CMO50 2022 #21: Megan Keleher

  • Name Megan Keleher
  • Title Chief customer officer
  • Company Great Southern Bank
  • Commenced role January 2019
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 52 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2021 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    As Megan Keleher, chief customer officer at Great Southern Bank, admits, if she knew the magic formula of data or gut when it comes to marketing, she'd bottle it and make a fortune.

    “But I’d say the optimum mix is 70 per cent data and research, and 30 per cent gut. Data is essential in making informed decisions, but great decision-making also relies upon instinct. It’s bravery which inspires us to develop new hypotheses, try new or different ideas, and decide when best to put decisions into action,” she says.

    “For me, it’s been about coming up with a brand vision which aligns with strategy and organisational capability and doing it at just the right stretch so the brand promise lives up to our customers’ expectations.”

    Innovative marketing

    In the past year, Keleher has led a marketing strategy which has added $5 billion in loans to Great Southern Bank, and increased market share, primarily through acquiring younger customers, its key target.

    This strategy started two years ago with the rebranding and repositioning of CUA to Great Southern Bank (GSB). This transformation rebadged it as Australia’s biggest customer-owned bank, whose purpose is to help all Australians own their own home and ‘empowering clever’ in the way customers achieve this.

    “In FY22, my focus has been leveraging our new brand: Aligning marketing to our purpose; and supporting growth by targeting younger, more profitable customers," Keleher says. "Underpinned by our ‘Happily Clever After’ brand platform, our marketing activities have helped increase prompted brand awareness and consideration converting into more customers likely to choose us compared to CUA.

    “Our first podcast series, The Clever Way Home, guided listeners through every step of home buying. Big Bash League [BBL] and AFL giveaways gave two fans a $50,000 house deposit. Our ‘Great Southern Bank House Party’ deck at the Gabba and Tiny House activation at the MCG created brand talkability."

    This helped secure a record $5.3 billion in loans from 20,500 home buyers, outperforming the sector by 1.6 times system growth. Sales specifically to first home buyers grew 50 per cent, from $800 million to $.1.2 billion.

    “We also attracted 29,592 younger customers. As CUA, existing customers were 49 years old on average. As Great Southern Bank, the average age of new customers is 27," Keleher says. “We are now in the Top 10 Fastest Growing Banks in Australia, based on total uplift in portfolio balance of home loans, and we recently won Canstar’s 2022 Customer-Owned Bank of the Year.”

    Business smarts

    As a customer-owned bank founded on the principle of supporting customers and communities, it is important GSB is relevant, competes and grows. This ideology prompted the rebrand, and also ensure the team applied a critical customer lens to all decisions and strategic direction.

    “Our renewed focus on purpose highlights the importance of being a responsible bank and demonstrating we are about more than financial performance. I championed this successfully, first with the board then by influencing the executive from procurement to operations to HR, to secure buy-in and results,” Keleher explains.

    “This has transformed not just a brand but a business from the inside out. Most visibly, I have significantly accelerated our sustainability focus in FY22, including launching our first Reconciliation Action Plan, with achievements reported quarterly to Reconciliation Australia.

    “We published our first Climate Action Plan and made a commitment to net zero by 2040. We also completed our first Financial Inclusion Action Plan after receiving verification from Ernst and Young under the Good Shepherd Financial Inclusion Program.”

    Keleher has additionally championed increased transparency so customers and stakeholders can read about these initiatives in new sustainability pages on the website, as well as regularly updated content shared on social media platforms, including regular thought-leadership pieces.

    “More broadly, I have influenced our CEO and CFO to broaden our financial reporting to include non-financial metrics. Last year, we included environmental and social outcomes in our Annual Report. This year, the number of pages dedicated to our non-financial performance will double," she continues.

    "I have commissioned a new ESG Impact Report, where we’ll share the positive actions we are taking to support customers, communities, the environment and our people. This represents another ‘first’ for Great Southern Bank, and the precursor to moving to fully integrated reporting to demonstrate our true value and full impact.”

    Data-driven maturity

    Marketers have long understood the cost of acquiring new customers is significantly higher than retaining existing customers. So customer retention is a key driver of loyalty and increased profitability for GSB.

    The bank had historically underinvested in new and emerging technology. In FY22, Keleher invested in artificial intelligence (AI) to help retain and future proof its customer base. Historical data highlighted the number of customers lost each year through churn, numbers which were reducing its loan book by billions of dollars.

    “The team could see the customer churn, but did not know who was leaving or why. Without the data or customer insights, we could not pro-actively intervene to keep ‘at risk’ customers on our books," she says. “Working with external AI consultants, we began by ranking our customers from those most likely to stay, through to those most likely to leave. The use of explainable AI provided us with the reasons behind these rankings.

    “The insights provided through these conversations have allowed us to make targeted interventions at an individual customer level, and engage with the right marketing message at the right time. This new level of understanding is allowing us to retain many of the customers predicted to leave.”

