This year is set to be one of diversification and consolidation for Auswide Bank under the leadership of new chair Sandra Birkensleigh.
Sandra was appointed Chair to the bank on January 1 following the resignation of her predecessor John Humphrey and is looking forward to the challenges that await her as Auswide Bank looks to grow while retaining its provision of personalised customer service.
“I’m really excited at the opportunity as I think I bring good skills to the board and I’m keen to work with my fellow directors to achieve the best possible outcomes for our shareholders, customers and employees,” Sandra said of her appointment.
“I have been a member of a few boards and I have an understanding of how they operate, what makes a good board, what makes a less good board, and Auswide is one of the good ones.”
Sandra said she was taking over the Chair role when the bank was in a solid position due to previous good work done by the board on which she has been a non-executive director for five years.
She was also a partner at professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia for 16 years until 2013.
Auswide’s head office remains in Bundaberg where it has its origins as the Burnett Permanent Building Society, which was formed in 1966, undergoing several mergers and name changes before listing on the Australian Stock Exchange as the nation’s tenth and Queensland’s third Australian-owned bank in 2015.
Sandra said the ensuing five years had been a period of consolidation but was confident that now was the time for Auswide Bank to become “bigger and better.”
“We’re customer-centric and it’s important to be small enough that we are there for the clients who need us, but also large enough to provide for the best interests of our shareholders, customers and employees,” Sandra said.
“Size does matter when it comes to costs and our capacity to invest in our customers.
“Profitable growth is important, and we are fortunate to be building on a very solid base provided by the board and previous Chair.”
Sandra said the bank aspired to enhance its digital services in a bid to attract a younger demographic to its customer base.
She said the bank had a loyal customer base, but it consisted of an ageing demographic and the bank’s future success was dependent upon drawing younger customers by providing the type of 24-hour digital banking services they expected.
Sandra also hoped her appointment would help create a more diverse workforce within Auswide Bank, including a greater representative of females at senior levels.
“I’m a passionate believer that, given 50 per cent of the world population is male and 50 per cent is female, there should be equal representation in everything across gender,” she said.
“My role, I would like to think, helps demonstrate that anything is possible, and I intend to use my role to promote the number of females in senior positions.”
Sandra was also excited at Auswide’s continued support of the Queensland Rugby League (QRL).
“We want to build partnerships and create relationships and the QRL sponsorship is a perfect fit for us as a regional bank,” she said.
“Queenslanders love their rugby league, and none are more passionate than Bundaberg residents.”
Sandra, who is based on the Sunshine Coast, said she had enjoyed her previous visits to Bundaberg but looked forward to being in the area on a more regular basis in accordance with her position as chair.
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