Louise Broekman: Hi, my name’s Louise Broekman. I’m the founder and CEO of the Advisory Board Center. I’m here with my very special guest Andrew Hadley, who is the CEO of P&N Bank Group. Welcome, Andrew.
Andrew Hadley: Hi Louise, thanks for the opportunity to be here.
Louise Broekman: Yeah, well, it’s great to reconnect now three years after our path sort of joined for a period of time, but Andrew I’d love for you to share with everyone a bit on your background, what you were doing three years ago.
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, so I joined P&N Bank back in 2014 as the chief executive officer. So, it’s probably the only locally owned customer bank in Western Australia. And I guess we had a five-year strategy and at the end of that, it involved a level of inorganic growth. So as you know, back in 2019, we did a merger with BCU, an east coast based credit union. But part of what we wanted to build, I guess, was quite a unique operating model. And I guess we wanted to respect the heritage and the identity of traditional brands. And one of the opportunities that we saw to differentiate I guess, was to create a unique governance arrangement whereby we put in place brand advisory councils that sat there and were able to assist our respective brand general managers to help run their business.
Louise Broekman: It was a really interesting strategy. And then three years ago, when we met, we were looking at what is the difference between your governance structures and best practice for an advisory board? And you ended up calling them advisory counsellors.
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, it was a very deliberate and conscious decision, I suppose. I mean, we have a group board for P&N Group or the ADI as we call it in banking circles. And underneath that, I guess we wanted to establish this notion of an advisory board, but we wanted to very much differentiate, I guess, and make sure that to a large degree, the governance of the bank sat at the group level and to ensure that there wasn’t any confusion below. So as you know, I guess we worked closely with you guys [Advisory Board Centre] to establish what were the terms of reference or charter for the advisory councils as we chose them.
Louise Broekman: It was an interesting strategy where you put an advisory council over each individual brand.
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, that’s right. And again, our strategy moving forward, I guess, is a multi-branded strategy and we would intend to do that moving forward. So it was recognising a national business very difficult for directors on the west coast to understand was what was happening on the east coast and vice versa and therefore much better off finding local people, movers and shakers, I guess, who are connected within those communities and have better opportunities I guess, to support and, and let the brand GM know what’s going on around them. So that was a very conscious decision. It’s part of our model moving forward, as we introduced new brands we would certainly be looking to put in place a new advisory council.
Louise Broekman: It’s interesting where you put so much work in, scoping out what those advisory councils would do and what they wouldn’t, how are they different to your government structures, Andrew?
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, well, probably the easiest way of thinking about it is that a group level takes care of all the group licensing regulator’s compliance and the advisory councils are very much around the performance of the brand or perhaps another way of looking at it, the sort of voice of the customer type thing. So we’re still very structured in terms of how we hold our meetings clearly focused on the agenda and what are the hot topics for a general manager, but we get to spend some really quality time focusing in, on-brand customer and people type metrics. And we leave a lot of the sort of risk aspects and compliance to the, to the broader group.
Louise Broekman: Because it’s important, isn’t it? That the advisory council know where their advice and their feedback starts and stops when they come in.
Andrew Hadley: Absolutely. And I guess we were very keen on sort of having had the conversation with you to make sure we didn’t end up in a situation where we had shadow directors. Yeah. So we are very clear that it’s not a decision making body. It it’s simply about providing advice, but we genuinely value the advice that we get at those meetings.
Louise Broekman: Andrew how are you using that as a long term strategy. Where do you see that as a strategy for a period of time until brands settle and then they dismantle? Or how does that work out for you?
Andrew Hadley: We see this as a permanent fixture of our model and again, we’d done a bit of homework prior to the merger. I mean, we’d had a look at another organization in Canada that had a very simple model and had been a bit hit and miss within some brands that had worked and within other brands, it hadn’t. And, and we said, if we want this to be part of our operating model, then we need to make the commitment to get it right. So as we set it up, I think particularly the first couple of meetings, we’re finding our feet. But we’ve now got that healthy rhythm. So no, this isn’t a part-time thing. It’s not an interim thing we’re committed to this and we believe it genuinely can provide advice that might be difficult for the main board to find the time to give
Louise Broekman: How much of a different perspective does it give you Andrew? As I guess they’re independent of the organisation, the external advisors?
