David Morgan is the former chief executive officer of Westpac Banking Corporation (1999-2008). Prior to Westpac, Dr Morgan worked at the International Monetary Fund in Washington and the Federal Treasury as the senior deputy secretary. In 2009, Dr Morgan was named a member of the Order of Australia for service to the finance sector as a leader in the development of policies affecting the regulation of financial institutions, corporate social responsibility, and economic reform.
I really enjoyed David’s talk because although he touched on the GFC, unemployment and what his thoughts were on the situation; his overwhelming message was that your frontline people are your brand and that you need to look after them because not only are you nothing without them, but it makes good business sense. Customers don’t trust companies; they trust people- that is why your staff are so important. He also noted that when you have employees whose values align with the organisation, they’ll essentially manage themselves. He appeared to be a great leader during his time as CEO at Westpac and listening to him made part of me wished I had been there to experience that journey as well.
For instance, as CEO he went around Australia with all the DECISION MAKERS in the company, visiting ALL their sites, TWICE a year and spoke to ALL the frontline leaders at Westpac. Why? Because this was the best vehicle to communicate the vision and get feedback from the frontline. He also had a company hotline, where at certain periods of the day anyone could call and talk to the CEO, because he didn’t want to be divorced from the frontline staff. Finally he said that out of all the executives, he spent most of his time with the HR director, and that their offices were always next to each other. In how many companies do you know of where HR has such a prominent seat at the table- let alone right next to the CEO?
He also spoke a lot about ethics and corporate responsibility, arguing that they are demonstrably important to business. Moreover, he articulated that corporate social responsibility is a value adding strategy. Check out the Westpac website for some info.
Finally, he argued the importance of looking after your top 10% of talent. It’s important to do this during a boom because of the scarcity of talent but also in an economic downturn because your top 10% of talent will still have the options to go somewhere else. This is why he also said companies should avoid knee jerk reactions with regards to compensation and that the top 10% of talent should be exempt from hiring and pay freezes.
Overall David was fantastic to listen to because it was really proof of what is possible with the right leadership.