Plenty of member value in a modern co-operative world

01 October 2021

David Marshall, CEO, Defence Bank

Mutuals and co-operatives have proven innovation, embracing technology and member service is in their DNA.

At Defence Bank our focus is to execute a people led and technology enabled strategy for our members.

This is the template for doing business in 2021 and the rest of the decade, and most certainly for mutual or co-operative organisations who are so well placed and invested in their members’ interests.

If we don’t invest in our people at the same time as investment in digital advancement, we won’t be able to deliver for our members with authenticity and simplicity.

Our origins tell us that there will also be a demand for people led products and service that harness a compelling community need.

Back in 1975 we began after many Vietnam War Veterans were dissatisfied with their banking experience and open to be better served.

There was a gap in the market and the mutual model was well placed to meet this need.

Today Defence Bank has powered ahead by embracing the member owned model which means everything we make is returned to our members in better products and services.

Our business model means we don’t need to pay shareholders like our listed competitors.

A key plank of our strategy has been to harness the ethos of our commitment to members but respond to an insatiable demand for technology from members keen to do business with us with minimal effort or fuss.

They crave convenience, banking where and when it suits them.

It’s that challenge that has driven our team to turbo charge our digital presence but do it in a way that takes our people and our members with us on the journey.

Access and investment in technology is of critical importance, given our membership may be overseas and on the go.

Defence Bank has a presence on the military bases in Australia or branches and they are full-service branches and they are a key part of our technology-enabled strategy.

We also have a market-leading mobile app, rated higher than three of the four major banks. We have a great online service. We have an outstanding mobile lending team. You can do what you want, where you want, how you want with our organisation.

Underpinning all of this is requiring minimal effort from our members. Regardless of whether it’s a bank, an agricultural business, health insurance, a fishing co-op or something else again, people don’t want to tell their story multiple times to different people, they want the easiest experience possible with great service from their provider of choice.

We think this is a point of difference for all mutuals and co-operatives to explore in more detail. How can we make effort by our members virtually nothing when they are doing business with us?

What the mutual or co-operative sector looks like in say 2030 is in a lot of ways up to us. By telling our story, sharing knowledge and highlighting our point of difference more forcefully, we can together do great things.

We’ve grown by a billion dollars in four years to now sit above $3 billion in assets.

We see the bank on a continued path of such growth as long as we hold true to some simple principles we believe in passionately.

At Defence Bank we’ve got a singular purpose which comes with simplicity and great responsibility.

It is to serve those that protect us.

And given our membership is drawn largely from the ADF, this is something we take very seriously.

We do our work with a strength of purpose but with respect and decency for those we serve.

Around 80% of our members are either current serving ADF men and women or their families or with existing or historical ties with the defence community. This importantly includes Veterans and employees of defence contractors.

But our operating model today means anyone in Australia can bank with Defence Bank, it is open and inclusive to everyone.

That’s another opportunity, to welcome new members.

Australians will always be open to considering organisations that are progressive and forward-thinking.

With new market entrants, they are perhaps not as wedded as they once were too big brands.

Mutuals and co-operatives are well placed to embrace this momentum and benefit from these consumer shifts.


David Marshall is the CEO of Defence Bank

David Marshall, CEO of Defence Bank

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