His pay packet may have seven figures (before the decimal point), but CEO of Nationwide Philip Williamson certainly doesn't let all that cash go to his head.

IN the super-rich world of high finance, Philip Williamson is that rare thing, a banker who is not interested in money unless it's other people's.

He may earn £1.2m a year now, but the chief executive of Nationwide took a £45,000 pay cut to join the company.

"I was earning £80,000 a year in 1991 working for a property company," he says.

"But I wasn't really happy so I gave it up to join Nationwide on £35,000 a year.

"It was a big decision, but money is not the be-all and end-all in life."

That may sound odd from a man running one of the country's largest financial institutions. But the 58-year-old father-of-two still has his feet firmly on the ground.

Williamson admits he's paid a lot, but denies it is excessive.

"If we were a bank on the stock market, we would be in the top half of the FTSE-100," he says.

"The average pay of senior directors at that level is something like £1.7m. So I'd be at the bottom of the league."

Despite heading a £100bn organisation, there is no whiff of arrogance nor any suggestion he is living in an ivory tower.

His family home is in Sussex and he owns an apartment in South Carolina where he goes to play golf with the same group of friends each year.

But he spends most of his time in a "little" house hear the firm's offices in Swindon. He second wife Theresa, 48, packs him off to work with home-made meals from the freezer, "I leave home at 5.30am on Monday and try to sneak away at about 4.30pm Friday," he explains.

"During the week I commit myself 100 per cent to Nationwide.

"If I'm not out at a function in the evening I'm quite happy to go home, get one of my wife's curries out of the freezer and chill out watching football."

Born and brought up in Liverpool, Williamson was the first member of his family to go to grammar school and university.

His late father, an engineer, was a season ticket holder, at Everton but Williamson is a lifelong Liverpool fan. He goes to matches when he can and talks passionately about the team's amazing fightback from 3-0 down to win last season's Champions League Final against Milan.

And he uses it to illustrate the teamwork he is trying to create at Nationwide.

"Liverpool didn't have the best set of players that night but they were more passionate and found that extra ingredient from somewhere.

"If you are passionate and believe in what you are doing, it can make a big difference."

From anyone else that would sound corny but Williamson's down-to-earth manner is entirely sincere.

His willingness to call a spade a spade or, more pertinently, a bank rip-off is supported by Nationwide's stand in the past on issues such as cash machine charges.

He concedes that some of the big banks are guilty of stinging customers with excessive charges.

"There is no smoke without fire," he says. "The banks are arch-exponents of smoke and mirrors.

"They lure you into the den with what appears to be a stunningly attractive offer but once they've got you, they find another way to sting you.

"But they are shooting themselves in the foot by imposing excessive charges or not looking after their customers as fairly and transparently as they should."

He says and he is on his particular professional soap box now that this is where the Nationwide scores by being a mutual society, owned by its customers rather than shareholders.

"The big banks have to make more money out of their customers than I do because they have to pay dividends to shareholders," he insists.

"I can guarantee that I am only working for you, nobody else.

"HBOS or Abbey both former building societies which gave up their mutual status to join the stock market can't say that.

"We opened 875,000 new current accounts last year. Why?"

Many people land themselves in debt because it is too easy to borrow money, says the Nationwide boss.

"I think it is very easy these days to persuade young people to part with money and to take credit particularly young women who like clothes and music.

"They need to have a lot of discipline and should be taught how to budget at an early age.

"I think people are starting to realise that on balance, and over time we give them a better deal than the big banks.

"They are also realising it is easier to move their business. In the past, people were more likely to change partners than switch current accounts not any more. The internet has helped with that but people have different values these days.

"They are interested in the environment. They shop for Fairtrade coffee and organic food.

"They are interested in a different, non-exploitative world.

"The banks are making billions and I think unless they watch it, the public will increasingly vote with their feet."

  • Reprinted courtesy of the Daily Mirror



Job: Chief executive, Nationwide Building Society

AGE: 58

MARITAL STATUS: Married with two daughters

SCHOOL: Caldy Grange Grammar, Liverpool


FIRST JOB: Lloyds Bank. Joined Nationwide 1991. Chief executive since 2001

WHAT HE DRIVES: Jaguar XJR 2-litre turbo

HOBBIES: Golf, football



BOOK: Grapes of Wrath