When faced with catastrophe in a state seven times the size of Great Britain, Queenslanders can always rely on an emergency services worker to arrive seemingly from nowhere to offer assistance. Whether it is an accident, flood, fire or crime, it’s taken for granted that the ambulance, police, firefighters or health workers will soon be on the scene to help. And while these thousands of human lifelines expose themselves unthinkingly to danger every day, it’s no secret they’re doing it for love, not the money.
That’s why QBANK offers its own lifeline to these unsung heroes serving their state, providing financial security and services tailor-made to make their lives and futures just that little bit easier.
QBANK’s CEO Mike Currie says the business has enjoyed a strong bond with its members working in emergency services since it launched as the Queensland Police Credit Union in 1964. “It was the credit union created by police for police,” he explains. “And that sense of service and commitment has never changed. We want to serve those who serve Queensland, and every dollar we invest provides value to our members. We do everything we can to protect that and make sure that our members feel that ownership.”
However, while the loyalty to members remains the same, the organisation itself has undergone
a transformation to trigger fresh appeal to the younger generation coming through. After an extensive consultation process with existing members on a proposal to rebrand the institution, members voted in favour of removing the term ‘credit union’ from the name at the company’s 2015 AGM.
On 1 July last year, QBANK became Queensland’s newest bank. For Mike, who joined the organisation as COO in January of the same year and was appointed CEO in March this year, the changes were dramatic and rapid, but necessary to adapt to an evolving financial environment.
We’ve tried to balance the need to advance our technology with the essential
face-to-face engagement we have always enjoyed with our members.
“I think that being a bank, and being called a bank, makes it easy for people to understand,” he explains. “We want to maintain our strong bond with our members, but keep pace with our competitors, which means investing in cutting-edge technology. This will enable us to ensure our core customer base isn’t lost, but is in fact enhanced by what we’re doing, while at the same time we remain relevant to a younger customer base.
“These days a relevant business model means engaging with younger members, whose sense of engagement is more through social media than anywhere else,” Mike adds. “By modernising the brand and making sure we’re understood by millennials and even younger people, social media needs to be a huge component, so we devote a fair bit of attention to that. We are also looking to implement other advanced technologies like robotics to ensure processes are followed in the smoothest and quickest possible manner.”
Mike is emphatic that modernisation and technology will not detract from the personal service and care QBANK has been famous for since it operated from a verandah of the Queensland Police Union of Employees at Kangaroo Point in the 60s.
“We’ve tried to balance the need to advance our technology with the essential face-to-face engagement we have always enjoyed with our members,” Mike explains. “Our membership base is our biggest asset; it’s that connection, that bond, which has carried us all through these past 50 years. It’s important we maintain that.
“So while we are pursuing all the digital and online strategies in line with our competitors, we’re also making sure we have people on the ground who can talk to our customers and understand
It’s the continuing personal interaction that Mike believes is QBANK’s advantage over the larger institutions. Members are assured of quick turnarounds with loan application requests and other services, while his dedicated team aims to keep pricing and product propositions at low cost.
“We have 70 full-time employees, and we invest in them to make it attractive to stay. I’ve been in the industry for more than 30 years, and the training and development offered to our staff is certainly up there with everywhere else I’ve worked.”
Freshly transitioned from a credit union to a bank, rebranded and armed with cutting-edge technology to offer seamless service, QBANK grew its assets by around 20 per cent in the 2016 financial year. “This was well and truly above market average,” Mike says. “After that very strong year, we will consolidate this year and grow at a sustainable rate for the long term. That’s one of the pillars of our strategy. I feel it’s achievable to grow our membership by about 10 per cent over the next three years.”
Having spent more than three decades in financial services and enjoyed senior positions in prestige organisations such as Heritage Bank, Lloyds International and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Mike has found immense satisfaction working in a smaller, member-owned bank. “I have so much opportunity to be involved in all aspects of operations,” he explains.
“In just one day, I can be talking to members, dealing with the pricing of our products, dealing with the board, or out in the community doing things for some of our community-based counterparts. You are basically running a small business, so you can implement changes that happen quickly and you get to see the outcomes fairly quickly too.
“We work on the basis that we’re not afraid to try things and have a go,” he says. “You either succeed fast, or you fail fast. And if something’s not working, be prepared to cut your losses pretty quickly and move on; don’t keep going down a dry gully if something’s not working.”