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Rewarding Claire’s incredible work

Posted by Alex Heron, 28 days ago

3 min read

Every year we celebrate the colleagues who are shining examples of our values in action, and no one was more deserving than our 2023 Big LOV winner Claire Earnell, a Personal Banker in Retail Banking, who made a huge difference to a young person facing a tragic situation.

Colleagues across the bank voted for Claire as one of our winners, then to top off her success, CEO Paul Thwaite chose her as the Big LOV winner.

The story behind her award began in May last year when 16-year-old Chloe (not her real name) visited the busy Lowestoft branch to register her mum’s death…

Claire’s story

“She literally came into the branch and said ‘I don’t know what to do,’” recalls Claire. “She was about to do her GCSEs and, in the space of a couple of weeks, she’d lost both her brother and her mum. She had no other family around to support her and just didn’t know where to start.

“We were really busy in the branch that day, but I just had to help her. So my manager agreed I could spend the time with her to go over absolutely everything.

“It can be scary dealing with bereavement – especially at 16. At that age if you lose a parent and have a sibling, at least you can do it together, but she was completely alone.

“We did the bereavement first of all, and then went through everything else that needed to be done. Together, we made a list of what she needed to do, who she needed to contact and the organisations that could provide support. She didn’t know how to find a solicitor, for example, so I put her in touch with Citizens Advice and signposted her to other organisations for support, including a local grief counselling service.”

Despite Chloe not being a customer of the bank, Claire also made a referral to the Customer Protection Team, who were also able to reach out and use their specialist knowledge to support her.

“It was literally a case of ‘what can we do as a branch and as a bank to support her?’“ says Claire. “She was in such a state. She told me she couldn’t cry because if she started to cry she wouldn’t be able to cope at all. It was so hard for her. She was about to start her exams too. I remember her saying, ‘I want to make my mum proud. I want to get my GCSEs.’ That really resonated with me.”

“I was with her for a long time that day. I could see all my colleagues were busy but they understood that it was something I needed to do. And when she walked away and gave me a hug I felt really pleased that I’d spent that time with her. I don’t know who else she’d have spoken to otherwise. I know she had friends, but this wasn’t something most 16-year-olds would be able to understand, let alone support with the practical side of things.”

Claire continued to keep in touch with Chloe, who eventually went to live with her godmother, who also lives in the local area.

“She was such a lovely young girl, and it was lovely to chat with her, despite the sad situation,“ says Claire. “In her shoes, at 16 I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do or where to turn. I was just glad to have been able to help her in a small way, and to keep in touch so she knew she had somewhere to turn if she still had any questions as she worked through things.”

It was a complete surprise to Claire when her manager nominated her for an LOV award in recognition of the empathy and care she’d shown in prioritising Chloe’s wellbeing and going above and beyond to support her. It came as an even bigger surprise to discover she’d won!

“It was amazing just to be nominated. I’d even said to my manager, that it didn’t matter whether I won or not it was just so lovely to be nominated. Then two days later I found myself on a call with [Team GB Olympic athlete and presenter] Jazmin Sawyers and found out I’d won. I was in shock for the rest of the day. I never win anything, I’m just not that type of person. So it was absolutely amazing. I really couldn’t believe it.”

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