“It’s very important that AIB (GB) specialise in hospitality, they work in the same way as us, the same service level and we have a very good rapport with them.”
At Mar Hall, just outside of Glasgow, there’s a sense of history everywhere you look. Built in 1845 and designed by Sir Robert Kirke (also responsible for the Natural History Museum in London), the magnificent Gothic-style mansion on the banks of the River Clyde is a truly arresting sight.
This stunning building has been many different things over the years – from a home for Scottish nobility to a military hospital – but in 2001, new life was breathed into the grand old hall when it was transformed into a five-star golf and spa resort with the help of Allied Irish Bank (GB).
For Jeanette Montgomery, Director of Operations at Mar Hall, it all started with the structure. “I was very passionate about the building,” she explains. “When we started, this was essentially a derelict building, but AIB (GB) bought into the vision we had for a five-star service business. We had fantastic interior designers that we worked with to transform it into the beautiful hotel you see today.”
Running a luxury hotel of this scale is no easy task, and Jeanette and her team work around the clock to ensure no customer is ever left wanting. “We invest very highly in staff and staff training to ensure we give our guests the best service possible,” she explains. “We try to ensure that no one goes out the door without a member of staff speaking to them.”
But despite the demands of the job, Jeanette is as passionate about the hotel now as when she started. “The thing I love most about working in Mar Hall is the diversity of it,” she says. “One day we could be dealing with royalty, the next day it might be pop stars. No two days are ever the same.”
Growing the Business
No one involved with Mar Hall is content to rest on their laurels, and since it opened the hotel has undergone a continual process of development and expansion. This began in 2007 with a refinancing package worth £20m funded by AIB (GB) which included the building of an 18 hole championship Golf Course at a cost of £3.5m. Designed by ex-pro Dave Thomas, the course occupies pride of place on the hotel’s estate and has a truly spectacular setting in the shadow of the Kilpatrick Hills across the River Clyde.
“When we put the plan to the bank to revamp the estate to bring in more business, they were very helpful and supportive,” explains Jeanette. “Having that confidence and support behind you is essential when you’re undertaking a task of that size. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that backing.”
The development process hasn’t stopped there, and the hotel’s owners have ambitious plans to upgrade the hotel’s facilities in the immediate future. “The expansion plans for the hotel are to refurbish our main function suites which hold weddings and large functions for up to 350 people,” Jeanette says. “We’re also building 20 new lodges with 5 bedrooms in each lodge on the estate, which will give us an extra 100 bedrooms, and we’re refurbishing all the bedrooms in the main hotel as well.”
“We’re already at a very high level but we want to go up another level again. I’m not sure there are any six-star hotels in Scotland,” she laughs, “but we’d love to be six-star!”
A Lasting Relationship
As to why the hotel’s relationship with their bank has lasted since 2001, Jeanette believes it’s down to one thing – accessibility. “AIB (GB) is very different from other banks in that they’re very approachable,” she explains. “We can get in at floor level, and they assist us whenever we want to put anything to them from the refurbishment programme to any new investments. They’ve always been very loyal to us.”
And Jeanette sees a similarity between Mar Hall’s approach to their customers and AIB (GB)’s approach to theirs. “I think they work in the same way as us, the same service level, the same standard, and we have a very good rapport with them,” she says.
“I think it’s very important that AIB (GB) specialise in hospitality,” she continues. “I think it helps because they know the background of it, because it’s not like every other business that just has a turnover immediately. We had to build the turnover, and I think they were very supportive in that.”
“They also understand the investment that’s required to ensure we continue to maintain the high standards we’ve become known for and have continued to support our expansion plans as the business has grown. We have never changed banks, we’ve never looked to change banks, and it’s a relationship we hope continues for a long time to come.”
And that’s a sentiment shared by AIB (GB) relationship manager Craig Gebbie. “It’s been great to work with Mar Hall since 2001 and to see the incredible transformation in their business,” he says. “It’s a relationship we value incredibly highly and one we’re excited to see grow and develop in the years ahead. And on a wider note, we’re looking forward to working with more hotel businesses in Scotland and across Britain.”
To find out more about Mar Hall, please visit their website: http://www.marhall.com/
At AIB (GB) we know the hospitality sector in Britain and have built long-lasting relationships with our clients across the industry. To find out more about how we can help you grow your business, visit our dedicated Hotel Sector Page.