At Dumbo Feather we talk a lot about brand alignment and partnering with businesses that contribute meaningfully to the world. Bank Australia (formerly bankmecu) is a great example. I had the opportunity to speak with Rowan Dowland, general manager of development at Bank Australia, about the difference between investor- and customer-owned banks and what responsible banking looks like.
There is a Paul Hawken quote that says businesses can either heal or steal, and we’re much more in the healing than stealing camp. We exist for a purpose and that purpose is to create value for the owners of the bank—in our case, the customers. But the way we create that value must also contribute to better outcomes for the community, society and environment.
“Giving back” is different to actually building that philosophy into core business. Bank Australia is owned by people who want to make a positive difference through the way they bank. We don’t exist for the purpose of maximising profits, we exist for the purpose of making a difference.
I don’t want to be critical of investor-owned banks. Their purpose is just different. We’re not owned by investors. We’re owned by customers who all have an equal share—we’re in this together.
We’re a disrupter in the banking sector. We want to demonstrate that customer-owned banks are a clear alternative to investor-owned banks. And we’re both legitimate business models. And we both have a responsibility to make the Australian population aware of this very clear, distinctive choice.
The customers who own the bank will determine that.
This bank needs to reflect what’s important to them so we’ve made a number of investments in areas like conservation over the last five years—that wasn’t on our radar a decade ago but our customers asked us to. So we research the issues that are important to our customers and find the solution that’s in line with their expectations. I don’t know what those issues will be in 10 years’ time, but what I can tell you is that the areas we move into are because of our customers. We are the vehicles by which they can make change as a collective.
Bank Australia is a fabulously strong and highly profitable business, but it generates those profits in really responsible ways. The more profitable we are, the more good we can do and the better I can articulate that this is a really sound business model. It’s exciting to see that businesses like ours are coming back into fashion.
My absolute aspiration is that we can stand up and announce our profit for the year and it’s the equivalent of a major bank. Imagine if we came out and announced a $4.5 billion profit for the last half that was generated responsibly and invested back into social and environmental projects for our customers.
At Dumbo Feather, we only partner with businesses that are values-aligned. This means—for starters—that they demonstrate a commitment to positively impacting the world. Read more about our partners.