How running changed my work, and my life – Chris McGuinness

Ulster Bank’s Chris McGuinness has joined me to talk about rediscovering his passion for running, and how it’s completely changed both his life and his work-life balance so he could enjoy more time with his family.

Hi Chris, let’s start by telling me a bit about yourself and your career before Ulster Bank?

I’m from Derry, in Northern Ireland, in a town right on the border of Donegal. My work experience began during my A-Levels, when I started working a clothing store. I absolutely loved it! I really enjoyed the customer interaction, especially the buzz around Christmas. True, sometimes there were 12 hour days right through to Christmas Eve, but it was fantastic fun! I think it was this buzz that led me to retail banking.

I then studied my degree in Business Finance and Investment at the University of Ulster.

And is it then you joined Ulster Bank?

That’s right – I’d started working in an Ulster Bank branch in the summer of 2001 while I was at university. I was covering for current branch staff who were on annual leave. After I graduated, I re-joined Ulster Bank in the same role; I’d really enjoyed my time on my summer contract so I was pleased to be back.

I was a cashier, which was a continuation of what I did in the clothes shop. Talking to people, finding out about them and seeing how I can help them. It was about providing that little bit extra, and going over and above for customers by offering products and services that would give them an even better experience with us.

What lead you to your permanent role?

In 2002, I found out my girlfriend, who’s now my wife – was pregnant. So I went from having spare money at the weekends, being able to do whatever I want, to realising I needed to start growing up! I didn’t really have major career ambitions before that, but once I found I’d be starting a family, my whole mind-set changed completely. At that stage Ulster Bank had transformed a fair bit, and there was a lot of opportunity to get stuck in to!

I’d really like to mention my old line manager Pamela Warnock at this stage – because honestly, she had the best influence on me in my early career with the bank. I’d experienced some of the most supportive line managers you could ever ask for, but it was Pamela who had the biggest impact on my early career – which set me on what has been a successful career to date.

She was kind enough to support me, and helped me be successful in getting the role as Team Leader. She believed in me, and gave me the exposure and experience required to keep furthering my career. I know other colleagues would really appreciate hearing her name too – she had a huge impact on us all.

I bet she was very proud of how you did! So what happened next?

Within 18 months, I was promoted to Team Leader in my branch. In less than a year of being a team leader, I was given a branch manager role. In all my roles, I took to them really well – I loved managing my team, providing help and support to my work colleagues. I was in a really hands-on role, and I learnt so much. My team and I turned an underperforming branch into to one of the top branches in the whole of Northern Ireland. We had massive recognition, and a lot of people were able to develop their careers thanks to it.

And now being an Area Manager with Ulster Bank, what’s it like?

I’ve been doing it for over 10 years now, and covered a lot of different areas. The role has changed dramatically in these years, but still is very much the same too. It’s kept me challenged, yet it’s a completely evolving role. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing the same job for a decade!

I’m a career orientated person, and Ulster Bank have allowed me to support my family and provide them with a happy life. I’ve found that the bank are passionate about giving you the recognition you deserve. It’s been a real privilege to be in this position.

Can you tell me about your running?

Running is my way of coping with a really busy job, and the stresses that every day life brings – I also had times when I didn’t sleep well. It was really hard to switch off, I always thought about what I’m doing next at work. I decided I needed some outside interest; I started going back to my running - I’d done it in school and stopped when I was about 18.

When I started getting into it, I ran once, twice a week. The days I ran, I slept far better, I was definitely less stressed. It was my way of taking myself out of the busy day, and being ready to spend time with family without thinking about work.

And it progressed a lot from there?

As I got fitter and did more races – I was pretty competitive at it! It grew and grew.

I’ve done everything from track races up to marathons. I’ve represented Northern Ireland, ran for a club, and travelled all over the UK for races. My biggest achievement would be representing my country in cross country and track races.

Some people might think I’m mad, getting up in the morning when it’s still dark, cold and wet to get out there. Or not going home straight from work, and getting your gear on and run 10 miles in the rain. But I love it, you get fresh air all the time, instead of spending money going out at the weekends you’re spending it on new trainers – it sets a good example for my kids too!

Running is great because you get lost in it. Where I live, there’s a lot of beautiful countryside. You go on autopilot, there’s times where I go out for a run and next thing I know I’ve done 4 miles, and vaguely remember what I’ve seen or heard – I completely switch off, and it’s a great feeling.

Good luck in the future with your running Chris! Finally, why would you recommend Ulster Bank as a great place to work?

I come from a unique position, I’ve been here 15 years – it’s a fantastic place to work. It’s the people, they have a genuine passion and interest and investment in the people that work here and you as a person.

If you come in to work here, you’ll be rewarded and developed. So many people plan to be here for their entire career because they love it. I think that says a lot about Ulster Bank.

If you’re looking to join a bank that cares about its employees wellbeing, check out our roles here