Katherine Thomson, Commercial Relationship Manager

Katherine Thomson joined the Cumberland Building Society in December 2021 after spending 15 years working at the Lloyds Banking Group. She has worked within the industry since leaving school, her first role was as a tax advisor at a local accountancy firm.

At the Cumberland, Katherine has a portfolio of over 50 businesses within the hospitality industry, mainly based in Cumbria, Northumberland and Yorkshire.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career and experience working with hotel properties?

At the Cumberland, I have a portfolio of over 50 businesses within the hospitality industry, mainly based in Cumbria, Northumberland and Yorkshire.

I fell into finance after completing my A Levels.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do and got a job with a local accountancy firm.  From that first job, I knew I wanted to work with businesses to help and support them in their journey and working as a Relationship Manager enables me to do that.

My first role was as a tax advisor at a local accountancy firm straight out of school and I worked at the Lloyds Banking Group for 15 years before I was drawn to The Cumberland Building Society.

The Cumberland has got a fantastic reputation locally. Being from Cumbria myself, I knew of the business and knew that it is an admired and prominent business in the area. Another thing that drew me to the Cumberland was the level of diversity within senior management. The board is incredibly supportive, and it really gave me the confidence that the business supports and empowers its female employees.

What does the average day look like for the commercial team at the firm?  How does the team and yourself support and offer counsel to hoteliers?

Every day we have the opportunity to meet a huge variety of people and businesses and get to know what makes them tick, why they do what they do and work with them to make their goals happen.

No two days are the same. One day we may be speaking to a hotel owner who is seeking investment to expand, another day we may be supporting a business owner manage their loan repayments, or we may be looking at business plans in detail to offer our expertise and advice where needed.

At The Cumberland, we aim to support all our customers as best we can so they are safeguarded, but crucially, can thrive going forward and can continue to make a difference in their local communities. For those businesses who are struggling, we may be able to look at measures which will help such as payment holidays or loan period extensions to reduce monthly payments. 

Where we add real value is by sitting down with the customer and taking an in-depth look at their businesses and the challenges they are facing so that we can work collaboratively with them to reach the best possible result.

What do you wish more commercial property owners knew about the lending process, and why? 

The hospitality sector is not an easy industry to be in at the moment and you see a real resilience in the business-owners in this area. I think a common mistake that hotel owners make is not looking for relationship lenders, such as The Cumberland.

Being able to speak to them and work directly with them to overcome obstacles is incredibly valuable to the whole process, and we often hear from our customers how they originally went to a high street lender and struggled to get a face-to-face appointment. 

At the Cumberland, we have placed a relationship managed service at the heart of what we do, which puts the focus on building strong, fruitful relationship with all of our customers so they can succeed moving forward. 

Have you noticed a change in the number of women in the field since you’ve worked in it?

I wouldn’t say I’ve seen a change in the number of women working in banking overall but I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of women holding senior positions within those businesses. The Cumberland especially has great representation in its senior team with over 50 per cent of its senior roles filled by women.

We have actually achieved this over two years ahead of our own target of April 2025. It means a rise of over 30 per cent in the number of senior positions occupied by women in just five years, which makes me really proud to work here!

What was your perception of women in banking prior to you pursuing a career within the industry?

I was quite lucky, really, as my mum worked for one of the big five banks when I was growing up. I saw first-hand that a woman can be a mum and a wife and still have the career that she wants. Of course, it is a juggle! I’ve got two young boys, and, with often long and intense hours, it can be difficult to strike that work-life balance but the Cumberland is incredibly supportive and has a brilliant flexible-working policy which allows me to have a work-life balance that works for me, my career and my family.

What are the greatest improvements the finance sector has made in relation to gender equality?

There have been so many changes during the time I have worked in the sector but seeing the opportunities available to women and the diversity at the higher levels of the industry is fantastic.  Also seeing the flexible working arrangements for both women and men including paternity leave and shared parental leave gives a much better balance for families as well as a happier workplace.

Final thoughts on Women in Banking

There is a very dated view that women in banking are cashiers on the shop floor in a high-street bank. I think it’s incredibly important to inspire the next generation of women and girls to pursue careers outside of the gender-norms and raise awareness of the positions on offer including shop floor, back office and boardroom. There are so many different roles and career directions that you can take in this industry and women very much have a place every step of the way!