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From dishes to deposit wars - Mel Templeton NZ Herald Interview

Posted on 05 June 2012 by RaboDirect | No comments
Category: News & Articles
Mel Templeton

There aren't many bankers who can say they have run their own restaurant, helped campaign for a major political party and set up a new branch office in Poland on their way to the top executive ranks.

But Mel Templeton has done just that on her way to becoming New Zealand general manager for online savings bank RaboDirect.

"It's a mixed background," Templeton says. "I don't have that very strict bank upbringing. When I was in the marketing roles I would say I am a marketer that just happens to work in banking."

Now she is in the top job, Templeton, who was appointed to the role in February, says her wide-ranging experience has given her both business and people management skills.

"Those things are very similar whatever industry you are in."

Originally from Scotland, Templeton moved to New Zealand in 1992 after meeting her Kiwi partner while travelling in Africa.

They moved back to Wellington, where her partner is from, and bought several restaurant businesses.

"I have a background in hospitality. That's what my first degree is in."

But after five or six years they sold up, wanting a change in lifestyle.

During her time in the restaurant business, Templeton became interested in marketing and decided to undertake her second degree, in business information.

She took her first step into marketing working for the National Party, as Bill English attempted to get the party back into power.

Templeton was taken under the wing of then party president Michelle Boag.

"The learning curve was fantastic for me," she says. "One minute I was washing dishes and waiting tables, the next minute I was organising 4000 tax leaflets."

After the election, which National didn't win, Templeton went to work for Land Information New Zealand while it made the transition to a new online model.

"I led the change in brand and website and helped with a national roadshow," she says. "I think it was that brand experience that got me into RaboDirect."

Templeton was looking for a change and decided to go for a job helping set up RaboPlus, as it was then called.

"I was interviewed by a six-foot-seven Dutchman and a very quietly spoken Kiwi and managed to get the job as brand manager for RaboPlus."

After the successful launch in New Zealand in 2006, she helped launch the business in Australia and then Poland.

"I remember going from 33C in Australia to minus 10C in Poland. It was great experience to work in a country like that."

She returned to Australia just after the global financial crisis and took on the marketing manager role before becoming brand manager and part of the strategic management team for the business, which has since grown strongly.

"We doubled the book in 2010 and added another 30 per cent in 2011," she says. "We launched new products and expanded.

"All that experience put me in the box seat for the NZ GM role."

Back in Wellington again, where RaboDirect has its head office, Templeton has spent the past few months getting to know her staff - about 40 under RaboDirect and a further 50 under its parent Rabobank New Zealand.

Now she is stepping out with a plan to push savings to the forefront of the New Zealand public's attention.

In the past the company has focused on a campaign promoting RaboDirect as becoming your "significant other" bank.

But in these times of austerity and deleveraging, Templeton says the plan is to increase savings through education.

RaboDirect intends to stay in front of the public through an ongoing television campaign to "keep the conversation alive".

It's a tough environment for savings with all the major banks trying to build up their domestic deposits to meet new capital adequacy rules.

"It is a competitive environment, but we welcome that.

"It means more competitive deals for consumers."

At the same time, savings interest rates are low.

Templeton says that makes it tough but she is a firm believer that New Zealanders could be getting much better returns on their savings by shopping around.

"New Zealanders could be missing out on millions of dollars of interest every year," she says.

"There is a huge difference between different accounts.

"They don't see the difference because they are not shopping around enough."

Templeton believes comparison websites like interest.co.nz and depositrates.co.nz are vital to helping savers make better decisions.

She says one key change they could introduce to make life easier for consumers would be to make comparison tables rank companies based on the rates they offer rather than alphabetically.

"How do we get New Zealanders to save more? A lot of people are saving but a lot can't afford to at the moment as well.

"For those who are - it's about waking them up, making them realise what they are missing out on."

Templeton says people will spend months researching the purchase of a car but don't spend the same amount of time on researching saving for their retirement.

Apathy is a key problem.

While it seems easy to have all your accounts with one bank, Templeton says most people don't have all their financial services with one company.

"You've got to cherry-pick your financial service provider to get the most out of them."

Mel Templeton
* Originally from Scotland
* Has lived in New Zealand for 20 years
* Degrees in hospitality and business information

Article Source: Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 2nd June 2012

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