Westpac - the Entrepreneurs’ Laboratory

Westpac - the Entrepreneurs’ Laboratory
Macquarie Bank might be known as “the Millionaires’ Factory”, but it is becoming apparent that Westpac is a proven “Entrepreneurs’ Laboratory”.
‘The 200-year-old start-up’, as described by CEO Brian Hartzer, has ‘manufactured’ a significant number of successful entrepreneurs, all former employees.
As Westpac enters its 3rd century, Mr Hartzer is backing technology as the driving force of its core business - and he says it’s more than rhetoric.
"When we talk about being the 200-year-old start-up, obviously it speaks to the current focus on technology, but it also tries to encapsulate a core philosophy to keep reinventing ourselves and thinking about how the economy, customers and society is changing, and being a leader in adapting to that," he told the Australian Financial Review in April 2017.
It’s a philosophy, it seems, that has inspired many of its former employees to found successful start-ups.
A prime example is RiskWise Property Research which has a unique and unprecedented algorithm to assess the risks and projected returns for individual properties, developments, suburbs and areas across Australia.
The company was founded by CEO Doron Peleg who was an Executive Manager at Westpac.
Mr Peleg said Westpac had been the perfect company to develop strong entrepreneurial skills.
“To me, the Top 3 things that an entrepreneur needs are good ideas, ability to deal with and adapt to constant changes and uncertainties and, obviously, strong execution skills,” he said.
“The Westpac culture is all about looking to the future and adapting to what is to come. It is one that encourages you to think about ideas and speak up. Its philosophy is about reinvention and becoming more adventurous. I was exposed to many innovative ideas and saw firsthand how these changed the company.
“In addition, Westpac is an ideal environment to deal with constant changes and uncertainties. Also, I learnt from senior executives how to think strategically and how to become a very strong operator.”
Another successful start-up is HashChing, Australia’s first online marketplace for home loans connecting borrowers to a local vetted mortgage broker with reviews from other borrowers in their area instantly.
CEO and lead founder Mandeep Sodhi worked at Westpac for five years prior to establishing HashChing.
“Westpac empowered me to think creatively, strategically and provided an environment where innovation thrives,” Mr Sodhi said.
“I remember emailing an idea to CEO Brian Hartzer on an opportunity I realised while working at Westpac and within minutes I received a response and a face-to-face 30-minute meeting was scheduled with me to discuss it further.”
Mr Sodhi said Westpac understood employees had entrepreneurial tendencies and with that came an eagerness to contribute to ideas.
He said Westpac tapped into this opportunity early on, allowing entrepreneurs “to test, fail and learn with support from the leadership team”.
“Westpac gave me opportunity to work on various challenging projects that helped me to understand how to balance risk, compliance and deliver to market quickly in a highly competitive environment without compromising on the customer experience.
“The skills and knowledge I gained at Westpac certainly helped me to launch my own start-up.
Start-up Meetig8, Australia’s first online marketplace that connects organisations with vetted Risk, Compliance and Audit freelance professionals on demand, was founded by James Lai, who prior to establishing the company was an Executive Manager at the Westpac Group.
“Meetig8 is an innovative start-up that seeks to revolutionise how risk and compliance talent is delivered to each client project, disrupting traditional risk advisory services and the recruitment sector,” Mr Lai said.
He said Westpac’s heavy focus on innovation fostered an exploratory culture amongst its employees. 
“Westpac has always been open to employees finding new and better ways of doing things,” he said. “Employees are often recognised for their ideas and encouraged to implement them. 
“During my time at Westpac, staff were often encouraged to ask ‘why?’ and to not be afraid to challenge the status quo. I have seen processes made more efficient because employees actually think about what they are doing and ask themselves how they can provide better service to customers.
“For me, managing change in a fast-paced organisation, required me to constantly think on my feet. My team and I were always brainstorming new ideas and employing innovative processes to solve issues.”