Bank manager’s close-up inspection of Wayford Bridge tourism business

Mike Roll, Nat West business relations manager waiting to instruct customers in day boat operation.

Mike Roll, Nat West business relations manager waiting to instruct customers in day boat operation. Photo: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

He's a bank manager –but not as you know it.

Mike Roll, NatWest's business banking relationship manager for north Norfolk swapped his suit for shorts, open-neck shirt and lifejacket for a bank-side inspection of a Broads day boat and canoe hire firm.

As part of NatWest's Working With You initiative, he spent a morning helping customers Tony and Angie Urwin who have run Bank Boats at Wayford Bridge, near Stalham for 32 years.

Throwing himself enthusiastically into letting canoes and boats, he showed a special interest in their electric boat 'Current Account', and happily chatted to guests staying in the Urwins' five holiday cottages.

Mr Urwin said: 'I was a bit sceptical about the initiative to begin with, but it has been a really useful experience for both sides. Mike could see what we're doing on a daily basis and actually experience some of the challenges and rewards involved.

'Before, he seemed to understand the business but I was not too sure. Now I am confident that if I went to see him about new ideas and proposals he would fully understand what we are about. If I wanted new investment I am pretty sure he would be more on the ball and have a better judgement –even if he said no.'

Mr Urwin said he had been able to see first-hand how the business was evolving, with canoe hire becoming far more important.

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'When we started 32 years ago we only had two canoes whereas now we have 50. On the other hand we are reducing our day boats this year,' he said.

Mr Roll said Working With You was gathering momentum a year after its launch and, as well as visiting Bank Boats, he had already spent time at a wholesale business – 'picking things off racks and parcelling them up' – and worked at a firm selling electrical goods. Other visits were lined up.

He said: 'It is a good way of experiencing the challenges our customers face day to day in their businesses.

'Our customers get to understand us a bit more too. It is good that we are out of our comfort zone.'

Mr Roll said it was part of a trend he had seen during his 25 years in the industry of banking becoming much less formal.

'We see people in their premises most of the time these days,' he said.

Regarding Bank Boats, he said he was impressed to see how the business had diversified, grabbing the new opportunities of canoe hire alongside boat hire and other activities such as boat-building and boat safety inspection work.

He said: 'They have cleverly developed the business building strong relationships all the time, for example with the Broads Authority.'