National Savings & Investments chief Steve Owen reviews 2016 and looks ahead to the new year

Written by Civil Service World on 14 December 2016 in Interview

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back on the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Steve Owen, chief executive of NS&I, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...

What was your highlight of 2016?
The launch of the government’s new Tax-Free Childcare scheme has undoubtedly been the highlight of 2016. The scheme, which NS&I is delivering in partnership with HMRC, has been over two years in the making and could see NS&I supporting the accounts of up to two million families across the UK.

On 1 September 2016, we began the controlled go-live of childcare provider registration – the first phase in the roll out of Tax-Free Childcare and the childcare service. The next phase is the start of the trial. HMRC have recruited parents from across the country to participate in this trial – these parents will be invited into the childcare service from November. Once this phase is completed, HMRC and NS&I will start the controlled roll out to all parents in 2017.

What has been the most significant change in your department this year?
We launched the final phase of improved internet banking in September, meaning that our customers can now view their entire portfolio on their homepage with one-click access to key customer journeys. This not only makes registering for online banking with NS&I easier, but also makes transacting with us more straightforward.

The project created and updated a huge amount of web content, including 30 main customer journeys and 1,000 website pages. This is another fantastic example of partnership and collaboration between NS&I and our operational partner, Atos.

What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
The biggest challenge of 2017 will be to smoothly deliver even more service improvements and at the same time continue to meet our high levels of customer satisfaction. NS&I never stands still but our customer service must always stand out. Our preparations are already well developed and rehearsed to make sure that we will hit the ground running on 1 January 2017.

What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
The worst Christmas present I’ve received was from a grandparent when I was a boy of about nine. I opened my present and discovered a Barbie doll: definitely not what I was expecting. Later that morning my older sister emerged from her bedroom to open her presents. An Action Man figure left her bemused, but me relieved.

The best present I've received was the birth of my son 18 years ago (just after Christmas but I think it counts!) and the best present I've given was a paraglide experience over the sea off the coast of Mexico on Christmas Day. A memorable family moment.

More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017

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