    By proactively managing these conversations, GSB has been able to halve the churn rate for high-risk customers. Each loan ‘saved’ delivers an uplift to profits, together improving overall profitability.

    The AI-driven approach to retention is also building stronger and richer customer experiences. Feedback from those managing the calls has been overwhelmingly positive. The customer contact centre agents now have the right data to have personalised conversations about the things which matter most to customers. This, in turn, is feeding through into improved customer satisfaction scores.

    Customer-led value

    As a new brand with ambitious growth targets and a clear, dedicated commitment to delivering its purpose, it is critically important GSB understands its customers. This means analysing and understanding the customer experience across all touchpoints and customer product journeys.

    “Our award-winning VoC program uses alert triggers, active dashboards, digital feedback, instant analytics and a research panel. Collectively, these tools provide a holistic picture of the customer experience, driving deeper understanding and enabling us to prioritise investment and improvement action,” Keleher says.

    “VoC is especially effective around retention. We know ‘detractor’ customers are far more likely to churn than ‘passive’ customers. Through VoC we were able to identify those home loan detractors most at risk of exiting their loan. With consent, we began contacting these customers to further understand their experience, act and retain their business. This resulted in a significant year-on-year uplift in our customer Net Promoter Score [NPS] and retention."

    VoC and insight-led improvements are enabling and promoting a culture of evidence-based decision making and identifying opportunities to improve performance, resourcing and funding, including:

    • Shaping the digital roadmap for this year, focusing on features most highly requested and addressing key pain points of detractors.

    • Identifying and prioritising fixing customer pain points in the mobile banking app around updating contact details and deleting existing payees and billers.

    • Listening to complaints from visually impaired customers after receiving new bank cards enabled GSB to improve visibility by changing the font colour.

    • Lifting service standards across frontline teams; monthly recognition of ‘CX Superstars’ has seen an uplift of +4 per cent in branches and +8 per cent in the customer contact centre.

    Commercial and growth acumen

    As the customer custodian, Keleher’s team is instrumental in delivering customer growth. It does this by aligning activities to purpose, being clear and targeted with brand messaging and precise in execution.

    “Our ‘Happily Clever After’ brand campaign continues to help attract new customers and position us as a credible alternative to the ‘Big Four’. Our brand conversion rate in FY22 was higher than Bendigo, Suncorp and Bank of Queensland," she says. “Importantly, we are keeping our customers satisfied. Our NPS in FY22 was 30.2, more than 10 percentage points higher than the nearest big four bank.

    “We continue to be very clear on our target audiences, with a strong focus on millennials. Our sports sponsorships have been particularly effective in reaching and engaging this younger demographic. In FY22, we extended our partnerships with both Brisbane Heat and Carlton FC. Our new sponsorship of Carlton AFLW team has enabled us to reach a new customer base and further demonstrate our commitment to women’s sport.

    “We are strongly leveraging government schemes which support home ownership and helped 2250 Australians into their homes in FY22."

    Actively championing these schemes has given GSB a point of difference and another targeted platform to reach our first home buyer target market.

    “With more than two-thirds of Australians now using mortgage brokers to purchase their home, we made the strategic decision in FY22 to bolster this channel within our marketing mix, including the creation of a new broker engagement specialist. We signed up three new broker aggregators this year which doubles our broker network, expands our customer base, and attracts younger and more profitable customers,” Keleher adds.

    The effectiveness of GSB’s marketing in FY22 has been recognised by the industry, with nominations for five Effies as well three AMI awards.

    Leadership impact

    The rebrand was a huge change management project. It needed strong buy-in from GSB’s people. 

    “But the job did not end when we unveiled our new name. That is when the job of delivering on our new purpose and achieving our ambitious growth ambitions really started,” Keleher says.

    This requires a high performing team, which Keleher sought to develop in her division by creating a clear purpose, setting performance-driven goals, encouraging open communication and encouraging professional development.

    “I personally host a weekly stand-up for the CCO division, where team members take turns in representing their team and provide their colleagues with business and sometimes personal updates.

    “I also run much smaller showcase sessions, where I invite my direct reports to provide more of a deep dive into key projects. I encourage them to bring along members of their teams, which gives me great oversight of our work and direct connection to our talent.

    “I am also an enthusiastic advocate of our mentoring program, championing participants from across my division. It is incredibly rewarding to watch the progress of these team members towards their development and career goals, while collaborating and building new relationships across the business."

    The above examples are driving both high performance and strong engagement. In 2022, Keleher's division achieved a record 4.39 Gallup employee engagement score, just 0.01 points from being a Gallup Exceptional Workplace. Ninety-three per cent of team members are clear on their goals and expectations for the year ahead, while 91 per cent understand how their role contributes to the overall business strategy.

    “These scores are, I believe, a natural consequence of the collaborative, flexible and supportive work environment within CCO, where balance across career, family, health and the things our team loves to do are all encouraged," Keleher concludes.

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