Being a board member during a crisis

Howard Crackle had been working in banking for 40 years and was ready for a change.  Here he explains how he’s still getting involved with finance while making a difference as a board member at both Taff Housing Association and Abbeyfield Wales Society:

“I started working at NatWest in 1979, eventually moving to the corporate side of the organisation, working with small, medium and large sized companies across a range of industries around the UK.

NatWest sponsored my MBA in 1999, and after that I moved to Cardiff, where I started looking after the banking for care homes, pharmacies and GP surgeries, supporting growth and acquisitions, including new developments.  In 2010 I started working in the same area for Barclays, before moving to focus on the education and social housing sectors in 2014.

By September 2019, after 40 years in banking, I felt ready to do something different.  I didn’t want to stop working completely though, and was eager to continue supporting the social housing sector, which I had quickly come to realise did huge amounts of work in the community.

I reached out to my contacts to see if there were any opportunities available to get involved with the sector.  In the autumn I was successful in being appointed Vice Chair of Audit and Risk at Taff Housing Association, and Vice Chair and Chair of Audit and Scrutiny with Abbeyfield Wales Society.

Working in banking for so long has left me with years of experience, which has complimented my new role as a board member, tackling the associated challenges, while also giving me the opportunity to support communities even further.  I have the skills to look at challenges from a financial perspective, and help the business perform better which in turn helps tenants lead a better life.

Being a board member during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought its own challenges.  Not being able to meet face-to-face has made it more difficult to build relationships and see how things work within the organisation on a one-on-one basis.

However, one of the biggest benefits from this time has been that we are doing things quicker than we would have done in normal circumstances.  The core services for Taff and Abbeyfield, in meeting tenant needs, have been streamlined.  The pandemic has given a unique opportunity to look at each business differently, prompting a strategic review of how things are working for our communities.

As a board, we have been asking more questions about the services being delivered and how they reflect changing needs.  We are challenging ourselves to learn from the way areas such as homelessness have been impacted, considering what we can do to improve services for the future.

Being a board member can be unnerving at first, until you begin to better understand how an organisation works, and develop a more holistic view.  However, it is a constant learning opportunity. As individual board members, we are not expected to know everything and have all the answers, we each bring different skills and specialisms to the table, which means we work together as a team.