Success Story in Brief

A real-world success story of how Westpac Bank and Challenge Bank put their collective intelligence to work to avoid the typical M&A pitfalls.

86%

Support for industrial relations agreement

About Westpac Bank

Westpac, is an Australian bank and financial-services provider headquartered in Westpac Place, Sydney. It is one of Australia's "big four" banks and is the second-largest bank in New Zealand.

Objectives

Objective

Successfully and efficiently merge two banks without losing customers and key staff
and without damaging morale.

Westpac Bank is one of Australia’s “Big Four” banks, with locations and presence throughout the country. Challenge Bank was a regional bank serving Western Australia. When Westpac acquired Challenge, both organizations knew that a rocky road could very well be in front of them. Historically, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the Australian financial sector had been accompanied by significant loss of staff and a failure to attract new—and in some cases retain existing—customers.

Challenge

Reducing staff and closing branches while creating a unified, engaged and committed single organization.

Merging these two banks into a seamless whole would present several challenges, as the merger would necessitate:

  • 900 fewer employees
  • Closure of 40 branches
  • Creation of one community from a national bank of 38,000 people and a regional bank of 640 people

Major restructurings often entail establishing project teams to review which roles (and people) should stay and which should go.

Solution

A Whole Brain® approach to managing the merger, bringing in all perspectives to create a more comprehensive process and get greater commitment from across the two organizations.

With the cautionary tales of so many unsuccessful mergers in their minds, the banks recognized that a better approach to change had to be found. They realized that integrating the Whole Brain® Model and Whole Brain® Thinking at the organizational level would provide a more holistic way of looking at strategic initiatives and planning.

Results

Applying the full brainpower and collective wisdom of the people created a positive set of outcomes that are in stark contrast to the typical M&A war stories. The process led to dramatic results across all areas, including:

  • Successful merger of the two banks
  • 40 co-located branches closed
  • No retrenchments – no one paid to go
  • No forced transfers • 86% support for industrial relations agreement—an unprecedented result in Australia, even without the consideration of the merger
  • Staff turnover reduced from 14% to 6%. This meant that the management of the integration took much longer as natural attrition was the strategy for avoiding forced retrenchments.
  • Opening hours increased. The staff agreed that, to make the merger successful, and in some consideration of the commitment to retain jobs, they would open key branches for trading on a Saturday. This was a first in Australia.
  • The $AUD10 million that had been set aside for redundancies was returned to Westpac.
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