Member Stories

Banking on a Better Future: How to evolve and bring people along with you


Reflecting on our transformation from a Credit Union to a bank in late 2023, it’s clear that people are hungry for a wholescale redefinition of what it means to bank. The reality is that the majority of Australians (61 per cent) don’t know the difference between a credit union and a customer-owned bank. We’ve learned that many also don’t know the benefits of customer-owned banking, or that it’s possible to be proud of who you bank with. With this and our mission to help people realise their potential in mind, we embarked on a comprehensive rebrand and company refresh as a customer-owned bank. This is what we’ve learned.

Evolution goes beyond ‘nice to have’

Undergoing this process was not a decision we made lightly, or without consultation. Since 1964, we had lived as Summerland Credit Union. The community knew us as that; you knew us as that. But what we also knew is that we needed to strategically reposition ourselves in order to be able to provide a braver banking alternative for the next 60 years, and beyond.

As part of creating a positive impact beyond our business operations and supporting the community in meaningful ways, we formalised our commitment to sustainability and stakeholder engagement by pursuing and achieving B Corporation (B Corp) Certification.

Meeting B Corp’s rigorous social and environmental performance standards was a way to help build trust with customers who prioritise these values. It was also a way to foster a culture of purpose, diversity, and inclusion for our team, and to walk the talk on creating a measurable impact, for our employees, our community, and our environment.

Deepening impact

Looking holistically at our impact through the rebrand process, we wanted to find ways to unite our stakeholders, and instil pride in the Summerland brand. Launching a new ‘look and feel’, our branch teams have been thrilled to get an upgrade to a set of new sustainable Summerland uniforms made from considered raw materials and produced in an accredited ethical supply chain.

For customers, we introduced an ‘eco card’ solution, with credit and debit cards made entirely from bioplastics, including starchy vegetables like corn, sugarcane and beets. These new cards do not produce any toxic gases during incineration and can be cut up and safely disposed of in general waste. In making these changes and a host of others, we have reduced energy production by 65% and greenhouse gases by 68%, while supporting ethical farming.

Our customer’s best interest at heart

At Summerland, we look after one another because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s what we’ve always done. Throughout this process, we have been unwavering in our vision to put banking back in the hands of community. That meant keeping branches open, rather than closing them, and finding ways to meaningfully engage younger generations and those outside our region, to carry on the benefits of customer-owned banking for people and planet for generations to come.

To complement our in-person presence across the Northern Rivers NSW and regional communities, we invested in a significant upgrade of our digital capabilities and online banking facilities, from investing in leading cybersecurity and safety measures, to a user-friendly app. Since making these changes, we are proud to have achieved a record 3.4% growth in customers, with over 27,000 people now choosing a braver banking alternative.

Walking the talk

We became a bank to redefine what banking means — for customers, for communities, for our team, and for the planet. Not only did that mean choosing collaboration over competition, but it meant having a wide range of programs designed to foster inclusivity and resilience in the face of economic and environmental challenges.

Working with digital communicator and creator, Jack Toohey, we recently embarked on an innovative online campaign backed by content that is unafraid to unpack what it means to be a customer-owned bank, which, we’re pleased to report, has resonated deeply with people.

Our ‘Where the locals go’ initiative, teaming up with local cafés to shout our communities their morning brew, highlights our commitment to reciprocity, supporting local businesses and giving back to the communities where we also live, work, shop, and send our kids to school.

We are in the process of developing a number of financial health and wellbeing programs to help customers achieve their goals, and we have invested in disaster preparedness and climate resilience for local populations. And of course, we can’t forget our ongoing commitment to the local koalas — with a conservation and biodiversity preservation initiative to keep our furry friends safe and healthy.

High-quality customer service is an inside job

The team at Summerland Bank is, and always has been, an extension of the community in which we operate, and we believe that providing a high-quality customer experience is an inside job — meaning that if our team is well cared for, then they are best placed to care for our customers.

As part of our renewal process, we wanted to add significant flexibility into our workplace policies. Previously, we required in-branch staff to be full-time employees, now we have part-timers, job shares, and a number of other ways to nurture talent through flexibility.

Succession planning has been another key pillar — proactively harnessing emerging talent and imbuing that with the wisdom and expertise of senior members at Summerland who are closer to retirement.

These initiatives, alongside our new visual identity and recent B Corp Certification, have breathed new life into our brand, and into our business. As we look ahead, the excitement within Summerland Bank is palpable. I believe this sends a powerful message about the future of banking: we can’t afford to just be in the business of banking; we need to be in the business of building a better world.

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