Heritage Bank increasing workforce to leverage new business opportunities

Heritage Bank has announced at today’s Annual General Meeting in Toowoomba that it will be increasing its workforce this financial year to take advantage of emerging business opportunities.

Chairman Mr Kerry Betros said the move was a vote of confidence in the organisation and its ability to take advantage of specialist skills to build new business streams.

Today’s AGM also heard that Heritage Bank’s seven Community Branch outlets across southern Queensland have now injected a total of more than $22 million back into their local communities.

Heritage posted its 13th consecutive record pre-tax profit in 2011/12 at $44.36 million. Heritage also increased its total consolidated assets to $8.221 billion, an increase of 2.2%, firming its standing as Australia’s largest customer-owned bank. Total loan approvals in 2011/12 were $1.435 billion, an increase of 5.6% on the previous year. Retail deposits grew by $358 million, a 9.7% increase.

Mr Betros said Heritage had achieved a range of strategic outcomes in 2011/12 - changing its name to Heritage Bank; opening two new branches, extending its mortgage broker network nationwide, and raising $227.5 million through the issue of Heritage Bank Retail Bonds.

As a result, Heritage is well positioned and optimistic about the year ahead.

"In fact, while governments and other financial institutions are laying off employees, we plan to increase our staff numbers by at least 20 positions," Mr Betros said.

"We are increasing our workforce to help take advantage of emerging business streams that provide real opportunities for Heritage to leverage our specialist skills and expertise.

"We are already one of Australia’s largest issuers of pre-paid cards and will look to capitalise on our expertise in this area. In recent times we have developed relationships with a number of key partners such as Australia Post, Emerchants and Wright Express that are opening up new opportunities.

"We are also looking to kick-start a new business based on our expertise in on-line training for financial institutions. The catalyst for this has been changes to national credit legislation that mean credit representatives must soon obtain higher qualifications before they can work with customers.

"This is an example of how we are taking a niche area where Heritage has specialist expertise and leveraging that advantage to grow our business."

CEO Mr John Minz said that as well as taking advantage of its specialist skills, Heritage also prided itself on giving back to the community as part of its People first philosophy.

Mr Minz said there was no better example of that approach in action than Heritage’s Community Branch concept.

Heritage established Queensland’s first-ever community branch outlet, as a joint venture with the local community, at Crows Nest in 1999. Since then, additional community branch joint ventures have been set up at Highfields, Nanango, Millmerran, Forest Lake, Karalee, and Palmwoods.

Together, the community branches have now hit the milestone of putting more than $22 million back into their local communities, through a combination of funding grants to local organisations, sponsorships, wages and salaries, and other payments to local service providers.

"Heritage pioneered the community branch banking concept in Queensland and we are thrilled that our seven joint-venture outlets have put so much back into their local communities," Mr Minz said.

"Heritage provides true community banking, by working with communities to establish a full local banking service in their town or suburb. That’s particularly valuable where communities feel abandoned by other banks and want to access banking services locally.

"We work with community-based companies in joint-venture arrangements to establish the branches.

"Importantly profits are shared and the community companies distribute their share of profits back into the community to support charities, sporting clubs and other local organisations. The more the communities use the branch, the greater the profit and the more the communities prosper."

Significantly, Heritage this month invited organisations from the Millmerran, Karalee and Forest Lake communities to apply for a share in more than $45,000 in grants that will be given out in those areas before Christmas.

Heritage community branch outlets employ local people who are part of the community, and enable community members to do their banking face-to-face in their local neighbourhood.

"Community branch banking is just another way we continue to put People first," Mr Minz said.

* Based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. WARNING: This comparison rate is true only for the examples given and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate.