The Barclays Armed Forces Reservist mobilised to fight coronavirus
To mark Armed Forces Week, Tom Wood, a Barclays colleague and Reservist, shares his experience leading a COVID-19 mobile testing unit, and highlights how the bank is supporting service personnel and veterans through financial and employability initiatives.
Tom Wood is well used to balancing his work in client services at Barclays alongside his role as an Armed Forces Reservist. But when the pandemic hit, he found himself called upon for a new challenge when he was mobilised to lead a COVID-19 mobile testing unit – one of just five in the UK at the time.
The unit travelled across Cumbria and Lancashire, enabling those living in the gaps between regional testing centres to access vital testing kits. Initially aimed at key workers, the scheme was expanded to include those over the age of 65 and anyone experiencing signs or symptoms. Their work, Tom says, had a significant impact on the local communities.
“Cumbria was actually the UK’s coronavirus hotspot, so we were right in the middle of it. Issuing the tests at the pace we were able to, and getting them out to people who would have otherwise been unable to be tested, was vital for the local community.
“It was important in helping the local economy get back on its feet too. If people were isolating because they’d had close contact with somebody they thought had coronavirus, the fact that we could test them, and they got their results back in 24 to 48 hours, meant that if they had a negative result they were able to go back into work.”
I’ve been able to go around the world with the Army, but also bring those skills back into Barclays. The bank recognises the skills obtained in the services – leadership, problem solving management, and strategic thinking
Barclays Client Services
Tom describes the complex operation as hugely fulfilling. “Compared to my normal day as a Barclays colleague, the challenges were far wider-ranging. For example, I had to manage drivers’ rotations, or I might look at a site and have to think about handwashing facilities – that’s obviously a big part of the protection against coronavirus. There was a lot of tactical problem-solving.”
“When I went into it, I wanted to help – there was a national calling to do something. I certainly feel that having done what we’ve done, over 16,000 tests, has been really rewarding.”
Reservists at Barclays
Tom, who joined the Reserve aged 18, looks after around 30 soldiers in the 4th Battalion, The Mercian Regiment as a sergeant in the infantry. He says his Barclays colleagues were encouraging when they heard the role his unit would play in the crisis.
“My line manager and managing director were supportive of me,” he says. “This was when everyone had been told they were going to work from home, so everybody was unsure what life was going to look like. I think they were quite pleased to be able to support one of their colleagues to help with the national effort.”
The bank has committed to supporting the Armed Forces community, having signed its Covenant in 2013 – a promise to honour those who are serving and have served. As a founding partner of the VETS (Veteran Employment Transition Service) initiative, the bank helps with employment transition, connecting veterans with mentors and targeted jobs. The AFTER programme, established in 2010, also provides employability support to service personnel through placements, CV coaching and other opportunities. So far it has helped over 7,000 veterans into a number of different companies across sectors – and this year, 19 military leavers have been hired full-time by Barclays.
There is also a host of resources available for those in the forces, ranging from everyday banking support to the dedicated help to buy mortgages, which allow personnel to borrow up to half of their salary interest-free.
Tom is involved with the Barclays Military Network, and regularly supports its outreach initiatives – from giving interview coaching to having informal chats with potential new talent.
“Service leavers may want to have a conversation with a Barclays employee about a particular role, so I can give them an overview of what my job’s like at Barclays and what the culture is like. I think they have found that really beneficial, because they’ve potentially joined the forces at a very early age and worked with them for 22 years, so they have a different perspective on civilian life.”
He describes the bank as hugely supportive of him and other Reservist colleagues. “Barclays has been a fantastic employer for those in the reserves,” he says. “There are whole policies around Army Reserves, and we are able to claim special leave to complete our training.
“I’ve been able to go around the world with the Army, but also bring those skills back into Barclays. The bank recognises the skills obtained in the services – leadership, problem solving management, and strategic thinking. They really do see the benefits of having colleagues in the Reserves.”