NS&I chief Ian Ackerley: “There have been several changes to NS&I’s executive team and I have devoted a fair amount of time to attracting and recruiting new talent”

Written by Civil Service World on 26 December 2018 in Feature

With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.

Photo: Louise Haywood Schiefer

What was your highlight of 2018?

My highlight of 2018 has been starting to deliver our new strategy, Inspire & Invest. It will ensure that NS&I continues to deliver sustainable and cost-effective debt financing for the government, while also growing NS&I’s payment processing business, which serves other parts of government. Overall, the strategy aims to inspire a stronger savings culture in the UK and support the government’s broader savings policy agenda.

We have made a good start. In the Budget, several enhancements to premium bonds were announced, which are designed to encourage a stronger savings habit and boost the opportunity for young people to save. The minimum investment for premium bonds will be reduced from £100 to £25; people other than parents and grandparents will be able to purchase premium bonds for children under 16; and NS&I will launch a new app to make saving easier.

In partnership with HM Revenue & Customs, this year we are also supporting the delivery of Help to Save, the government-backed saving scheme to support working people on low incomes to build their savings.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?

This year there have been several changes to NS&I’s executive team, which has meant I have devoted a fair amount of time to attracting and recruiting new talent for the business. I was extremely lucky to inherit a tremendous executive team and am delighted with the quality and commitment of our new arrivals. However, successfully recruiting them was only the start. Integrating these new people into the business requires careful management to ensure that other colleagues are able to adjust as well.

What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?

From a retail perspective, the key challenge is around the demographic of our savers. The average age of NS&I’s customers is increasing (from 42 to 50 between 2007 and 2017). To fulfil our goal of inspiring a stronger savings culture, we need to appeal to a wider and younger range of savers. At the same time, we must ensure that we are inclusive and serve the needs of older and vulnerable savers. There is also the challenge created by the new players in the savings market, the impact of open banking and the ever-rising service expectations of our customers.

There is a challenge and an opportunity presented by NS&I’s role in delivering payment processing services across government. We need to continue to leverage both our own and partner expertise in delivering savings for government departments as well as in the delivery of complex policy.

Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?

Elon Musk – founder of Tesla Cars and SpaceX. He’s an inspirational figure who has accelerated the adoption of electric cars through creating vehicles which meet the needs of customers with far fewer compromises than the electric vehicles which were available before Tesla. Also, as founder of SpaceX, which is transforming the space transportation business through the use of reuseable rockets, I hope he will provide some very large fireworks for the event!

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