BIG BANKS. Turns out they're filled with people like you and me.

Lester Wynne Jones, Westpac State General Manager and Brian Hartzer, Westpac Group CEO, Alissa Nightingale, Scholarship Program Lead, Westpac Bicentennial Foundation and us...

Being a Westpac Future Leader has afforded me many opportunities - more than I ever imagined. Today, I had the privilege of meeting Brian Hartzer, Westpac CEO for a conversation between him and us, the SA Westpac scholars. It could have been many things – what it was for me, was unexpected. Not only did he leave me with a new perspective on big banks, he has in fact inspired me. Being inspired is a gift, in this case given unwittingly by a big bank CEO. I found myself replaying his words over in my mind hours after our conversation had ended. He spoke about the power of networks and how they connect people in reality. He asked us about our goals and achievements and took the time to understand and question the importance of what was shared. There was certainly a casual and open feeling in the room as each of us explained what it was we had gained as scholars and hoped to achieve still in years to come. The biggest take home for me was perhaps the most obvious, and yet it’s something I hadn’t thought of in such relatable terms before. He talked about how ‘big banks’ are filled with people, in this case 40,000 of them. People who have kids and hobbies and pets and who belong to sporting clubs and who have interests that they’re passionate about – that these people wake up each day and want to give and make the world a better place, for their families and friends and loved ones, just like we do. I have of course had the absolute honour and privilege of getting to know the bicentennial foundation team – truly some of the most ‘human’ and caring people I’ve ever met, and Im not sure what I thought before, that maybe the cool and kind were part of that team and everyone else was your stereotypical boring banker who just sat there hiking up interest rates?? I know, it makes no sense. Brian then shared the behind the scenes work that Westpac does with community. This is when Lester Wynn Jones, another one of the above noted caring, generous Westpac people, added all the work they do here in South Australia for people and their passions and causes. Such generosity of spirit is evident in both men, and their personal and professional endeavours. It’s easy to get caught up with money. Money and what we can do with it and can’t do without it and how it rules the world etc etc…When asked about equality in the workplace Brian’s response to pay equality was …”we just fixed it”. Simple, easy, obvious and a powerful way to show the women of Westpac that they’re valued and that it’s actually a given. And while money can demonstrate value and equality in some areas, in others,  it’s not always the most important thing. Recently I found myself telling a potential Westpac scholar that the money is almost the last thing on a list of things that I’ve gained from being a Westpac Future Leader. First and foremost, is the people. The backing they give me as a person with confidence, connections and opportunities. It’s knowing that they are on my team and have my back. Money can’t buy the confidence it takes to step outside your comfort zone and take a risk for what you’ve only otherwise dreamt about. That comes from the people who tell you you’ve got this and back you as you take each step. Rather than waning as each new cohort of scholars comes on board, the support and connectedness grows, and I feel more a part of something which not only grows in numbers but in depth and meaning. Having met the CEO, it’s easy to understand why there is such a personable, approachable culture in an industry that can be misconstrued as faceless and cold. Im inspired, and utterly grateful for having had the opportunity to meet some of the most influential and authentic people one could imagine. Im inspired by the forward thinking, the planning for the future, the innovative and advancing perspectives taken. The long view. As I’ve said before, Westpac, you’re just the gift that just keeps on giving.