In this series we get to know our co-operative members. Today we talk with SBS Group Chief Executive Shaun Drylie about SBS, their vision, being a co-operative and how they keep shareholders engaged.

Based in Invercargill, the 152-year-old bank is New Zealand’s largest building society with 14 branches nationwide and a full 24/7 online banking service.

The bank also has three subsidiary businesses as part of the SBS Group, offering insurance, wealth management and consumer finance.

SBS Bank is believed to have been the first building society in the world to have achieved bank registration, in 2008, while retaining its mutual structure.

1. Shaun - tell us about the vision for SBS Bank?

    Our branding has the symbolism of a heart in it, and this really captures what our vision is – to bring the heart back into banking, which is something we think has been lost over the years. SBS aims to create enduring, sustainable value for our members, who are our owners.

    We are very much a part of our community and corporate social responsibility is particularly important to us as well. There are a lot of great initiatives underway here, and it’s an exciting time for SBS.

    2. What are your main points of difference?

      As a co-operative and a bank, our unrelenting focus on our members is what sets us apart. They are our purpose for being and this is at the very front of everyone’s minds here – our Directors, our managers and our people.

      We are one of only two member-owned banks in New Zealand so that makes us pretty unique. We are also proud to still be based in Southland, where it all first started more than 150 years ago.

      SBS has diversified and now has three other businesses – Funds Administration New Zealand Limited, Southsure Assurance and Finance Now, which offer insurance, wealth management and consumer finance. This has allowed us to extend our offering and our commitment to quality to these businesses and provide further value to our membership base.

      3. What are the key issues you are currently trying to address?

        The first one is the ongoing response to Covid and from a member perspective, a lot of that was and continues to be around how we can provide assistance. Some of our members have never banked online or they prefer coming into a branch, so they needed extra support to do their banking or to transition to digital banking.

        Covid also accelerated remote working and we needed to make sure our team were set up to work from home easily and that they were able to provide a good level of service to our members.

        At an organisational level there is always a challenge around capital. We are working with the Reserve Bank to create a capital instrument that will allow us to grow faster and become a more sizable organisation. We can only grow as fast as our retained earnings allow.

        4. What trends are you seeing and what is your organisation doing to make itself future proof?

          The biggest is the move to digitialisation and we are continually developing our online channels.

          As this accelerates, we have to be mindful not to lose the personal connection. It’s about the head and the heart – we have to offer excellent service, products and prices and at the same time, we need to always be strengthening that relationship with members.

          Where we are seeing more of a shift is that people are increasingly wanting to be connected to a values-based business. This is already a core strength of a co-operative business and something SBS is really engaged in.

          Some of the main areas we are focused on are reducing our environmental impact, helping Kiwis into affordable housing and supporting local organisations. We work closely with Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities and last year we assisted 548 families to get into their first home through our First Home Loan scheme. We also partner with not-for-profit organisations including the Southland Loss and Grief Centre and Ronald McDonald House South Island to help them help our communities.

          5. Co-operation among co-operatives is a Rochdale Principle from 1844 - how do you work with fellow co-operatives?

            Joining Cooperative Business New Zealand has been good for us and we see real benefit in working with other co-operatives, so this is an area we are looking to strengthen. Roz has done an amazing job in bringing the diverse group of co-ops together and her vision for Cooperative Business NZ is something we share.

            6. For SBS Bank, what are the main benefits of being a co-operative?

              Being a co-operative means that profit does not come first and it does seem cliché, but the hierarchy of priorities is clear when you put members at the top. It makes the decision-making process easier because the driver is always member value.

              7. How do you keep your shareholders engaged?

                We want our members to feel part of SBS and that’s all about communication and engagement. Last year we won the Canstar’s Most Satisfied Customers Award 2020 and that’s something we’re really proud of because we know we’re on the right track with our service offering.

                Many of our members are able to vote at our AGM and we also regularly seek their feedback on change and improvement initiatives.