Westpac GM Talks About Opportunities, Challenges And Focus

Celebrating its 115 years of operations in Fiji, Westpac Banking Corporation is exciting about its future here. We took the opportunity to interview Westpac Fiji general manager, Brett Hooker, on
13 Aug 2016 07:13
Westpac GM Talks About Opportunities, Challenges And Focus
Westpac Fiji general manager, Brett Hooker. Photo: RACHNA LAL

Celebrating its 115 years of operations in Fiji, Westpac Banking Corporation is exciting about its future here.

We took the opportunity to interview Westpac Fiji general manager, Brett Hooker, on the sector more broadly and the bank in particular.

Mr Hooker started off in his position just when Tropical Cyclone Winston struck the country in February and therefore, since then, his focus has remained on the recovery efforts.

“There was a huge focus on that and our focus still continues on that because a lot of our customers and staff were affected,” he said.

“So we are doing a lot of work to get people back on their feet and that did take up a lot of time initially. But things have stabilised now which is good.”


Sun INTERVIEW – Westpac Fiji general manager, Brett Hooker

How would you describe current economic and business climate in Fiji?
The current business/economic climate is still quite robust. Fiji has enjoyed four years of economic growth. I think currently we are really in that stage of recovery after TC Winston. The growth forecast for this year has been revised down slightly but looking forward, we see good return to strong growth for Fiji. So we are very excited for the Fijian economy.


What is Westpac’s focus now?
The big focus for us is banking the unbanked. There is still significant number of people in Fiji who don’t have bank accounts. So we consider that and we put a lot of effort in that education.
Often at the back of that – with education comes new accounts which is new customers for us and which is important for us. That is probably the area we would like to focus most of our attention in the market.

In terms of lending – where do you see the bank?
The traditional markets of tourism continues to see some strong growth. Numbers are strong again this year despite TC Winston. There are other areas we are quite hopeful for growth are agriculture and potentially renewable energy which is certainly a growing sector as well.
Outside that, we would expect to see quite strong growth in properties – both commercial and residential properties in Fiji. They are probably the areas we will focus on for next year.

What’s your take on competition in the banking industry?
It is a modest market in Fiji but also highly competitive with the number of banks. We are really seeing the competition within the banking industry really pushing towards the transactional side of banking. So once again really being able to provide good banking solutions for our customers should be the area of competition which we will see intensify.

How has Westpac been coping with this competition?
I think for our business, one of the strengths that we have is we are a part of the wider Westpac group. We are 115 years this year in Fiji. Next year Westpac Australia celebrates its 200th anniversary and it has the honour of being Australia’s first bank. I think having such strong history behind us, makes our brand here in Fiji quite recognisable to the public as well. That also provides us with an edge in the market and something my staff and I are proud of.

What are the potential areas in the banking sector you are looking at tapping in?
I think historically there has been heavy reliance on this paper-based transaction here in Fiji and a very large proportion of customers you see travel to come into a branch. So we really want to be out to provide solutions to customers so they can bank on their phones and have access to computer banking.
More importantly, the big companies around town – they can receive payment online instead of writing down cheques because with that comes a lot of timing and resources. That is the challenge we see in the market.

Since your appointment – what are three keys areas of your focus?
The key focus is financial education, digital transformation and community service.
The first is financial education. It’s a huge part of what we do. We provide education right from school children through to people in rural community of all ages. The first half of this year, we put 4000 people through financial education. We run courses and seminars and take them to the people. Financial education and financial inclusion has been one of the top priorities for me.
The second is is digital transformation. That is critical not only to Westpac Group as a whole but for Fiji. That is something I have been working really hard on in this market.
The third thing is community. Westpac plays a big role in the community. The first part of the year we had a lot more coming out. We do education grant, women in business awards is a key one for us as well. Coming up we have the Westpac PM International Business Awards. So that’s a very exciting event for us to be involved in.


Five square Da Bang Sale

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