Speaking to Mortgage Business, general manager of Firefighters Mutual Bank Jim O’Connell noted that the NSW-based lender has accelerated its growth following its decision to expand to the broader Australian market.
“Over the last two years or so, we’ve been able to expand quite extensively into the interstate market,” he said.
“We’re celebrating our 50th year, and for the first 48 years or so, we were very focused on NSW.”
Mr O’Connell continued: “Some of the structural changes we’ve made have allowed us to go more national, and I think that’s probably where we’ll be putting a fair bit of our energy in building those relationships in those other states over the next 12 months or so.
“We’ve had about 26 per cent growth in our loan portfolio over the last 12 months, and so we’re just trying to consolidate that to make sure that we remain relevant to those emergency service workers and, of course, their families as well.”
When asked if he believes the bank can repeat the 26 per cent portfolio growth over the next year, Mr O’Connell said: “We think we can, yes. It’s always a work in progress, but we do believe that we have an opportunity to get out into the newer markets in regard to emergency service workers. And so a repeat of that certainly wouldn’t surprise.”
Mr O’Connell’s comments follow the release of a report from consultancy firm KPMG, which revealed that mortgage lending among mutuals grew 6.6 per cent to $89.5 billion over the 2018 financial year.
The KPMG research also found that the balance sheets of mutuals increased 5.6 per cent to $8.9 billion, with overall operating profit before tax also increasing, rising by 4.6 per cent to $634.8 billion.
Mr O’Connell attributed growth in the mutual sector to a rise in demand for alternative banking and the appeal of the member-oriented culture in the customer-owned banking sector.
The general manager of Firefighters Mutual Bank also noted that mutual banks provide customers with a diversified service offering and have been quicker to adopt technology designed to enhance the customer experience.
“I think the mutual banks can cover most of people’s [financial] requirements, from investing to home lending, competitive interest rates and credit card facilities,” he said. “I think they can cover off just about everything there, but I think one of the things that’s happening is mutual banks, being a little bit smaller and a little bit more agile, are probably getting a little bit quicker to market with technology.”
[Related: Mortgage lending up 6.6% among mutuals]