St. George attempts to woo small firms with mentor program

St. George Bank has its sights set on small businesses, urging entrepreneurs to enter its 2011 Business Mentor Program.



The bank’s Business Mentor Program has already seen 1,200 small business owners participate in a series of free workshops nationwide. St George has urged start-ups interested in participating in the 2011 program to register their interest.


The program begins with advice on how to structure a business for growth, followed with sessions on business planning, finance, sales, customer service, team development, systems, and business development.


Administered by international business coaching firm ActionCOACH, the course is valued at $2,500 per participant.


The workshops are held in local community locations to provide convenient access and networking opportunities to participating businesses.


St. George chief executive Greg Bartlett says the course offers small business owners practical advice on how to realise the full potential of their business.


“Many small business owners are so focused on the necessary day-to-day operations and functions of their business that they find it very difficult to give proper attention to some of the key ingredients for business success, including forward-planning and strategising, up-skilling, and seeking the right advice to improve their business performance,” Bartlett says.


“[The course] is a fantastic way for small businesses to gain valuable insights in key areas such as planning, sales and marketing, managing employees and customer service.”


Local St. George branch managers and St. George small business experts also attend the workshop sessions to answer any questions business customers might have about banking and business finance.


Susan Reynolds, branch manager of St. George Prahran, says the bank has a “genuine commitment” to helping small businesses.


“We offer [the course] for free as a way of helping small businesses get the skills they need to grow and prosper,” Reynolds says.


St. George recently announced its plan to expand its services in Queensland, Victoria and WA.


St. George chief executive Rob Chapman told The Australian his focus is on growth in ‘non-core’ states, while further expanding sales of Westpac’s wealth products to St. George customers.


The news comes amid reports that big bank borrowing costs for small businesses are rising faster than official interest rates.


According to figures from the Reserve Bank, figures show small business loans have become more costly relative to home loans.


Last month, the Commonwealth Bank raised variable residentially-secured business loans by 0.45%. ANZ announced an increase of 0.39%, NAB 0.43% and Westpac 0.35%.


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