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Connexus : Issue 42
HUME BUILDING SOCIETY Rapid growth The $851 million Hume Building Society is the very picture of a thriving mutual. In the past fve years its membership has grown by 10,000 to almost 56,000 and it is still expanding its branches in south- eastern NSW and north-eastern Victoria. The growth is partly the product of Hume's integrated advertising campaign, says Melissa Sweetland, general manager -- customer ser vice, sales and marketing. Television is an affordable and effective advertising medium in regional Australia, she says. “People in regional Australia still value TV marketing. They still believe in it and we fnd it certainly works for us.” Direct marketing is used sparingly. "People don't want to feel you're intruding, especially when they're not a customer of yours.” Hume recently shifted away from a product focus in its TV advertising to emphasise the brand. It enlisted a Melbourne agency to ensure the visual quality was comparable to that of the major banks. Hume is careful not to undermine its local advantage. In the area of sponsorship it is very conscious of keeping it local. It doesn’t sponsor events that attract a national audience. "We focus on things that talk to locals, that locals are involved in and that will make a difference to the locals whether they go ahead with us or not," says Sweetland, adding that Hume sponsored Albury's Carols by Candlelight for years before handing it back to the council when it was thriving fnancially. Hume also creates events, such as a sustainability market and charity movie nights, to support local causes, and counts fnancial literacy programs in schools among its major marketing efforts. Sweetland admits the local angle isn't for everyone. Research has confr med that locals largely choose their fnancial institutions for emotional reasons, and, while being part of the community is important to many, ego can play a part for some. "They like to bring out the platinum major bank card when they're out to dinner,” she says. Staff satisfaction among Hume's workforce of 150 is high thanks to a culture that encourages work/life balance and a workplace where people genuinely care about their colleagues. “The chief executive leads by example. He's not there sending you emails at 10 o'clock at night, expecting a reply by 11pm or 7am.” Staff perks include having two hours off for Christmas shopping, providing annual health checks and fu injections, Weight Watchers or Quit membership, and a two-day Happy Camp where staff can talk to a psychologist about the direction of their personal lives as well as their career. It follows that recr uitment and retention of junior staff is not an issue. However, senior and specialised roles can be more challenging. "Sometimes they take a little longer than a week or month to fll,” says Sweetland. Up close and personal Running mutuals in regional Australia can require different approaches to those of their big city cousins. We took a peek over the fence to see how three regional mutuals survive and prosper. BY CHRISTINE LONG 22 Connexus NEWS