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Sarah Walker – creating digital technology to help bank customers reduce debt

What makes a young person in finance stand out these days? Gumption, a drive to help customers and a real fire in the belly, if Sarah Walker is anything to go by.

This month saw Sarah named Young Banker of the Year – quite a journey from joining Santander as a cashier in 2010. Since then she has gained valuable experience in a range of different roles around the business.

Currently the Women in Business regional lead for the Bristol area, Sarah is a prime example of succeeding by being passionate about what she can do to help.

“Women should empower other women, and I’m here to show what we can all achieve career-wise by being proactive and looking for chances to display your abilities.”

The Chartered Banking Institute, which runs the Young Banker of the Year awards, asked entrants to come up with an idea they could implement in their own organisation to improve outcomes for customers, colleagues, counterparties, communities and the organisation itself.

The Institute was clear: they were looking for ideas which placed customers and their needs at the heart of the business and reflected the applicant’s vision for the future of banking based on sustainable, green finance principles.

When she saw the shout out for entries, Sarah knew this was her chance to make her idea shine: “I’ve always wanted to create something that will make people’s lives easier - and help people realise that, with the right support and guidance, they can become debt free, and much more quickly than they thought.”

Her response was the app, “My Money Advisor”, designed to help customers reduce their debt quicker and minimise interest paid. She approached Ellie O’Connell, Santander area director, with the app concept. Ellie said she could see from the outset that Sarah was extremely driven and self-motivated: “It was clear that she had thought about something that was not only personal and authentic to her, she had also really done her research and had come up with something very different.”

Why an app? “I chose an app because people in debt are sometimes embarrassed and don’t want to initially talk to someone face to face,” Sarah told UMi.

“I felt it was hugely important for customers to feel comfortable and in control of their information.”

Sarah worked closely with Santander project teams to develop the app, and the result was a journey straight to London’s Mansion House and her presentation, which won Sarah the Audience Award as well as Young Banker of the Year.

So what does the future hold? “I want to lead and manage a team to success, and work alongside people to coach and develop them. As Santander is worldwide, the sky’s really the limit.”

Kate Shaw
Article by Kate Shaw
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