COVID-19 has been nothing short of tragic. The virus continues to take lives and crumble businesses and economies around the world. To say it has been ruthless would be an understatement.
Yet somehow among all this despair, a beautiful display of humanity and solidarity has come to light. The wealthy have given generously, businesses have pivoted to make much-needed medical supplies to no benefit of their own, and people around the world have helped neighbours, the elderly and those most vulnerable to get by.
This goes to show that as the pandemic’s rage continues, so too does the good fight. And while no business is immune to the earth-shattering consequences of COVID-19, the ones that emerge from this triumphant, unscathed and stronger than ever will be those that displayed proactive and compassionate leadership with an unwavering focus on people first.
“What is happening in the world right now is truly unprecedented, and the impacts have been and will continue to be extensive for the global economy, markets and society at large.
Above all, the human cost of the crisis has been tragic, and my deepest sympathies go out to those who’ve lost loved ones,” says La Trobe Financial President and CEO Greg O’Neill.
A Blackstone portfolio company, La Trobe Financial is one of Australia’s leading diversified wealth managers. With an A$11 billion balance sheet, it has provided funding and investment solutions to a diverse range of customers since 1952.
Throughout that time, La Trobe Financial has experienced a number of economic cycles and not once has it needed to freeze its investment funds or close its doors. “Our experience over the past seven decades has seen us manage through downturns, recessions and the global financial crisis,” O’Neill says.
“This has been a key competitive strength for us throughout the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve been able to draw from these experiences to get to the other side.”
From the 1970s credit squeeze to the 1990s economic collapses in Victoria, the 2000 dotcom boom and bust to the GFC, the company has had its fair share of experiences to pull from.
But O’Neill says, no matter the circumstance, surviving all of these economic shocks ultimately boiled down to one thing – a strict adherence to its values. “Our philosophy of putting ‘others before self’ guides everything we do.
We don’t simply speak it – we live and breathe it,” he explains. “For the past seven decades, we have been helping Australians from all walks of life achieve the great Australian dream of home ownership and financial independence. Our entire team is committed to being responsible stewards of our customers’ capital. We use good business disciplines, we employ the best people, and we aim to deliver the best service to our customers.”
We Australians are always at our best when things are at their worst, and this crisis has reaffirmed what we are as a nation – generous, good humoured and honest.
Now more than ever, it’s clear that La Trobe Financial unquestionably walks its talk. The company swiftly sprung to action in response to coronavirus concerns, establishing a dedicated hardship contact line and a team focused on assisting customers who were financially impacted by COVID-19.
It also created a specific hardship assistance program for borrowers and investors, which included a digital hardship request form to enable faster turnaround times and short-term relief on loan repayments. Fees were also waived on proven investor hardship requests.
“Confronted by this pandemic shortly after the devastating bushfires, La Trobe Financial was quick to establish a dedicated team to assist customers financially impacted by COVID-19,” O’Neill says.
“In addition to the hardship program for our customers, we also donated A$1 million to the Epworth hospital’s frontline medical staff for additional ICU equipment to cope with the anticipated influx of COVID-19 admissions during this pandemic.”
La Trobe Financial also took great care of its employees, moving 92% of its staff to work from home by late March. The company even sent them multiple care packages, further ensuring their wellbeing.
“Early on, members of our staff were rightly concerned about their own health and welfare and what COVID-19 meant for them personally,” O’Neill recalls. “Swiftly and seamlessly, we introduced a number of new communications and business tools, including daily Zoom catch-ups, free medicals if staff contracted COVID-19 and other benefits to protect our frontline staff.”
The effect of this sound and compassionate leadership was far reaching, trickling all the way down to the customer experience.
“The way in which our entire team pulled together to help our customers through these difficult circumstances was inspirational. It was a simple expression of our core values; if we each focused first on our customers’ wellbeing and their concerns, then we were protecting our jobs because those customers would stay with us and in turn give us repeat business. It was a virtuous circle of ‘customers first’ in everything we do, and we got there because staff felt cared for by the business during this very uncertain time, and they responded accordingly,” O’Neill says.
“I salute all 400 of our staff for the herculean work effort they made in placing personal worries and anxieties second to the needs of our customers. Their tireless efforts represent humanity at its best. We Australians are always at our best when things are at their worst, and this crisis has reaffirmed what we are as a nation – generous, good humoured and honest. Our country is facing great challenges right now, and it’s in these times that it’s more important than ever to stand together and strive to create positive change.”
The company’s relentless vitality and resilience during yet another challenging time only further cements its position as a leading financial institution that cares.
Thanks to tremendous leadership, disciplined contingency management and staying true to its values when times get tough, La Trobe Financial continues to be a beacon of light for its customers – past, present and future.
“La Trobe Financial has achieved strong growth over many years without duress because we plan, and then we execute that plan and hold ourselves accountable,” O’Neill shares.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and related market volatility has been an excellent validation of our character and professionalism. And we credit our strength and resilience to ‘sticking to our knitting’ and staying true to our core business of providing funding and investment solutions to people who are underserved by mainstream financial organisations.” At A$11 billion and growing, this is a financial firm to watch.