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Guest blog: Becoming the first Plain Numbers Practitioner in the sector

Guest blog by Sarah Hemmings, Senior Marketing Communications Manager at the West Brom.

Guest blog by Sarah Hemmings, Senior Marketing Communications Manager at the West Brom.

At the West Brom, we’ve always been committed to making continuous improvements for our members and supporting those with vulnerabilities as best we can. In 2012 we rolled out a new tone of voice across the business to ensure our communications were easy to understand, clear, consistent and professional for all members. Of course, this focused on the words and we didn’t necessarily consider how we could better present our numbers.

Fast forward to 2022 and we were introduced to Plain Numbers to consider a partnership. When we met with the team, the statistics and research they showed us really opened our eyes, especially the fact that approximately half of all working age adults have the numeracy level expected of a primary school child. It felt like a natural progression for us to become a Plain Numbers Partner and make our communications even more accessible for our members.

Our partnership began in June this year and we committed to putting forward 15 colleagues from various teams to become Plain Numbers Practitioners over three years. I was delighted to be part of the first cohort of training this Autumn. The sessions were engaging and interactive, and it was beneficial to be on the training with people from a wide range of other financial services organisations who had different perspectives and backgrounds. I learnt a lot from the Plain Numbers experts, but also by talking amongst the other delegates on the training. My colleagues and I realised how easy it is to assume a level of knowledge when it comes to financial services and those from other organisations helped us to understand how we could make our communications even simpler to improve understanding.

Now that our first cohort has completed the training and our second cohort has nearly completed their training, the next challenge is implementing the approach in a practical way to our customer communications. This is something we’re currently working through and getting a number of our key customer communications Plain Numbers accredited will be a particular focus for us over the months ahead.

Although our training has been completed, it’s not the end of the road for us. The team at Plain Numbers offer continual support to help us ensure we’re embedding the approach and will be on hand to guide us through any future challenges, which is a great resource for us.

I’m proud to have led the way for building societies by becoming the first practitioner in the sector and to have been part of rolling this out across the West Brom. I’d encourage others in the sector to consider a Plain Numbers approach and challenge themselves to look at their communications through a different lens to make financial service more accessible, both now and in the future.

For more information visit:

The West Brom Building Society

Plain Numbers


The views, opinions and positions expressed within guest blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the BSA.