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first_imgAfter a record year, Bank of Sydney, formerly known as Laiki Bank and Beirut Hellenic, is about to announce record-breaking profits, and the straight-talking Julie Elliott – appointed as CEO a few months after the bank’s reincarnation – is unsurprisingly in an upbeat mood when we meet at BOS’s Spring Street office in Melbourne.Taking time out to speak with Neos Kosmos, Ms Elliott says the secret of success in the highly-competitive banking market is down to the bank’s revitalised mission to be ‘Australia’s true relationship bank’.OK, so what’s behind the marketing line? For Elliott, the measure of a bank is its connection to customers.“Words are cheap, we’re about actions not words. Everyone’s got the words,” says the CEO. “When you have a problem – fraud on your credit card, or money has gone out of your account – you want someone real to talk to, not someone who is reading off a script in a call-centre or overseas.”“We’re funded totally by our own deposits and we’ve grown these deposits to nearly $1.3bn over the course of 2014, so that’s an increase of about 25 per cent,” says Elliott, who began her career as a chartered accountant at KPMG.Reflecting on the (double) rebranding exercise that has transformed the business since shedding its skin as Laiki Bank, Elliott says a key part of the bank’s recent operational upturn is due to the efforts of its 160 staff – many of who are of Greek and Cypriot heritage – and who have embraced change in the company.“Our loan growth has been the strongest that we’ve seen, and all of that’s driven our profitability, but what’s more important to me is our people,” says the former NAB and Westpac executive, who admits that bedding down the Bank of Sydney has taken time.“They’re a lot happier and enjoying being at the bank and enjoying being with our customers.”Ms Elliott, who is out on the road four days a week visiting the bank’s five commercial hubs – and sixteen branches in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide – points out that the role of a branch has changed radically in the past decade.“It’s not necessarily about opening more branches. There’s less cash in society, so we will open new branches, but as points of presence, as opposed to being solely cash dispensaries.”Bank of Sydney’s operations are divided equally between business and retail banking, and its capitalisation – a mark of any bank’s security – might surprise some.“At the moment we’re Australia’s most liquid, most capitalised bank,” she says. “That means we’re very strong and very safe, and it’s my job to keep us this way.”While keen to promote the bank’s commercial growth in the past 12 months, Julie Elliott is also careful to ensure her sensitivity to the bank’s roots is abundantly clear. When asked at one of her first board meetings if she felt the tradition of donating a gold coin for the vasilopita at the official Greek Orthodox blessing at new year should be continued, she was adamant that it must stay.“We’re still very wedded to that Cypriot Greek heritage.” “To me the culture and history is very important, not to be bound by it, but to take you into the future. It’s important for me to take that heritage and build on it.”Bank of Sydney’s plans for 2015 include moving into the mortgage broker market, furthering their involvement in wealth offering, and expanding their online capabilities, but nurturing the bank’s greatest asset – the relationship between banker and customer – will be at the top of Julie Elliott’s agenda.“I believe in the ‘service-profit’ chain of happy people leading to happy customers. That’s what drives our business.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more