Royal Bank of Scotland's man in the Highlands, David Scott, looking forward to a well deserved retirement after 41-year career
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Inevitably, David Scott has seen a lot of changes in a 41-year career in banking, most of it spent the Highlands.
"When I started, we didn't have mobile phones or laptops, and the only money transmission method was cash or cheque," he recalled.
"We now live in a real time world and people can do everything on their mobile phone.
"What has also changed is that the bank manager was a general practitioner in that he was expected to know everything. We are now much more specialised and you have mortgage managers and commercial managers who are trained in those areas and that is clearly advantageous for the customer."
David, who recent stepped down as Highlands and Islands commercial director with the Royal Bank of Scotland, after 18 years in the role, began his career in Aberfeldy in 1979, before moving to Inverness three years later.
That was followed by 13 years in Fort William, including seven as branch manager, where he also had responsibility for customers in Oban and the Inner Isles, experience which prepared him well for his return to Inverness in 2003 to take on the commercial manager role, covering not only the mainland Highland region, but Moray, the Western Isles and Orkney and Shetland.
"My view was that you can't lend money if you are sitting behind a desk," he said.
"You had to go out and see and breathe the business. If you have a customer in Wick, by the time you get up there and back, it's a day's investment, but that's the right thing to do. By doing that, we really understand that business and that customer really appreciates what we have done for them.
"It's not just about lending money. It's also about adding value and pointing clients to other areas that might benefit their business."
That might be helping clients in their transition to net zero, one of the areas which is being supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland's 300 Fund – launched to mark the bank's 300th anniversary in 2027 – which David believes will bring real benefits to Highland businesses and communities.
"One thing about the bank is that it never stands still," he added.
"You have to evolve and respond to what customers need."
The changing nature of banking has meant that the Royal Bank, like all high street banks, has reduced the number of branches as footfall from personal banking customers declines.
However, David believes the bank is still serving the community, not only with the move to online banking, but also through the use of mobile banks to maintain an in-person service.
Covid has also led to changes in the way the bank does things with a hybrid approach to work and communication, providing more flexibility for both staff and customers, and has accelerated the move towards a paperless system.
The crisis was also a busy period for the bank, which helped support north businesses through the distribution of government grants and loans, but also through interest holidays on capital loans for its existing customers.
David said: "We knew people were going to struggle and we had discussions with customers early on to say we are here to support you and to try to work out a strategy to help.
"My feeling is that we have probably fared better than other areas. Diversification has been amazing to see and we now just have to get back to some sort of business normality."
With its diverse economy, he is optimistic that the Highlands and Islands will bounce back from the pandemic thanks to the many assets in its favour.
It is an assessment which his successor as Highlands and Islands commercial banking manager, Ryan Fraser, agrees with.
Originally from Inverness, Ryan has returned to the Highlands after working in London, and is excited by the potential his home region has to offer.
"Whether it is the local B&B or an engineering firm building infrastructure for offshore renewable energy projects , it really is so diverse," he said.
"We will always need energy, we will always go on holiday, we will always need to eat food, there is so much going on here.
"David has left a really strong legacy which I'm looking forward to continuing and getting to meet customers and finding out what support they want from us. That's the most satisfactory part of the job, going out, speaking to customers and being able to deliver for them."
And it will be one of the things David will miss most as he begins retirement.
"I'll certainly miss the people I work with because I've been fortunate to work with such a fantastic team," he said.
"But I will also miss seeing customers and understanding their businesses and just helping people. It's so rewarding just being able to help and add some real value along the way."