As the head of SME (small to medium enterprise) Business for St George Bank, Stuart Zalunardo has mingled with the Ausmumpreneur Network for a number of years now and is an avid supporter of women in business. Stuart was delighted to have the opportunity to again judge this year’s Ausmumpreneur Of The Year Award and present at the conference.
On reflection of his experience at the last two events, Stuart wanted to discuss the importance of having confidence in your skills and business and the challenges you may face financially along the way.
At the Awards and Conference this year, I was blown away by the number of wonderful women that have had the confidence to chase your dreams, to start, to grow, to challenge the norm in what has historically been male dominated segment of small business.
It’s wonderful to see the way you support each other and have the confidence to achieve great things. you challenge each other’s thinking and continue to start things, I tell my daughter that all the time to chase her dreams and it’s influenced by many of you over the past two years.
Challenge of growth
How to approach the challenge of growth, a couple of things I believe are critical to success.
Having a support network is just so important.
You need to have a network of support to trust you, believe you, challenge you and pick you up when things don’t go well. For many of us that’s family or friends. But there are other networks available today. What Peace and Katy have started in the AusMumpreneur community is a very special network that St.George is proud to be a part of. An alternative support system that can inspire, motivate, encourage and advise you.
I know for women with children running a business is like a quadruple whammy – it’s a mixture of passions in home life and work life, and in their personal ambitions and aspirations. That’s why we’re here – to help provide the support you need.
To ensure you get the best support from like-minded bankers at St.George, I have personally assigned 10 bankers specifically to the AusMums network, all of whom support small businesses and almost all are mums themselves.
From L-R : Nancy Yedgar, Kara Norris, Susan Pearce
To further show our support for women in business, we have recently made a wonderful appointment of Nancy Yedgar as Head of Women’s Business Banking, (for) St.George Group. Nancy’s role will be to primarily [DE1] to support female owned businesses to grow and become stronger, how we are going to do this,
- Partnering with organisations such as Ausmums,
- Provide a platform for networking, education and financial support and
- Business development for business customers.
Building relationships with your bank
It is critical to build a relationship with your bank, and here are some tips as to how to do it. Our bankers are passionate about building relationships with all our customers. It isn’t just about money – it’s about sharing information, insights and collaborating, that through relationship building, you can make life-long connections. Building relationships happens over time, it requires adding people to your professional circle and connecting with them on an ongoing basis. St.George is built on the foundation of being a local friendly bank. We build relationships with our customers so we can help them achieve their dreams such as starting a new business, starting a family, or buying a home. Our bankers are here to support you and get to know you so they can provide the right advice to meet your business and personal needs. The bankers I’ve appointed are not just women, they are mums, so they can personally relate to you and your needs. They understand that owning a business is a way of life not a job and therefore it is not a regular transaction.
Banking is so very different today than in the past, I think it’s important to choose a bank that meets your needs and goals. I also think it is in your interest to have one main bank for your needs. The more your Bank knows about you and your business the more they can start to help you.
We also recognise for some SME customers, access to funding can be seen as a challenge. Our bankers can provide advice and support about the different kinds of funding available, not just a bank loan. We have educated our bankers about fintechs and start up funders so they can advise a small business if that might be a suitable option for them. At St.George we want to go above and beyond traditional banking, we want to provide a holistic, full-service support package for customers.
And we know that our customers are changing the way they bank with us. This year more than half a million St.George customers are banking on mobile devices. The banking environment is changing and you don’t need to go into a bank any more to do your banking.
Our relationships with people will always matter, our motto is “People Helping People” and this will never change, but the way we interact will. A prime example of this is our launch of Business Connect – a state-of-the-art video conferencing technology which allows our small business customers to access a dedicated team of specialists to assist with complex business matters. This has already been rolled out 91 St.George branches in NSW alone, and 117 branches in total in QLD and the ACT. [DE2] Business Connect is market leading and it was recently awarded Best Branch Innovation at the 2015 Tech & Innovation in Financial Services Awards.
As an extension on Business Connect, we are currently testing videoconferencing direct with customers on their own devices [PC/laptop/tablet] from the comfort of their own home. Already we’ve conducted a dozen video conferences with our St.George customers and they’ve told us how much they enjoy the interaction with their banker and love the technology. The greatest value customers have derived from this is that it saves them a trip to their branch.
Data will also play a significant role in the changing environment of banking. The knowledge and understanding that we as a Bank will have about your business and the behaviours of your customers is fascinating. We have insights around your cash flow. Your accounting reporting already can feed into banks directly and allows us to predict when you will require more, before you do.
Whilst all of this is exciting and at the same time confronting to some, we will always have someone to talk to personally when it comes to the big decisions about your business and about your personal life.
That’s why at St.George we will always be “people helping people”. It will just be done in a variety of formats to make it easier, or quicker, or more pleasurable for our customers to deal with us and that in itself is reason enough to pursue innovation.
We at St.George believe we have an edge in that area and our goal is to maintain it.
Banking is relatively simple. We need to understand how you pay your bills, how you get paid, how you fund your day to day needs, how you fund longer term assets and it will come as no surprise we can provide products and services to help all of these.
We have an awesome new merchant terminal and Business Banking Online Platform, we can provide Overdrafts, invoice Financing and Trade Finance and have term loans and Equipment finance for larger purchases.
My last tip on cashflow is to match the expense with the life of the asset. Don’t use cashflow for long term asset purchases and ensure you always have access to cashflow before you need it.
We’re really pleased to invest in the Ausmum’s partnership and to be a proud partner in the awards and Business Schools by recognising the amazing achievements of mums in business.
I’m a massive advocate of the AusMumpreneur Network and always will be.
* All photos in this post were taken by Alexandra Anderson, Jam On Your Collar
About our Ausmumpreneur Partner :
Dubbed as “one of the nicest guys in banking” by Ausmums – Stuart Zalunardo has been helping businesses for over 28 years with a zest for start ups and the SME business space. In June 2014, Stuart was made Head of SME Banking for St.George Banking Group (St.George, Bank of Melbourne BankSA). He’s responsible for developing a successful and dynamic SME Business Banking team – which includes over 160 bankers nationally, all focused on supporting the growth of SME’s in Australia. With a commitment to lead and help young people succeed, he undertakes various mentoring programs and is also actively involved with the Cancer Council of NSW.
Married to Katherine (who was an Ausmum in her time), with two fabulous children – Stuart’s weekends are often occupied with children’s sport. However, when time permits, he does enjoy playing golf and trying to keep fit playing soccer and walking Harry (the dog).