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, they are. So it’s I guess they can come in with a fresh set of eyes. I mean, you would hope that they’re connected into the community and, and they’d have a sense for what was going on. And we would certainly encourage that. So, I mean, the board still takes a keen interest in the performance of each of the brands. One of the things we do and we’ve, we’ve established the brands as being quite autonomous. So the general manager of the brand has high levels of autonomy discretion, delegation, and the like, to be able to pull the levers and I guess the advisory council sort of sit there and they can provide support. So it’s, it’s a really nice harmonious working relationship hopefully, and again, it it’s important the council members genuinely think that their advice is being heard. And there’s no doubt about that, but equally, it’s sent up to the general manager, I guess, to take that advice on board and do with it as they see fit
Louise Broekman: Globally there’s an increase in corporatised advisory boards and in Australia, the age care sector is regulating advisory boards. Now for the first time to have stakeholders of feedback. It’s really interesting how stakeholder feedback is now becoming more and more important in corporate environments. And I guess this is a this is a structured way to be able to do that.
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, it is. And I mean, I like to see very much sometimes as representing that voice of customer and that’s so important for us to around brand and people and what’s that customer experience that’s going on. And as I say, we we’ve gone to great links to make the separation that it is about advice and therefore we, we dropped the word board per se suspect to all intents and purposes. It does something similar, but that was a very conscious decision, I guess, in establishing the terms of reference for the councils.
Louise Broekman: What’s the frequency of your meetings then? How often do they meet?
Andrew Hadley: Yeah, it’s a good question. So we started off on the basis of we thought it would be quarterly meetings and we think there’s enough time, I guess, to see things that have happened and have things work since the last one. So broadly speaking would get together on a quarterly basis. There’s obviously the option within the terms of reference. If we wanted to call a more frequent or an ad talk meeting, we could do that. And I think the other thing that’s worked particularly well for us is we made a conscious effort to say that we were going to work hard on the quality of papers. So the pack that goes out to our advisory council is almost a mini version of a board pack in terms of the format. It obviously doesn’t have some of the things in there, but we provide the financial performance of the brand.
It’s very difficult for a counsellor to advise if they don’t understand what’s going on and how that’s working. So each of the brands has its own shadow, profit and loss. We share those numbers, the brand metrics brand consideration, what’s our awareness, what’s going on? What are the service levels going on within contact centres, and those types things. So it’s actually a really rich pack of information. And I guess if you put the time and effort into that, and it takes a little bit of time, but I think it adds to the quality of the debate and the conversation.
Louise Broekman: So as CEO, Andrew, do you see these advisory councils management discipline in the organization, or do you see it as more as a, as a CEO, you are getting line of sight to the customer, where does it fit into, I guess your broader mandate in your role?
Andrew Hadley: Yeah. It’s an interesting question. So, I mean, obviously, I have a number of well at the moment, two brand general managers that report through, in addition to your traditional, I guess, banking org structure that plays out. So really key relationships within there. For me, it’s just another reference point. So I attend all the advisory council meetings try to pay a bit forwards step in terms of that at the end of the day we’re paying our advisory council members to be there, to give them the advice. And I think it’s really important that I take that opportunity. But as I was saying, it’s the opportunity for me to sit down and spend some time drilling into some metrics that perhaps without the council, I wouldn’t have the time to do elsewhere. So I really enjoy the experience once a quarter to sit down, to look through a different looking pack of information and hear the types of questions and feedback that the council members might be providing to the brand GM.
Louise Broekman: And I guess for other CEOs of corporate entities organisations that looking to do mergers and acquisitions, what would be your tips or advice that you provide other CEOs around this?
Andrew Hadley: Look, I think it’s very much dependent on your strategy at the end of the day. So again, this it’s got to be purpose driven, why you’re doing this for us. We recognise a lot about the importance of heritage and identity of brands. And I guess in a sector that is consolidating we offer something that is quite different. So traditionally people might do mergers, but it’s sort of with a view that that’s gonna be sort of one brand becoming dominant over time or perhaps even upfront. We are committed to respecting that heritage and identity and therefore it’s an integral part of our operating model. And that’s the reason why we’ve invested in advisory councils and indeed the multi-brand model more broadly. It’s something that we see operating long into the future and potentially a point of difference, I guess, as the industry consolidates that people might say, well, that’s actually got lots of appealing aspects for the autonomy. The delegations can control pricing, et cetera, cetera and respecting where we’ve come from. And that’s a really important part of the puzzle.
Louise Broekman: Well, I really applaud you being a real pioneer in this space. Andrew, it’s really exciting. This worldwide trend is growing and stakeholder engagement becoming more and more important in time to come. So thank you so much for sharing that and for allowing us to be part of that journey you know, three years ago and look forward to seeing how the P&N Group continues to grow as a family.
Andrew Hadley: Thanks Louise, it’s been a pleasure sharing the story and we certainly appreciate the support of ABC.