Great Southern Bank's customer chief: Scoring rebrand impact

Nine months on from going live with a transformational rebrand, chief customer officer shares the business results and metrics she's using to measure impact

Great Southern Bank's Tiny House at the MCG
Great Southern Bank's Tiny House at the MCG

A doubling of market share across first-home buyers, portfolio growth 1.8 times system growth and a slew of younger customers are some of the hefty commercial wins Great Southern Bank has chalked up following a transformational rebrand.

Former Credit Union Australia officially debuted as Great Southern Bank (GSB) in June last year, taking on the new guise 75 years after commencing business. The rebrand was supported by organisation-wide alignment to a purpose of helping all Australians own their own home. It also came with fresh investments into technology, ways of working and marketing.

And as chief customer officer, Megan Keleher, told CMO, it’s already started paying dividends. Great Southern Bank increased its monthly home lending to $160 million in December 2021, up from $80 a year earlier, results that contrast with a 10 per cent decline in industry lending over the same period. GSB is now supporting 2 per cent of Australian first-home buyers, double its share a year earlier.

For Keleher, the rebrand developed a real sense of momentum across the organisation. “The brand element was a turning point, and a very visual and dominant one,” she said.

“But we also embarked on a new strategy, and we wanted people to be able to follow the success of the growth strategy as well. It [these results] reflect the sense of excitement we created, and how we have continued to deliver on that momentum.

“It also shows how important it has been to share across the organisation the success the business is having. This is not in terms of brand, but the business in its totality.”  

Business, not brand metrics

A critical part of the process has been transparency around all the metrics GSB was looking at “to say whether we were being successful in competing in a tough, cluttered, highly competitive market”, Keleher said.

“That didn’t mean we weren’t measuring all the marketing metrics as well. But it was always leading with communication around business metrics and those results,” she said. “There has been an intense level of competition and the market has been buoyant. But the question was: Have we done better than what the market is doing today? Confidently, we have results showing that.

“Pleasingly, our market share results around first-home owners have been really well received. As a small organisation, showing we can focus on a target segment and be successful was an important achievement.”

Another element GSB tracked retrospectively was the impact its brand position in market was having through unexpected correlations. Keleher described this as “being curious around how to join the dots”. As an example, Keleher’s team explored the number of times ‘Great Southern Bank’ was Googled and the amount of money in transaction accounts and found a direct correlation.

“That money is a reflection of the uplift we have had in customers into our transaction accounts,” she said. “Our proposition is most definitely around home ownership and helping all Australians into their own homes. So this shows brand has had a really positive halo effect across other aspects of our business.

“Also, we were looking to double market share and aligning around the purpose of helping all Australians own their own home. You need deposits to support that growth. If you took these results literally, you could say well, you need to run advertising around the deposit products. No we don’t.

“We’ve been able to talk about this by showing data on the relationship between when advertising was occurring, searching of our name, and growth in our deposits portfolio. It’s managing those conversations and again, going back to the data. That wasn’t a metric I set out as an indicator of success, but how you match those metrics later on is really important.”  

A further internal win for Keleher from the brand overhaul has been the attraction of talent.

“The way the organisation has presented the brand in terms of confidence and in our delivery of growth has meant we have been able to attract good talent, even at a senior level, including executives from Westpac and Commonwealth Bank,” she said.  

The consideration spectrum

One of the biggest measures Keleher knew had to improve was consideration. Unprompted and prompted brand awareness was a key leading indicator given CUA had never cracked double-digit levels of unprompted awareness in its history. Six months in from rebranding, prompted brand awareness had grown to 15 per cent.

“We’re even happier about the conversion to consideration – that’s sitting at 32 per cent at the moment,” Keleher continued. “That’s better than Bankwest and Suncorp and just shy of double what CUA ever achieved. We can see brand is making a huge difference.”

To put this in a commercial context, Keleher said GSB has improved success through the broker channel, which makes up more than 65 per cent of customers sales for home loans. Seventy-seven per cent of home lending is now via brokers, up from 56 per cent.

