SBS chairman ends on a high note

Former SBS board chairman John Ward (left) with incoming chairman Joe O'Connell at the bank's annual meeting at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill.

IN his last official duty, SBS board chairman John Ward announced, among other things, an end-of-financial-year operating surplus of $55.2 million and total assets of $4.8 billion, then bid farewell to the board he has been involved with for the past 19 years.

The acknowledgement and financial announcements came at Tuesday’s SBS annual meeting at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill.

During his presentation at the meeting, Mr Ward said the beginning of the 2021 financial year, began in the “shadow of Covid”.

In the annual report, Mr Ward said the pandemic forced the company to adjust to different ways of banking during the first quarter, with the focus on quality growth and service for its members.

“As a result we succeeded in overcoming the significant challenges we faced.”

SBS group chief executive Shaun Drylie said the resulting record profit was a tribute to the executive and staff who worked for the bank.

The bank was about to release a new product on to the market which went back to the roots of why SBS was set up in the first instance.

FirstHome Combo, to be released on Monday, would see $7 million invested which would be used to really “go above and beyond” to support people into their first home loans, he said.

The annual report results make for a positive read with operating surplus up 159% on the previous financial year, while members’ equity rose 17% to $388.7 million. Retail deposits were up 1% to 3.7 billion with total assets dropping 2% to $4.8 billion. Total capital was 15.7%, up from 13.8% last year.

After the meeting, Mr Ward said he was leaving the SBS board with an overwhelming sense it was in a great space.

Mr Ward had become involved in the bank in 1991 as part of the Ginger Group oppose the sale of SBS to Westpac.

In 2002, he became a board member and was nominated as board chairman in 2012, when Acton Smith left the position.

While there had been struggles during his tenure, such as last year’s Covid-19 pandemic, the Global Financial Crisis and earthquakes in Christchurch, to come through those events with capital intact showed how strong the bank was.

The advice he gave to incoming board chairman Joe O’Connell was to “always keep his eye on the ball”.

He believed Mr O’Connell’s ability to connect with people was a major positive in taking on the chairman’s role.

Mr O’Connell said he was very lucky to be coming into the role at a time when the bank was so strong.

“That’s happened from a lot of hard work from the directors and the executive over a period of time,” he said.

He said the board was working to a plan which was focused on the residential market of New Zealand.