Banking on success for Alan at Upstream

In the High Flyer spotlight this week is Alan Wardlow, sales director at Upstream (

What was your first job?

As a student I worked in retail, pricing clothing and I mean standing with a pricing gun (remember those) for eight hours a day sticking prices on labels. My first full-time job was in Northern Bank, Portadown as an admin clerk.

What qualifications do you have?

I've three A-levels and my professional banking exams.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hopefully doing every job to the best of my ability, but also making sure I build professional relationships along the way.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

A very positive person trying to make the best out of every situation.

Who do you look up to in business?

I really admire the trail blazers who dare to do things differently and break traditional barriers. Michael O’Leary might have some questionable customer service practices, but no one can question his drive. He’s transformed the budget airline industry and we’ve all benefitted from this. I’ve been to a few business events where he has been a spokesperson – I find his enthusiasm and charisma incredible.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

Always focus on the positive without being condescending. If people are feeling good about their role - productivity and responsibility levels increase.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

I think the banking industry should change. We get a sense of frustration from the SME community that they are not being appropriately supported by the local banks, and I say this as someone who worked in banking for almost 30 years. We haven’t had normality in banking for 15 years or more. It’s gone from boom to bust, other markets have normalised (GB and RoI), but I don’t feel it has in Northern Ireland. I sympathise with the banking relationship managers and client facing bankers who want to do their best, but they are constrained by credit policies and products. Local banks should be working with other funding providers to help mitigate the perceived risk and allow local companies to grow.

What website or app could you not do without?

BBC News.

What was the last book you read?

At Home by Bill Bryson.

What car do you drive?

Audi A5 Cabriolet

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

While I was scuba diving, I had a panic attack on the seabed of the Great Barrier Reef – a shark had brushed past my leg. It turned out it was the diving instructor’s flipper and not a shark.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

Unfortunately it’s golf, but I’m useless. My brother is a professional golfer and he’s stopped trying to help me.

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