“If that broker is having a conversation with one of our future customers and offer us up as one of several options but the customer has never heard of us, we don’t get on the shortlist. But if they have heard of us, then one-third will come to us,” Keleher explained. “That’s efficient, but also means our proposition and focus on target market is doing the job it needs to do.”

GSB has since been expanding the broker network to support growth and is introducing new aggregators to the panel. At the start of the rebrand process, GSB also kicked off a dedicated communications strategy for the broker network. But it was quickly clear service experience would be the differentiator.

To shorten the time to ‘yes’ and a home loan approval, GSB rolled out Lendfast’s system, a major digital transformation piece in the business. This has halved the time to ‘yes’, with one-third of applications going through in two days.  

“We also looked at the operating model of our broker team to ensure partners are having that dedicated experience with our GSB team members. Uplift in that area is great, and applications are up 90 per cent year-on-year,” Keleher said.  

Joining the deposit and home loan dots

With it getting harder and harder to accrue first-home deposits, GSB has now turned more attention towards how to assist customers with achieving that important step.

“The insights we had led to the decision to talk about deposit in our advertising and clever ways to save,” Keleher said. “All research is saying stay on that path and let the customer choose the way they want to save. It doesn’t need to be an impost, it needs to be the way you go about your everyday life.”

To help, GSB offers ‘The Vault’, or an ability for customers to hide savings from sight; plus ‘Boost’, allowing customers to set an automated amount to go into their account every time they use their Visa Debit Card. More elements are coming later the year.  

“We’ve also challenged things all the way through the business including credit policy and partnerships we might have in the community we want to explore,” Keleher said.  

In addition, GSB has debuted its own podcast, ‘The clever way home’, hosted by Sophie Tieman and available via Spotify and the Listnr network.

“People are getting younger and younger when trying to save for their first home, as the time it takes is getting longer and longer. We have doubled down on that,” Keleher said.

All this work is seeing GSB attract younger customers. The average age of new customers is under 30, about 20 years younger than the average age of GSB’s existing customer base. GSB CEO and MD, Paul Lewis, has highlighted the result as an encouraging one.  

“We rebranded from a credit union to a bank to ensure our relevance to future generations, as our research showed that 70 per cent of millennials don’t know what a credit union is. Attracting this younger audience is a strong sign that we are moving in the right direction,” he stated.  

Sports marketing  

An array of marketing initiatives are now underway as GSB continues to strive for growth, particularly in Australia’s southern states. Among these are taking naming rights at Carlton for this year’s AFL season.

Great Southern Bank's Tiny House at the MCGCredit: Great Southern Bank
Great Southern Bank's Tiny House at the MCG

GSB also built a tiny home in the MCG to challenge thinking about what is a home and what it looks like. This was supported by a $5000 cash giveaway at quarter time and tied into a larger competition giving $50,000 towards a home deposit.

Cricket has been another key sporting sponsorship opportunity and Keleher cited strong uplift with the Brisbane Heat sponsorship and recent Big Bash tournament. Brand awareness among Big Bash supporters reached 21 per cent this quarter and 25 per cent across Brisbane Heat supporters.

“Our partnership with MKTG in terms of leveraging sports sponsorship and Channel 7 have been great in doing things differently. As a smaller organisation, you have to get more innovative with what you’ve got,” Keleher added.

As to any final lessons on ongoing management of a top-to-tail rebrand, Keleher stressed the importance of keeping people on the path of alignment around purpose.

“The questions now if we should do or not do something is based on our purpose, rather than doing anything and putting the brand on it,” she said. “That’s been the harder guiding conversation. Whether it be potential products, partnerships or community investment, it’s great to hear other people in the business question whether it’s aligned to all Australians owning their own home. It’s as much about the purpose conversations and showing the brand is just a symbol of that purpose.

“You need courageous conversations, but this gives you a framework to have those conversations.”

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