There is something calming when talking to Des Moore, the new chief executive of Cumbrian financial services giant The Cumberland.

His soothing Irish accent and relaxed demeanour belie the fact that he is steering a company which has assets exceeding £2.5bn.

The weight of responsibility never shows, but, occasionally, the odd gesture and sudden movement exposes something he is quick to admit.

“I am impatient by nature,” he says, adding, “but I am also positive in approach and attitude – you have to be.”

And for Des there is a lot to be positive about when it comes to The Cumberland.

Established in 1850 by 1,000 people who wanted to help the “industrious classes” to buy property, it continues to thrive as an independent mutual building society while now offering mortgages, current and savings accounts, commercial lending, car finance and boasts an estate agency.

It has grown to become the UK’s 10th largest building society and Cumbria’s largest financial institution, while retaining the “care factor” and trust that is lacking in mainstream banking.

“The Cumberland is coming from a really strong financial position, having been steered through the financial crisis in really good shape,” says Des, who was previously managing director of First Trust Bank, a subsidiary of one of Ireland’s “big four” commercial banks, AIB Group, before taking up his latest challenge in April.

“I was attracted to the role because it offered the chance to make a difference. I felt that my background and skills set could bring something in to play and help improve it and leave it better than I found it.

“As a mutual, me and the management team are stewards of this business on behalf of our members and it’s our job to make sure it has a sustainable future.

“If we’re going to be sustainable, not only do we have to look after our older customers, we have to attract new customers in the way they want to interact.

“Customer expectations for the future is our number one driver – that’s not just the case for financial services, but pretty much everything. Customers want to do things at a time when they want to do it, not the time we decide we’re open nine to five.

“We want to be relevant. If a young person can’t get the product or service they need on a mobile phone then, quite frankly, they’re not interested.

“But, in the case of first time buyers, they might do a lot of research and price comparison on websites, but actually, the best people to give them advice, I would suggest, is at one of our branches. That’s a really useful value-added interaction.”

The Cumberland has certainly shown a commitment to keeping branches open. It is the “last bank standing” in 11 of its locations, but it is more than mere PR for someone who has spent his entire 36-year career in financial services and has left a bank that was closing branches because shareholders demanded it.

“It is expensive to have branches, but if you’re the last man standing in a town and you have a sufficiently wide range of products and services, then that’s a tremendously positive thing,” says Des.

“We are less driven by profit and more driven by what our members want – and closing branches is the last thing on their mind.”

  • Read the full interview in the next edition of in-Cumbria magazine, published on August 1