Mega-merger targets duplication

by 27 May 2008

WESTPAC AND St.George have agreed on merger terms, paving the way for the combined group to become Australia's biggest bank. However, while neither bank has reported any expected job losses, both organisations will look to reduce duplication of services as a result of their merge. Westpac will keep the St George brand and branches, but has said nothing on how it will achieve synergies, or cost savings, which are likely to result in job losses.

Because it is still early days, Robert Marriott general manager human resources, St.George, said the HR department is very much involved in getting material together for the due diligence processes that are taking place in the run up to the merge.

“We’ll be heavily involved in whatever integration or merger structure and processes come into play. But it’s too early for that to be happening at the moment. There’ll be quite a bit of work ahead,” said Marriott.

St.George has already actively rolled out communication strategies to ensure a smooth merge and minimise any potential unease among employees. According to Marriott, at this early stage there will be a lot of people becoming anxious about what is going to happen and as things evolve on a daily basis they must stay on top of the communication process.

“The CEO is sending out regular messages to employees keeping them abreast of what is happening,” he said. “We also have sent out FAQs which answer questions such as: ‘What is going to happen to me’? and ‘What is going to happen to our customers?’ This will give staff information to draw on to help them answer any questions from other staff or customers,” he said.

Keeping management up to date will be a key part of the communication process in the run-up to the merge.

“We have asked all our managers to get their teams together and talk to them individually. There have been many surveys done in the past that show people don’t necessarily believe what the CEO tells them, but they will believe what their line manager tells them. So it’s around line managers getting that communication across,” he said.

In the past both Westpac and St George have emphasised their individual employer branding strategies. However Westpac believes they would be better able to compete and flourish by belonging to the same larger, stronger, entity.

“St.George and Westpac are two highly successful banks, but we believe they would be stronger together in a way which allows both to harness the strength of each, while maintaining their unique identities and market positions,”said Ted Evans, Westpac Chairman.

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