Last Friday National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn announced an organisational restructure, which saw three members of its nine-person leadership team leave the bank. The question NAB’s SME customers will be asking is: “what do these changes mean for me?”
A new division called Business and Private Banking will look after all the bank’s business customers as well as high net worth individuals. This division will be headed up by Angela Mentis. This is a huge role but in her favour, Mentis has considerable experience in both sectors.
If in the past NAB has got the balance between shareholders and customers a little too skewed towards shareholders, both Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry are now unapologetically placing the interest of customers at the centre of everything the bank does. Small but significant signs of this include Mentis’s new title of “Chief Customer Officer – Business & Private Banking”, and when speaking or writing about the Bank’s stakeholders, Thorburn tellingly places them in the sequence of “customer, shareholders and employees”.
The restructure is generally very good news for NAB’s business customers; NAB is determined to maintain its historical standing as Australia’s biggest business bank. SMEs operating in sectors in which NAB specialises (health, education, agribusiness, government and community services) will be winners but if you operate in a struggling industry for example supply of automotive parts, you are unlikely to feel any extra love.
More resources will be committed to support SME customers but this doesn’t mean a whole bunch of relationship managers will be appointed or that new Business Banking Centres will pop up around the country. Rather NAB will allocate capital to develop more timely and efficient ways of delivering products and services. And at the same time they will aim to win more customers by creating innovative products and value add services. NAB Labs will play an important role with initiatives such as QuickBiz online loans and Proquo, the business services bartering platform developed in conjunction with Telstra.
NAB customers will hope this organisational overhaul will not result in disruption to existing personal relationships with bankers. NAB has fared worse than its major competitors on this front in recent years. But changes of structure and people at the top end invariably filter down through with consequent changes in structure and people at lower levels. The new leadership team has received plenty of feedback that all too frequent changes of managers have been a major cause of customer dissatisfaction.
Neil Slonim is the founder of theBankDoctor.org, a not-for-profit online source of free, independent banking advice for SMEs.