strategy for example,” Will adds, “so they may be looking for an alternative site to increase future production. I would then draw on my external network to help them find the right property or location. It’s important to also understand the funding needs; costs around the move, staff costs, capital expenditure. All the time you’re building that relationship, and increasing the business you do with the client.”

With 60 clients to manage, I asked Will how he found the time to provide his customers with the right service. He says, “It depends on the client. I can speak to them quarterly, bi-annually or annually depending on the clients’ needs. Each client is on a different business journey that determines how much they need the bank, and how much time you need to spend with them.”

So what does a typical day entail? “I generally have two client meetings per day, four days of the week, and have an admin day once a week. I like to complete any actions at the end of each meeting.” Will has found that the flexible working that his role affords allows him to achieve a good work/life balance. He says, “You can fit your lifestyle around your job. One day you might work a little later, but the next day I’m out at four.”

‘Sometimes we need to slow down and appreciate what we have’

Fast career progression has enabled Will to gain valuable insight in a short space of time, and he is enthusiastic about the variety of roles that are available, not only in the Coverage business, but across the entire bank. “What motivates me is the career progression opportunities, and that you’re building your skillset in every role. You’re supported by everyone around you. All the learning – the development courses and exams – has allowed me to build my skills and progress. In the last 12 months I’ve completed my diploma and advanced diploma in Lending skills, and now I’m finishing my Chartered Banker Qualification.”

Will has also found time to make a difference in another part of the world. Back in September, he was part of a group of 20, who went to Malawi, in south eastern Africa, to build a toilet block for a local community. Will used five Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) days and his own time to take part in the two week trip. “It was incredible,” Will adds. “They only have the clothes on their backs. It’s humbling. Women walk for hours a day just for one bucket of water. Children visit the community centre for a meal everyday, and they save food to take back for their parents – they’re only 3 or 4 years old! You take for granted that we get three meals a day, and they don’t.”

The group raised an incredible £25,000, and only a small amount was used to fund their project, with the remaining donations being used to support other projects. “It was an emotional trip at times, but it was a really incredible experience.” There was certainly a humbling effect on the group as they returned to work days later, especially as they adjusted to their busy modern lives. “You just look at the things you take for granted; a bed or your lights. Some of the kids in Malawi would not understand what all the kit is, and it makes you realise how luxurious our houses are. Sometimes we need to slow down and appreciate what we have.”

The secret to his success... PIE

When I asked what his next challenge would be, Will had to pause. “I’d like to continue to progress within the bank. I’m flexible on where I want to go, and can use my network, but this job is very rewarding. The transactions that you undertake do change peoples’ lives – I know that sounds like a cliché, but they really do. I completed four Management Buyout transactions last year, and each client will never forget the person who helped them do that.”

Often he’s provided support for Apprenticeship roles in his area, and answers questions surrounding careers. “It’s important that you listen to people and act like a sponge. One of my mentors told me something that will always stick by me…PIE. Always perform well in the job you do. Intelligence and image; be open to always learning and improving, and think about how you’re perceived. Lastly engagement. It’s all about developing your network, as you could potentially discover your next opportunity in the business.”

Enjoyed Will’s story?

You can read more about his trip to Malawi, or perhaps you feel inspired to find out where a job with NatWest could take you.


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