An interview with George Evans, reflecting on Leumi UK's transformation

Posted: 9th May 2024   |   Share

George Evans

As George Evans prepares to step down from his pivotal role as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Leumi UK, we had the opportunity to sit down and reflect on his remarkable journey within the company. George, has been instrumental in steering Leumi UK through a significant transformation the past few years, shared his insights, challenges, and triumphs.

You joined Leumi UK at a critical time. What was your vision for the company?

When I stepped into Leumi UK, my vision was not only to lead a transition from a traditional bank into a more agile and efficient organisation but to fundamentally reshape our operational backbone alongside the Executive Management Committee (EMC) and with direct input from the IT, Finance and Operations teams that would be fundamental to the success of this transformation. The transformation was rooted in leveraging our core competencies while exploring new avenues for growth, driven by a commitment not just to adapt to change but to be the architects of it.

Delving into the operational fabric of the company, I aimed to recalibrate our approach—transitioning from an environment characterised by its breadth to one with a sharpened focus. This involved collaborating with the EMC to streamline our business definition and adopting a lighter, more agile set of systems, processes, and people.

My focus was on the operations within the business, contemplating how these changes propel us forward but at the same time, it was about sharing resources across the Leumi entities in terms of vendors, talent and systems, then navigating the complexities of merging different processes across the different target markets. Despite these differences, our core mission remained consistent for us all: to be a relationship-driven lender, supported by diverse yet cohesive core systems and teams.

The question at the heart of this transformation was fundamental: "What does a business need to work?" Our vision encompassed a redefined, focused approach to our operations, aiming for a business model that was not only efficient but also resilient and adaptable to the changing landscapes of the financial industry.

Transforming a business, especially from a bank to a non-bank specialist, is not a simple task. How did you approach this challenge?

The transformation required a holistic approach. We started by identifying the unique needs of our clients and how we fulfil these needs as an interdepartmental team. This led to a complete re-evaluation of our operations, and even our culture. Implementing agile methodologies and fostering a culture of innovation were key to our success. It was about being bold and taking calculated risks together.

My time in the Air Force instilled in me the values of continuous learning and the continual pursuit of operational excellence. It's about making small, impactful changes that, over time, reduce effort and allow for further improvements. This philosophy has been crucial in my role at Leumi UK whilst guiding our transition.

As COO, your role is inherently diverse. How would you describe your primary responsibilities and challenges during this transition?

My role required a broad oversight of the operational aspects of Leumi UK's transformation, with a primary focus on ensuring our strategic vision was effectively translated into tangible deliverables and results. This journey involved not just conceptual planning but the hands-on involvement with intricate operational shifts across the organisation alongside each of the teams driving the changes forward.

One of the central pillars of this transformation was the significant project to streamline our operational processes in the background. This entailed migrating from a fragmented landscape of platforms and software to a more cohesive, unified system centred mainly around SharePoint and the Microsoft suite and outsourcing come critical functions to take advantage of better systems, talent, and contingency for our limited portfolio. This project was critical, as it directly impacted our ability to operate efficiently and respond to the dynamic needs of our business and clients.

The challenge, however, extended beyond just the technical aspects of platform migration. A significant part of my role was challenging the way we've always done things by resetting the processes through effective use of systems and information - limiting systems but ensuring we all had deepened knowledge —a task that necessitated a multifaceted approach for me and many of the teams. It was about trying to make sure that every individual understood the vision behind the transformation and could see their role within the future state of Leumi UK.

Overall, my role during this period was characterised by a commitment to bridging the gap between strategic objectives and operational realities.  Working with others to create a culture of open communication and ongoing development, while strengthening our operational foundation to align with our broader transformation goals, has been key. This approach not only helps to foster a growth mindset across the business but also emphasizes empowerment as a core aspect of our culture. Many individuals have embraced the new tools, enhancing the business’s efficiency, transparency, and safety.

Reflecting on your time at Leumi UK, what achievements are you most proud of?

It's challenging to single out just one achievement because each milestone, each project, has contributed significantly to our journey and evolution. However, one of my first projects was to relocate our office.

The move was symbolic and strategic. We transitioned from a segmented environment across five floors to a single, transparent space. This physical change mirrored our operational transformation—breaking down silos, fostering cross-departmental collaboration, and aligning everyone with our core mission. It was a powerful statement: we are one team, driven by a singular purpose.

I'm proud of the team and the culture we've built. Seeing the organisation evolve from a traditional bank into a dynamic, client-focused non-bank specialist, and knowing I played a part in that transformation, is incredibly rewarding. Ultimately, the achievements I'm most proud of are not just the visible changes, but seeing people proactively taking advantage of the new tools and changing the way we work. It's a testament to what can be accomplished when a team is aligned, motivated, and driven by a shared mission to redefine the boundaries of what a financial institution can be.

Looking forward, what advice would you give to the team at Leumi UK?

Stay agile, keep the client at the centre of everything you do, and never stop innovating. The financial industry is continuously evolving, and to stay ahead, you must be willing to continually reassess and reinvent.

I'm confident that Leumi UK is well-positioned for the future with strong systems, tools and employees. Our agility and cohesive work environment have been our strengths. Being on the same floor, visible and accessible to one another, has allowed us to effect change rapidly. The narrowly defined business definition makes it easy to understand how we can all contribute to making Leumi UK a lean, profitable and rewarding place to work.