Creating a modern banking experience
There’s something alluring about the sea, and in particular the surf: waiting for a wave to arrive, not knowing how hard it will hit and how this will impact your balance on the board, or whether you will be able to stay on … stay afloat. There is a danger about surfing that is as exhilarating as it is frightening at times. And yet, the allure of jumping on a board is too hard to ignore. The sea draws you back, the surf challenges you to become one with it and ride it through all its ebbs and flows. You feel like once you have mastered the surf, you can master anything. Is there something spiritual about it? I guess that’s an individual thing. Yet, how you face challenges and transformational moments is definitely something that the sea and surf brings to the fore.
Jamie McPhee took up surfing nine years ago when he was 40. He is now trying to convince his two daughters to hit the waves. And why not? Their Anglesea property sits on a cliff and looks right over the ocean. Yet for the Adelaide born patriarch of this family, the surf is an extension of his sense of how to approach life – ever shifting, challenging and how to navigate the big waves that come to try and knock you.
McPhee has an affinity with sport in general.
“I spent a lot of time playing sport. I played cricket and football and when I stopped playing football, I tried golf.”
McPhee understates his sporting skill. He actually captained the Australian under-19 cricket team. This was a team that boasted two future Australian captains in Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh as well as Mark Waugh and Craig McDermott. McPhee also played football in the South Australia Football League.
The lessons he has learnt from sport are with him to this day and inform the
way he operates ME Bank.
“I am a huge believer in a team first and individual second leadership model. Sport operates in that type of environment and teammates have a personal commitment and dedication not only to their careers but to their team as well. This is what sets apart successful individuals and teams. Watching those dedicated champions it was evident they had the wherewithal and focus to succeed.”
McPhee is still involved with cricket as a board member with Melbourne Renegades. The changing nature of cricket is another aspect of sport that has relevance to business.
“Change is fundamental to growth. When we talk about business we are in a unique period in history. There is currently a tectonic shift from the industrial to the digital era. It is as profound as the industrial revolution. That era went from single production of goods to mass production facilitated by machines. Today, it is the use of data that is fundamentally designing a superior customer experience … every organisation is being impacted by this. Take Borders for instance. People were saying for four years prior to their collapse that they needed to run more efficient bookstores. But the real issue was called Amazon. Fairfax’s car classified was impacted by businesses such as carsales.com.au. Today we need to build environments that are consumer viable. If you look at cricket, the One Day series ended up funding Test cricket because it appealed to consumers and wasn’t just male oriented. Now the Big Bash, which runs for a couple of hours per match, means families are attending cricket again. The AFL has done a brilliant job with creating an even demographic of 50% male and female consumers. It brought the product to the consumer market. Some might say the Big Bash is not real cricket, but real cricket to me is looking through the lens of the consumer and developing a product that appeals to consumers. In that sense there is no difference between sport and business.”
Sport has always been a passion for McPhee. It is evident in his CV and is brought home when you speak with him. However, the passion for banking didn’t come until later on.
After completing an engineering degree, he had no idea what he wanted to do. He felt no engagement with the profession. Someone suggested he go and play cricket in England – which he did. While there he took a job in a bank but had no idea where he was going, but there was an almost instant rapport.
“I think back to the subjects I enjoyed while I was studying engineering and they were focused on game theory and financial modelling. So I walked into the UK office of a merchant bank on a Monday and it was a real buzz. The stock market had just crashed and this was a business that was trading foreign exchange and interest rates. It was fast paced and I really enjoyed it, but I knew nothing about finance or banking. When they were talking about Bonds, I thought they were talking about Alan and Eileen. My knowledge was poor and the money markets were new, but I borrowed a lot of books and devoured them.”
He was there for 18 months before heading back to Adelaide and taking a job in the Treasury department with the Co-operative Building Society, which soon became the Adelaide Bank and later Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. The merger between the two was facilitated by McPhee and brought Adelaide Bank’s core competencies in wholesale mortgages, margin lending and portfolio funding together with Bendigo Bank’s unique community focused