Belinda Hogan CPA, CFO of 86 400, Australia's first smartbank, relishes the opportunity to take on the traditional banks.
At a glance
- Started at 86 400 as CFO in April 2019.
- Formerly CFO and company secretary at Illawarra Credit Union.
- CFO’s team: six.
My role: informing decision-making
As CFO of 86 400, my role is varied, to say the least. Just like all banks, we’re regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, which requires a very high standard of reporting and accounting, so naturally this forms a large part of my role.
An interesting difference with a start-up like 86 400 compared to the bigger banks is the smaller size of the finance team. Six of us, myself included, span financial accounting, treasury, taxation, planning and reporting roles. Together we leverage new technology, pore over data and use analytics to help the business make better decisions.
Being such an agile team means we can make quicker decisions, respond to customer needs in a more timely manner, and keep up with technological advancements more seamlessly.
Plus, we may be small, but we are mighty! I’m so lucky to be working with some of the best financial minds in Australia.
I also get to wear many different hats and get involved in all areas of the business. It’s actually one of the most attractive aspects of being part of the 86 400 team – everyone has their main job title, but the breadth of each role is so varied and sees us collaborate with all departments. There’s a real hands-on, go-getter approach, and across the business we all love to get involved and to innovate.
As you can imagine, working in a start-up, the pace is much faster than that of a more traditional CFO role. Since I joined 86 400 in April 2019, we’ve received our banking licence, become the first digital bank to launch to the public, and announced our home loan offering – all in eight months. We’re thrilled with the customer feedback so far, and it’s so exciting for the team to see 86 400 come to life.
Banking has become really complicated for customers, and the time is absolutely right for new digital banks to offer a different service at a different price point. I’m excited to be playing my part to help Australians take control of their finances.
Designing financial products with the customers in mind
The chance to build a bank from scratch is something that doesn’t often come along, so I grasped the opportunity with both hands and made the leap.
After 12 years at Illawarra Credit Union, where I was privileged to learn so much after starting out as a cadet and subsequently doing almost every possible finance and operations role, the move to 86 400 is an especially proud moment in my career.
We run a streamlined operation at 86 400, and as such the leadership team is closely connected to the customers. This is something I love about 86 400, and ultimately makes perfect sense as every decision we make and every product feature we launch is with the customer firmly in mind.
Once you have that ethos you never lose it, and I bring that approach to every aspect of my role.
Our aim is to design financial products that help customers out, not catch them out. For example, customers are encouraged to get their bonus interest rate, and we will give them a nudge if they’re falling short of their monthly savings requirement.
It’s simple things like this that make a world of difference to the customer and, as a finance professional, it’s really exciting to work on projects like this where the goal is always to inform customers so they can take better control of their financial world.
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My challenges: Capital imperative
Coming from a mutual organisation, raising capital is something that is quite new to me, and I can now comfortably agree with those who say it’s a challenging process.
Saying that, I’m finding it really enjoyable because it gives me an opportunity to share the 86 400 story with a wide group of different people. It’s really fulfilling to be able to share the innovation and progression that’s happening at 86 400.
Lessons learned and best advice
1. Align your values to your company's goals
I’m privileged to work for a company whose values align with my own. It makes the role so much more exciting and synergistic.
The mission of 86 400 is to help Australians take control of their money, and that really resonates with me as a CFO.
2. Be curious
Curiosity has always served me well because it allows me to dig that little bit deeper to better understand stakeholder needs and how I can better serve them. It’s about constantly asking that next question.
3. Invest in yourself
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time completing my CPA, bachelor degrees and an MBA. The key is to put yourself out there and continually learn new skills.
4. Focus on your team
It’s a cliche, but no CFO can do their job without a great team around them. Leverage the experience of your colleagues and empower them every day.