Julie Rynski, Executive General Manager of Specialised Banking, NAB

At the time of her presentation at the AB+F/Randstad Leaders Lecture in Melbourne last month, Rynski was just weeks away from attending National Beef Week. The beef expo dubbed as the ‘pitch in the paddock,’ is touted as the world’s greatest cattle event – drawing over 90,000 people from the industry. For the business executive banker, attending such events is part of what the relationship bankers do in NAB’s business team. “Our team attend a lot of conference in different sectors from dental to agricultural. It helps deepen their knowledge. We want to have a deep understanding of our specialised business sectors,” she said.

"I don’t want our bankers to see a builder in the morning and pharmacist in the afternoon and pretend that they understand their business. We owe our customers more than that. It’s our obligation to bring services and solutions such as analytical insights and technology - that they don’t have time to find themselves. It’s about helping them grow the business."

I don’t want our bankers to see a builder in the morning and pharmacist in the afternoon and pretend that they understand their business. We owe our customers more than that. It’s our obligation to bring services and solutions – such as
analytical insights and technology - that they don’t have time to find themselves. It’s about helping them grow the business.

Setting the scene for presentation, Rynski gave an overview of where the “growth hot spots” were emerging in Australia, zoning in on both the outlook for industry and region.

“NAB has called out some industries that are crucial for the future growth of Australia including healthcare, agribusiness, government, education, energy and infrastructure.” Quoting research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, agriculture has grown 11 per cent in terms of GDP over the last five years. As an industry, it employs around 300,000 people. She highlights that Australia’s agriculture is highly regarded for its safety and quality, especially by the growing middle class in Asia – in fact, Australia was a top 10 producer of major agricultural commodities with our two largest exports being beef and wheat. Adding an anecdote, she told the audience that recently a calf sold for $230,000 to the US – “they love our genetics”.

According to Rynski, the growth will be in all areas of agriculture – farming, to food security and especially in the adoption of new agricultural technology – commonly described as Agtech.

"The fundamentals are there for this industry sector and our Aussie farmers are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the extraordinary growth in demand."

The fundamentals are there for this industry sector and our Aussie farmers are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the extraordinary growth in demand. Another engine of growth is of course healthcare which she believes is now the biggest driver of jobs in the economy. While acknowledging a “few young faces in the audience”, she points to Australia’s ageing demographics as a key to underpinning this growth. “I love visiting aged care units, especially the new ones where I think I will fit in best,” she affectionately quipped. But on a serious point, she notes that spend on health and residential aged care is expected to increase from 9.3 per cent to 12.4 per cent of GDP in 2033 according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “The growth will be across the board in the health sector – we’ll need more primary and allied healthcare practitioners, more diagnostics, more hospitals and pharmaceuticals.”

Growth corridors

Understanding growth hotspots across the region were also key for the bank. Interestingly, she notes that growth is starting to spread across Australia, highlighting that regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria added 33 per cent growth. She adds that there also a number of key growth corridors across Australia, including Melbourne’s North & West, Melbourne’s South East and Greater Western Sydney. And of course, there is Tasmania. The last time she was in “Tassie”, she noted the presence of construction cranes – the ultimate symbol of growth.

So what does this all mean for the way NAB approaches its business banking?

"Growth corridors need schools, hospitals, roads and rail, and banks play a big role in supporting this growth. We’re looking at our footprint and our bankers we have on the ground to support this."

“Growth corridors need schools, hospitals, roads and rail, and banks play a big role in supporting this growth. We’re looking at our footprint and our bankers we have on the ground to support this.” Indeed in its full-year results announced last month, the bank announced that it would commit more bankers to these growth corridor areas including mobile and specialist bankers – while it is yet to provide specific numbers, the bank will aim to have 3,000 highly skilled jobs at Parramatta Square – located in Greater Western Sydney - including new innovation formats and branch refreshes.

The bank – like its peers - will focus more on industry specialisation in the future.

"Customers are telling banks that what they value most is having a bank that really understands them – they want to feel confident in this."

Customers are telling banks that what they value most is having a bank that really understands them – they want to feel confident in this. On the industry growth front, highlighted earlier, NAB is working to actively increase its footprint in a number of key areas including agriculture and healthcare. “We are the bank of choice for agribusiness. In fact, we started as an Agri bank 150 years ago.” As the largest lender to agricultural businesses with over 31 per cent of the market share, NAB now has 550 specialist agri bankers in 110 centres around Australia. It has played an active role in the sector on a number of fronts.

For example, its partnered with the Bank of New Zealand’s Agribusiness to pilot farm accounting software called ‘Figured’. It allows farmers, accountants, advisers and NAB bankers to collaborate on the same data anywhere in real time. Allowing farmers to make decisions based on ‘profitability’ rather than ‘yield’, its power can be seen in a story about a customer of NAB who wanted to buy his neighbour’s land in an off-market deal for $9 million. “He came to us and said he needed the money in a week so he could land the deal. Normally we would expect it take two to three weeks to give him a pre-approval if we had to wait for financial reports. But because we had his financials in this cloud-based software and we could see cash flow of ‘actual’ against ‘plan’, we were able to turn a pre-approval around in three hours.” The bank has also actively backed its farmers wanting to adopt Agtech. “We know our farmers welcome this kind of help, so they can expand their businesses predominately into Asia.”

A trusted future

On the health front, Rynski highlights that the bank has been backing the health sector for 10 years – now with its specialised business which features our NAB Health brand, Medfin and HICAPS.

“Our Medfin brand has become an Australian leader in medical finance. No other bank has a Medfin. Our HICAPS system has become the leading electronic payments system in the market for claims and payments.” Last year the bank launched HICAPS GO – it’s like Uber for private health. It’s a platform which connects patients, practitioners and health funds in real-time. It means patients can find out on their phone what their out-of-pocket costs are upfront before they step foot into the practice. Then they can process their claims on the spot and pay only the out-of-pocket portion. It also lets patients’ book appointments. “No other payment product in the Australian market can do what HICAPS GO does.”

This approach to specialisation will be key for the bank, which seems to be paying off for the bank. Business and specialised banking was a key driver behind NAB’s recent half-year result. Underpinning the success of this approach is technology. Rynski points to the better use of data as allowing banks to get more sophisticated at segmenting their customer database, that is the right customer, right time, right offer.

"The explosion in data capability and greater access to knowledge is also helping banks to work with industry to solve problems."

“The explosion in data capability and greater access to knowledge is also helping banks to work with industry to solve problems.” As customers demand that banking is made easier in order to focus on growing their business, the “seamless digital experience” will become the norm. It will include key elements such as simple online platforms, better self-service capability and faster online applications. For example, NAB’s small business customers have access to faster, simpler,
unsecured credit up to $100,000 with its QuickBiz loan –around a third of its lending to small businesses are done this way.

Rynski joined NAB in September last year, after nearly seven years at Westpac. While “she had a great time,” at the bank, she is eager to forge a new future at NAB. Despite the trust issues that are plaguing the sector - the royal commission was looking into the SME lending practices of banks as this article went to print – she is also confident of the future recognising two “great leaders” in Andrew Thorburn and Ken Henry. Describing what she would like to see in 10 years’ time, Rynski adds: “I would love to see banks become the most trusted and respected part of the economy and society."

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