Member-owned bank, QBANK, has financially assisted the police, fire, emergency services and other public services in Queensland for over fifty years, recently rebranding from a Credit Union to a bank to ensure it remains relevant long into the future.
Mike Currie is CEO of QBANK, having previously filled the role of Chief Operating Officer. His 35-year career in the financial services sector has included national Executive Management roles with CBA, Lloyds International and Heritage Bank. Mr Currie spoke recently with The Australian Business Executive about QBANK’s successful recent rebranding, the issues facing the banking industry today, and the exciting opportunities for the bank to grow its relationship with its special member base.
A long and proud history
“QBANK started out in 1964,” Mr Currie says. “It was started by Queensland Police as a credit union for their own employees. It grew from that start to become the member-owned bank for Queensland government employees.” The bank still specialises in serving the state’s first responder community, and is still member-owned, staying true to its original mission of looking after the well-being of police, fire, emergency services, nursing, ambulance and public sector employees in Queensland.
Previously known as QPCU, in 2016 the organisation decided to rebrand, moving from its traditional branding as a Credit Union to market itself as a bank. Mr Currie explains that this was a strategic move to help the organisation move forward. “It was really about remaining strong and relevant into the future. We felt it was necessary to have a brand that would continue to resonate with and attract younger customers, and we felt that changing [to a bank] would help with that.” The most important element of this rebranding was making sure both existing and potential customers understood that there would be no change in the company’s mission to deliver exceptional financial service to first responders.
“We compete in the retail banking space in Queensland, which is occupied by all the major banks, two of the largest regionals in Suncorp and BOQ, two of the largest customer-owned banks in Australia and a plethora of others. There’s no shortage of competition.” As with all banks, value will always be a major decision point for customers, and QBANK always looks to ensure it offers the best value to customers. Mr Currie also believes, however, that choosing the right bank is about more than just price. “Our mission [is] to provide exceptional service and deliver financial wellbeing to our very special customer segment. These are women and men who serve the community, and we work tirelessly to support them by understanding their needs.”
QBANK makes it a priority to support the community in the areas that matter most to its members, whether that be through sponsorship or other means, and the delivery of financial education directly into the workplace. “We have a heavy investment program over the next three years in people, process and technology. QBANK has an integral part in the first responder and government employee community, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to be their bank of choice.”
Challenging industry conditions
The banking industry is in the middle of a turbulent period, with the banking Royal Commission taking centre stage and bringing to light a level of declining standards that are undoubtedly having an effect on consumer confidence. “[The Royal Commission has] also highlighted the need for banks to work harder to regain the trust of the consumers. One of the unintended consequences has been a tightening of credit standards in some of the larger banks.” This has resulted in some cases to reduced consumer borrowing power, meaning a contraction in the credit market and decline in house prices, something QBANK is constantly keeping an eye on. “We’re in an ongoing low interest rate environment.
The RBA cash rate has been at historic lows for a couple of years, and that environment’s likely to be with us for a while. We’re all having to become more efficient with the way we deliver our services.” The record period of sustained economic growth in Australia over the last few years is set to continue, with financial regulators active in working to prevent consumers overstretching, which should be enough to hold the economy in good stead going forward.
“All the indicators would point to the cash rate staying where it is. We have seen banks move home loan rates independent of that cash rate because of wholesale funding cost factors, but there are indications that pressure is starting to ease a little bit.”
100% committed to first responders
“I was appointed CEO in March 2017,” Mr Currie says. “I came into the organisation in January 2016 as the COO, and that was really about helping to pilot the rebrand and the transition into a bank.” Prior to joining QBANK, Mr Currie held executive roles in other banks, amassing significant experience in the transformation and rebranding of Heritage Bank. As CEO, he is focused on the strategy of continuing to serve the bank’s member base.
“Making the customer the centre of everything you do remains key to succeeding in business. Consumers have an enormous amount of choice, and you have to make your offering compelling enough to make them choose you.” Mr Currie recognises that, just as important as the organisation remaining relevant is for individuals to continually work on their own skills and expertise to ensure that they are able to act on career and business opportunities as they arise.
The banking industry is at a unique stage where there is a whole lot of regulatory intervention and pressure at the same time as accelerated technological advancements, a position Mr Currie believes represents both a challenge and an opportunity for banks. “We see an opportunity to capitalise on the trust that we have with our membership base, to be able to really grow that relationship and grow our penetration into that customer base. While it’s a challenging time, it’s an exciting time for financial institutions like QBANK.”
During this challenging time, and as it has over every year of the fifty-five that it has been operating, QBANK continues to focus on the mission it developed at the beginning to service a very special part of the Queensland community. “We remain 100% committed to our traditional first responder customer base. We are investing heavily to make sure we keep up with all the technological developments so that we can offer [them] the best available financial products and services.”
Find out more about QBANK by visiting www.qbank.com.au.