The AIB Build a Bank Challenge: The 2016 Winners Tell Their Story

A member of Pretty Little Bankers, winning team from the 2016 AIB Build a Bank Challenge beside a quote "It was a brilliant way to show my creativity".

Teamwork and friendship. Two words that come up again and again when you talk to the girls from Pretty Little Bankers, winners of the 2015/16 Build a Bank Challenge. The team, from St. Angela’s Ursuline Waterford, didn’t know each other too well before they were brought together by the competition, but now they consider themselves friends for life - with a bank of memories that will never be forgotten.

Taking a Creative Approach

The team was headed by Bank Manager Karen Chandrakanth, who jumped at the chance to develop her leadership skills. “I’ve always had a passion for leading a team and I love interacting with people and motivating them, she says. “I think it’s just the most satisfying feeling when you see the team coming together.”

Taking inspiration from the hit TV show Pretty Little Liars, the girls hit on a theme that focused on the entertaining aspects of the competition while not forgetting all the nuts and bolts that go into running a successful bank. “Our tactic was just to be friendly, smiley, approachable,” explains Orla Charters, the bank’s Chief Operating Officer. “We went around to different classes and told them about the benefits of banking but we also really emphasised the fact that it was going to be fun for everyone.”

For Cadhla Duffy, the team’s Marketing Manager, the competition was an opportunity to exercise her creativity. As an art student, she immediately saw the possibilities in the marketing role to bring her artistic skills to the table. “I had great ideas for promoting the bank and bringing people into it. I knew I would love making posters for the school and for social media,” she explains. “We had a lot of incentives and we’d gotten sponsorship from loads of local businesses so we were able to give out prizes as incentives. We also held some fun events and we tried to match them to students’ interests so we would get a big turnout.”

A Winning Experience

AIB build a bank challenge experience

And all that preparation paid off in spades when Pretty Little Bankers triumphed at the National Finals last April. “We weren’t really nervous going into the finals,” says Karen. “We’d done so many presentations to younger students and different businesses over the year that by the time nationals came around, I was ready for it.”

When the announcement of the winners came, it was a truly memorable moment for all seven team members. “We worked so hard during the year, so it was such a rewarding feeling,” Karen continues. “And being on stage with the other six girls and getting to share that experience was incredible. By far that was the best day of my life.”

“There was nothing quite like the feeling of winning. We weren’t expecting it, so when we were told all our emotions came out,” adds Orla. “There was a lot of crying, a lot of screaming. It was just an amazing moment.”

Building for the Future

AIB build a bank challenge application

Gopika Suresh, who took on the crucial role of Financial Controller, says she’s already reaping the benefits of her Build a Bank experience in her schoolwork. “I’m much more organised this year, especially now that I’m in 5th year,” she says. “Whether it’s homework or working to deadlines, the experience has helped me so much.”

Like all the girls, she’s also enthusiastic about the effect that taking part had on her self-confidence, both in and out of school. “Our confidence improved greatly,” she continues. “At the start of the year we were really shy and reserved, but as we gave more presentations to our school years, our confidence just grew.”

Some Lasting Lessons

AIB build a bank challenge entry

And it’s not just the students who are seeing the benefits of their time in Build a Bank. Their teachers agree that it’s made a hugely positive effect on the girls themselves and the school as a whole. “The students benefit hugely from it,” explains Nora Donovan, who teaches Business Studies at St. Angela’s. They’re working outside the classroom and they’re applying the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom throughout the course of the competition. During the competition, they also went out into the community to promote their bank and got publicity on TV and the radio, which has done wonders for the profile of the school.”

And the biggest lesson our winning team learned from Build a Bank? The girls are unanimous: “Teamwork! Nothing can be achieved without it. Building relationships with each other, working together and pitching ideas to each other really helped us learn what it was like to work well as a team. And we’ll be friends for life now too!”

Want to find out more about the AIB Build a Bank Challenge?

Participants will have the opportunity to compete against the best teams in the country at both the Regional and National Finals with €52,000 worth of prizes on offer.

If you’re a parent, teacher or student who would like to find out how to take part in next year’s competition, visit the official AIB Build a Bank site.

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