“What a legacy he left us all”: Vale Frank Costa AO

Frank Costa

Frank Costa. Source: AAP/Joe Castro

Yesterday’s beautiful State Memorial Service was a fitting tribute to a universally revered community and business leader.

Frank Costa was the embodiment of traditional family values, for him family was everything. At the same time he was a business leader way ahead of his time. He practiced values based leadership long before it became a fashionable management buzz word. Likewise was his mantra of “Hire for character, train for skill”.

Frank could talk all right; when he spoke people listened and were swayed by his passion, vision and optimism. Most of all he was authentic. Leaders who try to be authentic tend to fall short. Frank did not have to make an effort to be authentic, he just was. With Frank what you saw and heard was what you got and he made you feel better just by being in his company.

It has been uplifting to hear so many people recounting their stories about Frank all attesting to his unique character. In my time at NAB, my team was fortunate to have the Costa Group as a major client. Most of our dealings were with Frank’s youngest brother Robert. Frank was clearly the lead singer in the Costa band but Robert was the drummer who kept things tight. As much as Frank loved the limelight, Robert shunned it but they complemented each other brilliantly. Robert will miss his oldest brother terribly, but it is hoped that he and all the family take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone.

My own favourite story of Frank points to his irrepressible personality. I once hosted a lunch for Costa executives in the hallowed board room of the original NAB State Office at 271 Collins Street. It was the first time I met Frank.

It was memorable for several reasons, not the least being the absence of alcohol because Frank was a non-drinker. I will never forget Frank delivering a captivating dissertation about the importance of family and partnerships like the one the Costa Group enjoyed with NAB.

I had been warned that although Frank was a genuine charmer his negotiating skills were not to be underestimated, probably from a lifetime’s experience dealing in the fruit and veges market. Anyway, at the end of the lunch as everyone was heading for the lifts, Frank quietly drew me aside, put this arm around my shoulders and ever so politely pointed out that some of his business mates who were also major NAB clients were getting a slightly finer lending margin than what we were charging Costa Group. In the warmest possible manner he simply and quietly posed the question “would you see what you can do for me?”

It was the most irresistible hit-up I ever received and of course how could Frank not have got his way? Many times I thought about how differently other bank customers went about pursuing their agenda with their bank. I never before or after experienced anything like the way Frank handled this. From that first meeting I was in awe of Frank.

There are other stories about family, faith and football that I will cherish. In 30 years in banking, I never met anyone more trustworthy, genuine, humble, optimistic and downright likeable than Frank. What a legacy he has left us all.

Deepest sympathies to Shirley, his daughters and all the Costa family.

May his memory be a blessing.

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

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