5 leadership capabilities that St.George CEO banks on

St.George Bank CEO George Frazis looks for five key capabilities in leaders

There are five key leadership capabilities that will help organisations to position themselves competitively, build cultures of innovation and deliver superior customer service, according to St.George Bank CEO George Frazis.

“Over the next five to ten years, we will require bold and courageous leadership. It’s about seeing opportunities where most people see risk,” he said.

Speaking at a recent CEDA event on the makings of an agile workforce, held at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Sydney, Frazis said success is all about remaining first in your field and achieving this through an building an innovative culture, delivering superior customer experience and having the right people in place to provide this.

Frazis spoke about this experience in St.George Bank, and said there are five key leadership capabilities that help enable and facilitate this process:

1. Ahead-of-the-curve thinking. “We need leaders who not only can see around a corner, but see around a number of corners and make sure that they’re able to anticipate change,” Frazis said.

St.George Bank, for example, was the first to introduce internet banking in Australia, and the second bank globally. They have also been able to stay at the forefront of the industry in terms of providing mobile banking services.

2. Organisational diversity. Attracting and nurturing a diverse network and team of leaders is critical to success, said Frazis, who gave the example of the bank’s leading mobile team. Led by the chief information officer, the team comprises 50 per cent women as well individuals from a range of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

3. Recognising opportunity. Leaders who have the courage to embrace change and see and take advantage of opportunities where others see risk play a critical role in the bank. “Right now we sell more credit cards through mobile and online than we do through our branch network,” Frazis said.

“Six months ago, if you asked me if I was concerned about these changes, particularly when it came to banking, I would’ve said given our innovative culture and how ahead of the curve we are when it comes to mobility, I was comfortable that we would be able to react defensively in a fast mover follower if something came left field.”

However, he now feels that playing a defensive strategy when it comes to mobile and digital will jeopardise a company’s growth over the next five years.

One way St.George maintains its innovative culture is through a “youth network,” which involves a group of under 30-year-olds who actively participate in the bank’s most senior management discussions to make sure input from younger generations is included and considered and business decisions.

4. Recognising people, not just customers. Leaders need to be able to develop and nurture a culture in which people can be innovative and feel safe in taking measured risks, Frazis said. This involves a degree of care and empathy that comes from understanding your people and knowing how to get the best out of them.

St. George also maintains this through a culture of learning. “We’ve introduced a new online training capability that enables you to take control of your career, but we’re also doing some stuff that is more traditional,” he said. “So now we will have training branches, which means our best people are in those branches.”

It is also important to create an environment in which people feel it is safe to access leave policies. For example, there are over 20 categories of leave within the Westpac group, but Frazis said people need to feel comfortable and safe in being able to use the policies in practice.

5. Technology, digital and mobile. Leaders in the bank need to have a strong understanding of technology, digital and the mobile space, Frazis said.

“Being ignorant of that is no longer going to be a way forward. It is all about making sure leaders absolutely have a grasp on the realities of today but also are open to the possibilities of tomorrow,” he said.

By Chadielle Fayad