Meet the MD: Mark Sismey-Durrant of Hampshire Trust Bank

Meet the MD: Mark Sismey-Durrant of Hampshire Trust Bank

Mark Sismey-Durrant has helped transform Hampshire Trust Bank from a small start-up to a profitable challenger bank rivaling the likes of Metro Bank and Aldermore. BQ caught up with the chief executive to hear how he made it happen and what he believes makes a great leader.

 

What does your role involve?

I’m CEO at Hampshire Trust Bank, a specialist lender to the UK SME market. I have held this role since 2012 and led a buyout of the business from its former owners National Counties Building Society in 2014.

Since then, the business has grown rapidly. It now employs over 100 staff, is profitable and has a strong growth trajectory.

 

What is it the company does?

Hampshire Trust Bank is a specialist challenger bank, focused on financing commercial customers based on best principles in relationship banking, delivered by experts in their fields. It specialises in providing asset finance, property finance and commercial mortgages to UK SME businesses. Hampshire Trust Bank also offers consistently competitive personal and business savings accounts.

 

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I started my banking career in the late 70s as a Loughborough University-sponsored graduate at Midland Bank, gaining a wide range of experience over the following 13 years in retail, corporate and international banking.

In 1990, I joined the board of Confederation Life, a newly-formed banking subsidiary of a Canadian life assurance company that was later to become Sun Bank.

Five years later, in 1995, I was appointed CEO of Sun Bank, which went on to become a specialist lender in the retail and SME market. At the same time I held a number of board positions in the UK operations of Sun Life Financial of Canada. I successfully grew profits and the bank’s balance sheet prior to its sale to Portman Building Society in 2001 - it is known today as The Mortgage Works.

I joined Heritable Bank as CEO in 2002 and built the balance sheet beyond its specialist property finance niche into residential mortgages, buy-to-let, and asset finance, as well as solicitor practice funding.

I joined Hampshire Trust as interim CEO in 2012 and became permanent CEO in 2014 of the newly-formed Hampshire Trust Bank.

 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

A great leader must be able to understand people, what motivates them and how to get the best out of them. They must respect the perspectives and opinions of others and do their best to inspire loyalty, commitment and trust in those around them.

I believe that the best leaders approach their job with humility and lead by example in everything they do.

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

My biggest challenge has been taking the business effectively from a start-up in 2014, through the early stages towards profitability.

A start-up was a new experience for me and requires uncompromising commitment and attention to detail as well as having a clear vision of where you are going.

 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Since doing this I have completed the National and the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenges. I find that walking helps clear my head and gives me time to mull things over and I walk many miles with my wife and dog – perfect!

As well as walking, I also enjoy building things. I am currently part way through a long-term shed-building project. This is no ordinary shed, I hasten to add, when it’s finished it will be sturdy enough to withstand pretty much anything!

 

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to play cricket for England. Unfortunately, I later realised that I wasn’t quite good enough but I still love the game, it remains my greatest sporting passion.

 

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

I have a well-developed antennae for picking up disharmony in the office – particularly if this translates into a lack of enthusiasm or commitment to the customer. I take great pride in my work and I expect others to do the same. I work quietly behind the scenes to ensure that the business works effectively as a team with a focus on our customers. 

 

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

Substantially bigger, more profitable, but still true to its values. A business that I hope everyone, including myself, will feel incredibly proud of for the way we do business.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I have four main pieces of advice for aspiring business leaders:

  • Get the best people you possibly can around you - they will carry you forward.
  • Behave, in everything you do, with absolute integrity.
  • Approach the role with humility.
  • Recognise that you won’t always feel prepared for the task in front of you – it is a privilege and responsibility to lead others – if you understand that, it means that you are probably ready for the challenge.