Member's Perspective: Few Bankers Have Ever Faced the Glare of the Media and Even Fewer Have Become Household Names as a Result. Consummate Public Relations, Media and Crisis Management Skills Tend Not to Be the Normal Stock in Trade of Your Average Banker. but Haydn Park, Who Has Been the Public Face of Banking for Almost Two Decades, Is Not Your Average Banker! (Member's Perspective)

Article excerpt

Retiring at the end of September as the National Australia Bank's head of communications for Australia, Haydn Park has played a highly visible and strategic role during what has been a tumultuous period in Australian banking.

Not surprisingly, he has an interesting perspective on the banks' communications challenges, the effectiveness of their interaction with the community to date and where their efforts should be focused in the future.

Haydn's 37-year career spanned a range of retail and commercial positions, including head of collections. He first entered the public domain in 1982 as head of the public relations function for the NAB, which had just been formed from the merger of the CBC and the National Bank.

In this role he was responsible for the development of the corporate identity program associated with the bank's name change, as well as development and implementation of its media relations plan.

These were the heady days of financial deregulation following the Campbell Inquiry, when banking was brought out of the financial pages and into the headlines.

Banks began to face a barrage of public criticism as technological change and deregulation brought sweeping changes such as bank mergers, the entry of foreign banks, ATMs, EFTPOS and telephone call centres. Bank mortgages rates rose to 17 per cent to boot!

While many adopted a bunker mentality during this period, Haydn took up a leading and proactive role in communicating to consumers the vast changes in the delivery of financial services. As NAB spokesperson he became, by default, the spokesperson for the industry.

He was ubiquitous in the early 1980s, in the media, at public meetings, on the ABC's Peter Couchman Show, and (until a couple of years ago) lecturing on media management and public relations at the Public Relations Institute at Monash University.

Peer recognition came in 1994 with the Public Relations Institute of Australia award for outstanding contribution by a public relations practitioner in investor/financial relations. This award has not been given to anyone else -- before or since.

While Haydn has worked mainly in public relations and marketing since 1982, in 1999 he had a stint in the NAB's customer complaints and satisfaction area.

He has had a passion for customer service and believes that, as competition becomes more intense, regulation through consumer regulation is likely to present ongoing challenges for banks.

Haydn understands the sense of disenfranchisement that has been felt by banks' customers, particularly those in lower income brackets. He sees this response as part of a general trend towards public dissatisfaction with institutions, which occurs during periods of significant social and economic change. …