She talked exclusively about the strength that her faith has given her and how it has helped to shape her business decisions.

She also spoke about her pride in leading the largest transformation programmes in the Post Office’s history, which has in turn established the Post Office as a successful and profitable business, moving from loss making to profit; but one which retains a unique sense of social purpose as part of its DNA. Paula talked about the importance of – with 17 million customers and a third of the UK’s small businesses using a post office every week – continuing to get things right for customers and for communities.

On average across the UK, around 99% of people live within three miles of their nearest Post Office, while around 93% live within just one mile. Paula highlighted the North East as a relatively unique Post Office region; using the Government Office Region Boundary, these branches are roughly split half and half in terms of rural and urban areas. This is unusual, as regions tend to be predominantly either rural or urban in terms of Post Office services. The region also has just over 100 branches in the most deprived areas of the region, which are ‘the last shop in the village’ and sometimes also the last bank.

Paula spoke about how important these branches are to their communities, where they provide a vital combination of services and often include a shop; somewhere to post and pick up parcels, as well as pay bills and buy food. And, with customers now able to access their usual high street bank account as part of Post Office services, branches are also essential hubs for customers and small businesses to withdraw and deposit cash and check their balance.

An extra dimension

Speaking about her visit, Paula said: “I was really pleased to be invited to the event: the North East is fortunate to have such talented and dedicated individuals driving its economy. That many of them are people of faith is inspiring: they bring an extra dimension of hope and determination.

“The Post Office  has a brilliant story to tell, and our branches are places that millions of people visit every single week – be that to pay a bill, collect their online shopping or use our banking services. That means our services touch nearly every single person in the UK and are at the very heart of communities.

“We want to ensure we maintain that relevant and unique position in our customer’s lives, so we can continue serving them for many years to come, and I was glad to be able to share my experiences with businesses here in Northumberland about the challenges we are all facing, and how we make the most of the opportunities this changing world presents.”

The invitation-only event was hosted by the region’s leading idependent law firm for businesses, Muckle LLP, and the Bishop of Newcastle and included a presentation from Paula,​ followed by an exclusive question and answer session.

A real coup

Hugh Welch, Senior Partner, Muckle LLP, said, “To secure a speaker who has achieved as much as Paula was a real coup for us. It was an absolutely fascinating evening and a privilege to hear about her personal views and beliefs as well as her extraordinary business success.”

The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman said: “The Church is a key player across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland working with many businesses and civic groups – to ensure regional services are sustained for some of our most vulnerable citizens and to support enterprises that contribute to our economy. I am grateful to Paula for joining us and to the Post Office for its sterling work in both these areas.”

A wide range of leading business people from around the region attended the event including representatives of the motor industry, educational, charitable and investment sectors.