Meet the Locals: Peter Lock, CEO of Heritage Bank
Recently, I was lucky enough to watch CEO Peter Lock give an inspiring speech.
When I asked him for an interview for our blog, he was gracious in taking time out of his packed schedule to chat with me about all things Heritage Bank and Toowoomba.
Peter, it’s a long way to the top to become the CEO of a bank, what was your career path?
I started at the National Australia Bank and then worked in the insurance industry in South Australia before completing an MBA. I then re-joined the National Australia Bank as a Business Banking Manager in Melbourne before moving to the Commonwealth Bank, where I was promoted to General Manager level. I was approached to head up St George Bank in Victoria until it was taken over by Westpac. After moving to The Bank of Melbourne, I started my own consultancy and corporate advisory firm. I became the CEO of Heritage Bank in 2015.
What was your first impression of Toowoomba?
The first time I came for an interview, it was pouring with rain all the way up from Brisbane. The fog was so thick, you couldn’t see a foot in front of you. So, I had no idea what the town even looked like! When I was called back for the second interview, my wife Jacqui joined me. We had a delightful weekend and experienced the beauty and warm hospitality of Toowoomba. On Monday, I was interviewed by the Heritage Bank Board and was offered the job.
How was the transition between Melbourne and Toowoomba?
Just after I accepted the role, the ABC’s Q&A television program was undertaking a regional tour. The show took place at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba. On the panel, the Mayor and other community leaders were talking about how important it was to have the ethnic diversity in Toowoomba and how welcoming the Toowoomba community is to refugees. It reinforced that I made the right decision.
It has been a great move for us. We’d never lived regionally before, nor had we lived in Queensland. It was also a massive move as we had to leave our two grown up children behind in Melbourne. My wife gave up her career as a nursing officer for the Federal Government in aged care to join me. But we’ve both settled in and genuinely love the Toowoomba lifestyle.
What surprised you about Toowoomba?
The size of Toowoomba and the fact we have 150,000 residents living here. There’s an alchemy of ingredients that make great cities: education, health, logistics, and transport. Toowoomba excels in all areas and it is also in close proximity to Brisbane. We have three major hospitals: two major private hospitals and a big base hospital. And Toowoomba has all of the specialist units for the region. Our education facilities are bar none. We have the University of Southern Queensland, a TAFE and some of the best boarding schools in the country.
Coming from Melbourne, did you miss the arts scene?
There’s a real appreciation of arts and culture in Toowoomba. The absolutely magnificent Empire Theatre is one of the best examples of Art Deco theatres in Australia and we get all the big touring acts, ballet and theatre coming through. The Carnival of Flowers, with its magnificent gardens, concerts, and Heritage Bank’s Food and Wine Festival has won Australia’s best tourism event for three years in a row. We’re very fortunate to live in such a cultured city.
We’re very proud of our own homegrown bank here in Toowoomba. Can you tell me about Heritage Bank’s history?
Starting in 1875, it’s one of the oldest and longest-serving financial institutions in the country. It’s a merger of two Toowoomba institutions, Toowoomba Permanent Building Society and Darling Downs Building Society. They merged in 1981 to form the Heritage Building Society. In 2011, it was changed to Heritage Bank.
We are a national brand and the largest customer-owned bank in Australia. We have 56 branches in South East Queensland, three mini branches in regional areas and two new sites in Sydney.
Did the fact that it is a customer-owned bank sway your decision to take the position?
It was very appealing. I’ve worked in great banks and enjoyed it but banking has changed over the years. When we started as graduates, we were always told that the customer is the centre of everything that we do. However, over the years, that quite obviously changed. The focus went towards profit. Now Heritage is still for profit but the profit goes back to the customer, not to the shareholder. It goes back into developing better products and services for our members.
Heritage Bank is known for its friendly service isn’t it?
The customer-owned value proposition is very compelling. Our goal is we’re passionate about helping people. Our mission is to deliver a great customer experience every time and listen to our customers. I hear what you say. I’m going to try and do the right thing by you. That’s powerful.
There are not too many people that have enough coin in their pocket to go out and just buy homes, holidays or educate their kids. And people need banks to help them to achieve these things. That’s why we love our profession. Without banks, most of us wouldn’t be able to achieve our life goals.
The biggest issues facing lenders or borrowers at the moment?
The biggest challenge facing borrowers is having confidence that they’re going to retain their job in these challenging times. It’s important for existing borrowers to know their bank will help them should their situation change, which unfortunately it has for a lot of people. On the other side of things, it’s a great time to borrow as rates are very low and are going to be low for a long period of time. If you have the wherewithal to buy a home or to borrow to renovate, this would be a good time to do it.
Thanks for your time, Peter, and keep up the great work.