Benchmark Businesses for Change Management


Alex Bigland change management, retail, insurance...

Cultural change is not just about increasing company efficiency. It’s also facilitating employees to achieve more. As an expert recruiter for business transformation and change, we know a successful change management strategy when we see one. We’ve rounded up some of the most illustrious working examples.


This well-known Spanish banking group are an impressive case of strategic change management. Having decided to branch into the UK in 2008, they had several hurdles to overcome.

Through careful analysis, Santander clarified their shortcomings. These included inheriting long-established, well known building societies, each with their own identities and practices, an untrusting public recently burned by an economic downturn and potential for many cultural misunderstandings.

Soon after, Santander fully redeveloped its brand direction and identity. Having been created by a merger of three building societies - Abbey National, Bradford & Bingley plc and Alliance & Leicester - it was renamed to Santander UK.  An assessment of leadership issues and cultural integration led to the group’s plans to unite their appearance in the UK market, following their similar worldwide strategy.

Santander continued their repositioning using sleek, UK-centric marketing campaigns. You’ve probably seen Lewis Hamilton on Santander billboards and adverts.

The public and market image of these financial institutions was well established and, as such, change was far from easy. The deep-seated way of working bequeathed to Santander from the building societies needed to be dismantled and rebuilt.

Keeping to the group’s strategic priorities of ‘customers, shareholders, people and communities’, Santander worked towards absorbing regional building societies, each with their own customer bases, portfolios and footprints. They were dedicated to making a cultural change.

Simon Lloyd, HR Director of Santander says “cultural change takes a long time to come through. You have to go to a focused programme, set behaviours and embed them. That’s two to three years, and to start seeing the results coming through you’re talking six or seven years.”

Within five years Santander had re-established who they were. As a result, Santander’s group-wide net profit rose 90% to around £3.65bn.


In early 2016, global demand for luxury goods had declined. As a result, come May 2016, iconic British heritage fashion brand Burberry outlined ‘key strategic’ plans to improve the business and increase revenue. This included expanding ‘digital prowess to e-commerce leadership’.

With the introduction of a ‘Transformation Management Office’ and the stepping down of Chief Creative and Chief Executive Christopher Bailey in May 2016, change was the order of the day.

One of the key changes in the business was the brand’s move to “align runway with retail”.

Bailey, said: "There’s just something that innately feels wrong when we’re talking about creating a moment in fashion: you do the show in September and it feels really right for that moment, but then you have to wait for five or six months until it’s in the store… You’re creating all this energy around something, and then you close the doors and say, ‘Forget about it now because it won’t be in the stores for five or six months’.”

As a result of this, Burberry’s collections that featured on the catwalk would now be available to buy both online and instore immediately, capitalising on the public’s first, fresh wave of interest and excitement.

To support this new venture, Burberry needed to implement a new IT infrastructure.

The company’s IT needed to be revamped, upgraded with new team to support this initiative.

The brand says of their e-commerce leadership, “Leveraging the strong digital capability Burberry has built to drive revenues both on its own platform and through third-party relationships, and to continue sector-leading innovation in this fast- growing channel.”

By November 2016, during Burberry’s first half financial results, digital traffic increased year-on-year, with mobile making up over 50% of the uplift and conversion and digital as a whole making up 70% of sales.

Direct Line

Direct Line, a leading UK-based insurer, is another excellent example of how change can be managed to facilitate greater things. After the 2008 recession, European Union regulators forced RBS Group to sell its insurance business, under the condition of RBS receiving £45bn in state aid.

The insurance business of RBS, led by Paul Geddes, was in charge of dividing the operations from RBS Group to create a solitary company, preparing for either a listing on the stock market or a competitor trade sale.

This disruptive change was turned into a great opportunity to create a separate, rebranded insurance company, Direct Line Group. The overall process took around 1.5yrs and utilised a clear change management plan. Dividing the different areas of the business, from customer data, independent functions and governance.

There was a sense of urgency with this change management plan, but the senior management teams welcomed the need to develop staff and bring them in line with the proposed business plan. After the separation had been actioned, the business drew focus on forging a new brand identity and making the business a functioning standalone organisation.

Direct Line’s Director of Lean Transformation Bryan Robertson says, “We needed to look at our overall operational effectiveness – meaning most important(sic), how we enable our people and engage with our customers.” Direct Line made sure that every branch was working in the same way, ensuring that best practices were shared and that employees were really engaged to put customers first. A uniform, consistent operation was key.

In 2012, RBS listed Direct Line on the stock market, becoming the largest, most successful listing of that year.