Terence chats with BNZ's new Head of North Harbour!
Meet Jason Lewthwaite, BNZ's new Head of North Harbour Region, who is responsible for both BNZ’s business and retail banking operations north of the harbour bridge. Terence recently caught with Jason to find out a little more about him, his thoughts about the banking industry and business opportunities over the next few months, as well as what he loves most about Takapuna and the North Shore! Read on below to find out what Jason has to say.
Terence: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your role at BNZ
Jason: I was born in Christchurch, but grew up in Picton, spending my formative years on the water, whether that was sailing, boating, or fishing. I sailed competitively for many years, to national level in a number of classes. After an OE in LA working as a Law Clerk, I have been working within the Banking industry for over 24 years across Asia, Australia and of course NZ. It has been a pleasure to assist customers across a range of sectors from Agriculture to Food and Beverage, from Advanced Manufacturing to Technology sectors and businesses whom export or import goods and services. I have been living on the shore now for 20 years, it not only home but it’s a region I am very passionate about.
Now I lead and represent BNZ Partnership Banking for the region with accountability for overall business performance and an integrated customer experience across all segments. I am a passionate about serving our customers and my colleagues well and helping our communities prosper.
T: What are you seeing across the banking industry at the moment and what opportunities do you see for businesses?
J: In the last 18 or so months I have seen more change than over the balance of time I have been in the industry. At BNZ we have one of the biggest digital teams of any corporate in New Zealand, our teams are developing some great technologies that are making it a lot easier for customers to do their banking (and in many cases remotely), plus a host of API’s which will add value to our business clients.
At BNZ we have always focussed on the customer, on getting the basics right and were we don’t, making it right, which has not changed. What we are spending time on how we can turn leading innovation into value for our customers, we are of course a provider of capital and banking services, but also it is our desire to help our customers to reach their strategic objectives through leveraging technology, to deliver institutional knowledge and experience, and of course our combined networks to our customers in a meaningful way.
The other point I would make is that distance from key global markets overseas has sometimes been seen as a hurdle. However with provenance being so important today, it’s now a key differentiator for the Food & Beverage sectors particularly. For those involved in the Technology and Services sectors, whether following a SAS model or otherwise growth is readily scalable from our beautiful country. COVID has shown how global the world is now, and it’s both a threat, but also an opportunity.
The shift in the way we use technology to serve customers has been incredible. I’ve seen more change in the last 18 months, and even in the last two months, than in the last decade. People are online and in apps, they’re using our SMART ATMS and being really hands-on with their money. Digital is a huge focus for us and we have one of the largest digital teams of any organisation in New Zealand that is making these services faster and easier for our customers and with new functions that enable people to manage their money.
The digital shift got a real shot in the arm from COVID-19. Customers that weren’t online before, now are. We want to seize on that and make sure new online and app users are comfortable and feel safe using the technology. And for business, the digital shift brought about by lockdown was very pronounced. It also showed businesses that the global marketplace is much closer than we sometimes think. We had customers developing online sales channels and websites in a matter of days and now we want to support businesses to make digital a productive part in their enterprises and for some to look beyond our shores at marketplaces elsewhere for growth.
Of course, lockdown was tough for businesses and our focus then and now is very much on how we support our business customers to get through this and keep Kiwis employed. We used a range of measures to help businesses weather the storm and we’re working very closely with our customers to ensure those measures continue to work and we can help them get back on course and achieve the growth and aspirations they had in their sights pre-lockdown.
T: What advice would you give to business owners over the next few months?
J: You’ve got to have a plan. And no matter whether it is focused on core clients or products, or your cash conversion cycle, or reviewing your outgoings, the key is to understand cashflow and what can be done to get it back to a sustainable position as soon as possible. At times like these seek advice. There’s no playbook for how we respond to COVID-19 and we’re all supporting each other to work our way through it.
Many businesses will have heard the word “Pivot” and might be wondering whether it’s something they should be doing. Pivoting means if your traditional way of working does not fit in the current environment then how do you re-direct the skills and experience within the business to create and maintain a sustainable cashflow until global markets recover, even if that means a domestic focus.
Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and re-assess the why are we here, what problem have we been solving for and probably more importantly what are the key target markets and customers that we can serve now.
Most importantly make sure you look after yourself, and your wellbeing.
T: Wellbeing is so important, especially during these times. What things do you do with your teams to help keep everyone healthy and happy?
J: Sometimes it can be just checking in with people, seeing how they are going and providing an opportunity to chat through the challenges they are facing.
In normal circumstances, its providing appropriate training and coaching around the importance of resilience, healthy eating, sleep, and exercise, but it also comes down to getting the right work/life balance and ensuring you take a break even in these uncertain times.
At BNZ we’re taking the opportunity to look at how we operate in the future with increased flexibility in working arrangements and improvements to how we serve customers. We’ve shown we can serve customers and be productive while running the bank remotely from living rooms and kitchen tables and will be looking closely at how this can support people’s wellbeing.
T: What do you love best about working at BNZ and in the North Shore?
J: I love the collaborative culture at BNZ, and the passion our staff have for serving our customers, our colleagues and our communities.
I am incredibly proud of the BNZ’s approach to COVID and that right from the top we are committed to doing all we can to support our customers and our communities.
North Shore is such an awesome place to live, work and to play. I love the relaxed feel on the shore, and the access to great cafes, restaurants and access to some great beaches.
T: What do you most enjoy doing in Takapuna outside work hours?
J: I look forward to the occasional meal out at one of the fantastic restaurants, an ice cream and a walk along the beach with the family, together with our little sausage dogs.
I do also enjoy catching up with friends over a quiet beer or meal.
If you're interested in getting in touch with Jason, you can contact him via email: Jason_Lewthwaite@bnz.co.nz.