George Thomson gave his last speech as Chief Executive of the NFSP at this week’s conference in Nottingham with a rousing reprise of his 10 year tenure. George was very positive about the benefits of Network Transformation and the role NFSP played in the programme, and the enormous opportunity bank closures coupled with the banking framework now presents to postmasters. He urged members to exploit every opportunity to develop their retail business and called for fairer remuneration particularly for mails transactions.
Nick Beal, Head of Agents’ Development & Remuneration said: “George has developed the NFSP into a successful trade association, and the conference agenda this year reflects that. Speakers and panel discussions were chosen to promote lively and constructive debate on subjects important to Post Office and postmasters.
“George will be much missed when he steps down but we look forward to working with his successor Calum Greenhow, who currently serves as an NFSP Director and Council Member for Scotland.”
Moya Greene, Chief Executive of Royal Mail opened her keynote speech by saying that Post Office and Royal Mail share something very special: postmasters and posties are the people most trusted by customers in the UK. She talked about a deeper collaboration between our two businesses in the future and how vital that will be in order to protect our share of the increasingly competitive mails market.
Moya emphasised the importance of innovation and making improvements at a faster pace. She warned that there are now 30,000 competitors in the parcels market and although "together we are still the best", now virtually anyone can set themselves up as a parcel shop.
Debbie Smith, Chief Executive for Retail received a warm welcome as she addressed her first conference and talked about the challenges faced by Post Office, working together with the NFSP, growing trust, and above all the importance of listening to both customers and our agents. Debbie was joined by Tom Moran, Martin Kearsley, and Mark Siviter on stage to take questions.
Martin responded to a challenge about extra workload resulting from the bank closures by announcing a package of measures to assist with the increase in business banking deposits, including the opportunity to purchase polymer note counting machines at a heavily subsidised price in partnership with the NFSP, simplification of some banking transactions on Horizon, plans to increase remuneration for certain banking transactions, the trial of ‘drop and go’ for business banking customers, and full contractual support (with the banks) to ask customers to only present full coin bags.
Tom Moran explained the rationale for new network locations, putting branches where customers want them, in response to a challenge about some new branches. George expressed support for additional branches in London and in places where there is no nearby branch, but raised concerns about the proximity of some new branches to existing Post Offices, and communication to existing postmasters about potential new openings.
Monday afternoon included a panel debate on the development of the mails industry with Nick Landon, MD Royal Mail Parcels, Mark Siviter and Tom Brookes from Citizens Advice; a debate about the Local model followed and the session ended with a panel discussion with postmasters about how they grew their businesses.
Tuesday included a talk from Ken Hughes a consumer behaviourist about getting shoppers to buy more, and in the afternoon a postmaster panel discussion about postmasters’ role in the community with Nick Horler from Blaenavon Post Office and Andrew Purdy from Great Ryburgh.
Next year’s conference will be in April, to coincide with the National Convenience Show.