Where were you raised and what influenced your career?
I was raised in Belleville Ontario Canada. My best friend and mentor said get into banking so I did.
What did you do after school?
My first job was as apprentice mechanic in a large Chevrolet dealership. My first finance job in 1980 was assistant branch manager of a finance company in Mayfield.
What led you to Australia?
I met the love of my life Wendy on a four-month overland trip from London to Kathmandu in 1980. We decided to marry (she eventually said yes after several requests) and settled in Maitland near her family.
You joined Nova Credit Union in February 2001. Tell us about its history?
Nova Started in1964 as Hunter District Water Credit Union with a dozen members, later joining forces with the Newcastle Herald Credit Union. The aim being to support members and to keep the big four banks on their toes. The Credit Union slowly grew over the next 30 years. The unfortunate passing of its General Manager resulted in at attempt to merge with Companion Credit Union which was voted down by our members. I landed the job as General Manager and have been steering the ship for the last 20 years. Today we manage $82 million in loans and have over 2000 shareholders/owners of Nova Mutual Limited.
What sort of position was it in when you arrived?
It had a shrinking market as they really focused on Hunter Water and Newcastle Herald employee base, so it was a challenge to grow to a long term sustainable size. Our growth had to come from the open market. When I took over we had a loan book of $7 million. Our budget to fund any expansion plans was always done on a shoestring but the will to survive was always very strong and driven on by very strong customer loyalty.
What led to the partnership with Bendigo Bank?
In order to survive and continue to prosper we needed to be able to provide a full suite of services to our customers. Credit Union numbers across Australia dropped from 600 in the early '80s down to around 60 today. Most credit unions and their original names effectively disappeared and this trend has not stopped. Bendigo enabled business as usual for Nova under a franchise agreement maintaining the Nova office, name and importantly culture.
What sort of position is Nova Alliance Bank, as it is now known, in?
Nova Mutual continues to be owned by its members and we are in an extremely sound financial position. All loans and savings are owned by Bendigo Bank. Income is paid to us by Bendigo Bank to manage these accounts allowing us to cover the cost of our staff and office. What's left after that is able to be put back into local community charities and build for the future needs of our members.
How did the pandemic affect Nova?
In many ways it boosted our performance. This financial year our loans have grown by 18 per cent to over $80 million in loans under management.
Your toughest career moment?
Handing in our banking licence to join Bendigo Bank. There's no going back and asking the regulator for your licence back. But 98 per cent of our members agreed it was the right move and so the collective decision was reached.
And most rewarding?
Thankfully joining Bendigo Bank in May 2018 was the best business move we've made. We kept our soul, became profitable and have a bright future ahead with strong customer preference in a crowded market place.
What level of engagement does it have with its members today?
Our community involvement revolves around supporting Hunter-based charities. Charities we have supported in the last financial year included Got your back Sista, Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation, Hunter Melanoma Foundation, Connectability and Soul Cafe. Our members, staff and directors understand the importance of supporting our local community. It's extremely pleasing to catch up with customers who have account numbers like 21 and 61, amazing really that they have stuck with us for over 50 years and proud to refer their family and friends to us.
It's extremely pleasing to catch up with customers who have account numbers like 21 and 61, amazing really that these people have stuck with us for over 50 years.David Franklin
How can Nova compete with the Big Four and local institutions?
We are part of Bendigo Bank, the fifth largest retail bank in Australia. Bendigo operates over 350 Community Banks. Nova forms a similar business unit for Bendigo Bank known as Alliance Banks. We are five ex-Credit Unions who have joined this model with a combined portfolio of just over $1 billion and 30,000 members who continue to be the individual mutual's share holders, forming a unique partnership
How relevant are branches?
The days of large branch networks is coming to an end. The internet and telephone rule the day which is fine with Nova as we have always operated out of one branch with a strong online presence. But we are always there in the branch for members seeking face-to-face time.
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