After nearly 20 years with the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group, Damian Percy, the former head of strategic partnerships, left the bank earlier this month. He speaks to The Adviser about what he hopes his legacy will be, his highlights and what he has planned for the future.
On 26 March, long-time employee of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group, Damian Percy, left the banking group after nearly 20 years in the company.
In an interview with The Adviser, Mr Percy said that he was proud of his time at the banking group but that “with the RC coming to its (arguably predictable and disappointing) end in February, it seemed like a good time to reflect on future priorities”.
“There’s little doubt the financial services sector is going through a period of significant change and disruption, and, if anything, I see that becoming exponential rather than slowing,” Mr Percy said.
“With change comes opportunity, and I think my experience, skills, and (admittedly) alternative way at looking at things might be of value around the place.”
Mr Percy said that his short-term plan is “take a break and consider where [he] can best add value and have some fun”, adding that his “clear preference is to stay in the third-party space”.
“I love the third-party space because of the people, its disruptive element, and what it has done for Australian home owners. Though my clear preference is to stay in the space, if I’m honest, adjacent opportunities with the same characteristics would have some appeal.
“To quote the well-known philosopher Garfield the Cat: ‘A true gourmet never shies away from a new taste treat’.”
His most proud moments and legacy
Damian Percy first started at Adelaide Bank in 1999 as a senior manager in the insurance side of the business. In 2002, he moved into mortgages as the head of mortgage management, which he held for a period of five years.
Speaking to The Adviser about this time, Mr Percy said that he “expressed his doubts” when he was first asked to lead the mortgage management business by the MD of Adelaide Bank at the time, Jamie mcPhee, as he had not had a background in banking and was therefore “unsure whether [he’d] enjoy it”.
However, he added that within a few months of exposure to the business, the team and the partners, he knew “to an absolute certainty that [he’d] found a home”.
“I genuinely love the space, the people in it, and what we do for consumers,” he said.
In early 2007, and bridging the period of the global financial crisis, Mr Percy was head of mortgage strategy before becoming the head of products and solutions (third party mortgages).
Mr Percy said that while he has a lot of pride for the work both he and the bank undertook over the past two decades, he said that he was “most proud of how [the group] behaved in [its] most difficult time, the GFC”.
He explained: “My philosophy – very much inherited from my predecessors at the Adelaide Bank – was that partnership and transparency, with both our relationships and customers, are the foundations of businesses like ours, and that these concepts have to be genuine principles, not mere business strategies.
“When it became apparent in July 2007 that the global capital markets were turning to custard, we had choices to make.
“Our first decision was to be transparent with our partners. This was difficult in that, at that early juncture, while we were highlighting serious difficulties ahead, others in the space were somewhat reluctant to bell the cat. It made for uncomfortable discussions, but if we were to be true to our principles, we knew we had to.
“When reality hit for everyone and we needed to aggressively wind back activity, I made the call that we would provide funding support to all our partners, even at very modest levels.”
Mr Percy said that there were “difficult conversations” had over this time, but he was proud of the decision to continue to support all partners, and not “support some and hang others out to dry”.
He explained: “Over the following period, some players (who previously claimed there was nothing to see) abandoned the market, locking the door behind them. Others favoured larger players whilst leaving smaller operators in the lurch.
“We maintained subsistence funding for everyone, because we knew the world would get better, and we wanted a diverse, vibrant market to be there to rebuild.”
“That period taught me a lot about the difference between principles and strategy,” he told The Adviser.
“There’s an old military adage, ‘No battle plan survives contact with the enemy’, and I know that if you are a business that is genuinely principle and values based, rather than simply transactional and short-term, your behaviours in difficult times will be such that you won’t be ashamed of them when times get better.”
In 2009, Mr Percy was made the general manager for third party banking for Adelaide Bank and also became a director of the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA).
It was in these roles that Mr Percy cemented himself into the third-party landscape.
He went on to hold the position of GM for third party banking for more than nine years and was an active spokesperson and champion of the third-party channel.
He says that his “number one personal highlight was simply the opportunity to become involved in, and make a contribution to, the third-party sector”.
“I’ll admit to being quietly pleased with the modest contribution I’ve been able to make to the sector more broadly through many years of involvement with the MFAA through the lenders committee, board, the Combined Industry Forum and semi-regular (and occasionally controversial) speaking gigs at various forums and conferences,” he added.
“Over the 16 years that I’ve been part of those advisory mechanisms, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of and observe those people in the sector who care enough about it to devote many hours behind the scenes to improving and protecting our industry and the benefits we deliver.
“They know who they are and it was a genuine honour to work with them.”
When asked what he hopes his legacy will be at the banking group, he concluded: “The Adelaide Bank business has always has strong values and principles – certainly well before I joined.
“I’d like to think that I did my small part to nurture them and the ethos that a genuine approach to partnership, authenticity, endeavouring to do the right thing, and a real commitment to helping people into housing (as a basis for strong individuals, families, and the communities in which they live) will remain core to the way the bank does business.”
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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