Why has Greater Building Society rebranded to Greater Bank when such a move has, to our knowledge, been rejected previously by the executive?
The move to Greater Bank was always an option. We were monitoring where our current and potential customers were at. The executive and Board agreed on the need to change more than 12 months ago and we’ve been carefully researching and planning since then.
In the public mind at least, though, aren’t you just joining the big four competitors you have worked so hard to distinguish yourself from?
The public will be smart enough to see Greater Bank is a different kind of challenger bank to the Big Four.
We remain customer owned, not shareholder owned so our profits will continue to be invested back into customers and the community.
For existing customers, there will be no change from the high standards of service, great rates and low fees.
What are the obvious advantages of the name change?
It addresses a key problem we’re facing. Many people, particularly younger, potential customers don’t understand the term building society, so they don’t know all of the financial products and services we offer. Changing our name to Greater Bank better reflects what we already do. We’re well managed, safe and strong but people, rightly or wrongly, associate that financial strength with the word “bank”.
If the name change is part of a continuing process, is it a possible precursor to demutualisation?
No, certainly not. We’re staying customer–owned, focused on customers and community. The continuing process is about transforming our products, systems and technology to meet customers’ changing needs.
You took on the CEO role almost two years ago after five years as Chief Risk Officer. How has the transition to your current role been and what have been the biggest challenges?
To be frank, not without its challenges. The finance sector is going through a lot of change and disruption. We’ve a lot to do to keep up with changing customer needs. We’re full steam ahead in responding to that challenge. I have the good fortune of starting with a great business that has great people.
Growing up in the Hunter, what or who influenced your decision to enrol for a bachelor of commerce after school?
I had family who worked in accounting and finance and I thought it would present great future career opportunities for me. Things worked out pretty well. I’ve been very lucky to get some great opportunities and experience along the way.
You’ve worked as a financial and commercial offer at BAE and in assurance at PwC. What was the appeal of moving to Greater Bank?
I really enjoyed my previous roles. The big driver in shifting from PwC was being able to focus upon one business and to better own the business’ outcomes. Also, with a young family, less time on the road is always nice.
On June 14 you’ll be talking to the Newcastle Business Club about how local businesses need to change and adapt to beat existing competition and disruptors. What is Greater Bank doing in that respect?
Regionally based businesses are increasingly becoming targets of smaller and more agile, digital competitors.
We need to be careful to not get too caught up in the talk of digital disruption and the technology.
Disruption occurs when new players better understand the needs of established business’ customers and leverage new technologies to respond to these needs.
Before rushing off into the latest thing you need to have clear insight into customers’ needs and priorities and get the culture right. Then you can partner with technology and systems experts.
So Greater Bank is starting with strategy based on the evolving needs of customers. We’re changing our name to address potential customer perceptions.
Building the right ethical, customer-focused culture and continuous improvement focus is critical.
We’re making systems and products simpler, we’re investing in digital technology. We’re already up with the big banks in mobile banking and have more initiatives in the pipeline.
You have taken the helm of Greater Bank at a relatively young age (we hear you are in your early 40s). What other career aspirations do you have?
I like new challenges so I wouldn’t rule out anything that helps develop me and lets me make a difference.
Having said that, there’s plenty to do here and my focus is on delivering good outcomes for Greater Bank and its customers.
You have a young family and surf in your spare time. What is something few people know about you?
My wife is French and from that family connection I’ve picked up a strong passion and appreciation for wine (not just French of course).
If you could pick three nominally famous people to take to dinner, who would they be?
There’d be two because I’d want my wife to join us. Paul Perreault, CEO of CSL Ltd (global biopharmaceutical company) has driven innovation really well.
Kelly Slater is a surfing legend and is very business-like in the way he runs his career.
Scott Morgan will join Greater Bank’s chairman Wayne Russell and head of people and process transformation Marie Hanson-Kentwell for Newcastle Business Club’s luncheon on June 14. 12pm, Harbourview Function Centre, tickets newcastlebusinessclub.com.au