Best newcomer drives savings at Virgin Money

In the first of our series of profiles of last year’s winners, we look at the Personnel Today Awards 2014 best HR newcomer Jonathan Cowey, a rising star who drove learning and communication in his business.

After Virgin Money acquired Northern Rock in 2012, the company underwent a period of intense change.

Its workforce had increased by 2,500 employees overnight after the £1 billion deal, and new policies, terms and conditions needed to be introduced. The company also wanted to ensure that it developed a more customer-centric culture.

Leadership and talent development consultant Jonathan Cowey played an instrumental role in making this happen.

Cowey was responsible for designing tools to enable managers to make decisions and have conversations with staff around bonuses and pay awards. He also took a lead role in planning and rolling out communications when the new bank harmonised terms and conditions in April 2013.

Previously, there had been different performance management systems for each business, and Cowey was involved in designing and integrating these.

Learning and development was also high on the agenda. Cowey helped to build the skills of the workforce by designing and delivering the Virgin Money “Learning Lounge”, as well as researching and implementing new development paths for all roles.

The HR team’s efforts at Virgin Money have contributed to impressive savings. The company has reduced its overtime costs and has also saved money through harmonising its terms and improving skills development.

In addition, it has managed to reduce the time it takes to process a mortgage by half – from 30 to 15 days.

Nominator Tracy Scoggins, head of HR support at Virgin Money, said that Cowey has become a “key influencer within the wider business areas”, who constantly exceeds expectation, while the category judges said “this is what HR should be all about”.

Speaking of his award win, Cowey said: “There was some really stiff competition from some really big names. I’m really pleased to win this.”

This year’s Personnel Today Awards will take place on 30 November 2015 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Enter this year’s awards here

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