Chief executive discusses ambition to ensure a ‘strong, resilient infrastructure’ for national savings bank
At the end of a hectic year for government, senior figures from across the civil service took part in PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World’s annual perm secs round-up to discuss how an eventful 12 months affected them and their organisation, and look ahead to 2023.
Ian Ackerley, chief executive of NS&I (National Savings & Investments) reveals the plan to ensure the 160-year-old institution has a tech infrastructure fit for the long-term future.
What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?
Signing the first contract for NS&I’s Rainbow transformation programme has definitely been a highlight of 2022. In June, we announced that IBM will be delivering digital integration and service operations for NS&I, which will be the technical and operational centre of NS&I’s future operating model. This is the first of the procurement packages which will allow us to transform our business so that we will remain able to serve savers and the government for generations to come by ensuring a strong, resilient infrastructure and a flexible, scalable operation.
Another highlight, in November, was the visit of our new minister, the economic secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffith, to NS&I’s new London office. Andrew Griffith spoke about his admiration for NS&I’s brand and heritage and encouraged us to continue to deliver and innovate for our customers.
What was your most difficult decision in 2022?
Making the decision to step down as chief executive in March 2023. It has been a privilege to lead NS&I since 2017 and I’m extremely proud of the things that NS&I and Atos colleagues have achieved since then.
We have grown NS&I’s savings deposits by 42% – increasing from £147bn in 2017 to £209bn today. We have attracted new savers by making Premium Bonds more accessible with a lower minimum purchase and making it easier to gift them to children, launched our first Junior ISA and introduced popular new customer service options like web chat. We have also grown NS&I’s broader support of government policy: launching Green Savings Bonds in 2021, Investment Guaranteed Growth Bonds in 2017, delivering the Help to Save scheme, Help to Buy, Childcare Services; and the Mortgage Guarantee scheme.
I am glad to have been part of an outstanding team, and although I am sad to leave, I’m confident NS&I will continue to deliver.
What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how do you plan to meet that challenge as an organisation?
The biggest challenge facing NS&I in 2023 will be keeping pace with changes to interest rates in the savings market. Successive increases in the Bank of England base rate this year to tackle high inflation have changed the landscape of the savings market, meaning that providers are now frequently increasing their rates. NS&I has responded too this year, by increasing interest rates across our product range, both to support savers and to meet our funding target for the government. NS&I must also deliver value to taxpayers and so striking this balance is key to how we set our interest rates. In 2023, we expect that we will continue to need to keep pace with a rapidly changing savings market.
And personally, as a leader?
Leaving NS&I and particularly the people. It’s a unique organisation with a heritage going back more than 160 years; I will miss it. The next big challenge is deciding what to do with all the extra time I will have!
It’s not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season?
I worked in Australia for several years and I never quite got to terms with a summer Christmas – Christmas trees, Christmas carols, Christmas decorations and the risk of sunburn!