An interview with Sally Bruce

Group Executive of AMP Bank, Sally Bruce is a country girl at heart who knows the financial highs and lows of small business. Growing up, her family ran a transport, mining and ready-mix concrete businesses in the rural NSW community of Miles. Sally witnessed her parents finance related stress when businesses fell on tight times, often linked to lack of bank funding when it was needed most. Her childhood experience shaped her decision to pursue a career in financial services and taught her the importance of finding balance when blending family and work life, something her parents did really well.

Now, with over 25 years in the banking and financial services industry, including CFO Business and Personal Banking at NAB and leadership roles at Macquarie group, Sally’s mind is never far from the customer experience. She’s recognised for her track record in consumer finance, change management and commitment to maintaining a  work-life balance for herself and her team.

Catherine Robson and Sally Bruce

Family comes first

Inspired by her parent’s ability to strike the often elusive balance between personal and business commitments, Sally prioritises her family as number one, understanding that harmony on the home front leads to a better output on the job. This is the reason she’s in full support of flexible working hours for her staff.

“We’re thinking about flexible working hours in the wrong way. We think about the discount of full time it is, the management overlay, what they won’t be able to do and will they let you down,” says Sally.

In her experience, flexibility plays out in the exact opposite way. The result of her decision to agree to any employee’s request for flexible working arrangements paid off.

“You get paid in loyalty, in commitment, in great passion. I’m a real believer that it’s very difficult to be your best at work, if you can’t be your best at home, flexible arrangements are an enabler to that”

Growing up in family of six kids instilled this down to earth country girl with a deep sense of team spirit. She struggles with the common perception that CEO and MD roles are islands and oracles.

“These are absolutely at odds with who I am. Work is a team sport for me. I’m sixth of six children, I’ve never done anything on my own, I’ve never eaten a meal on my own!” she laughs.

She doesn’t hesitate in pointing out CEO’s aren’t necessarily the smartest people in the room  “I’m as smart as the people around me, the team is a brains trust” she says. It’s not her role to tell  people what to do, instead she thinks of herself as a conductor of the team orchestra, bringing ideas together and facilitating action.

“It’s a dated perception to see these roles as the guy who issues orders and it all falls into place. “It’s much more participative than that, it takes the wisdom of many to get it right.”

Getting it right when it comes to delivering ultimate customer service means always keeping the customer’s experience top of mind. CEO’s and MD’s without a disciplined approach of staying close to the customer will lose sight of what’s really going on. She may be Group Executive at AMP but Sally doesn’t leave the difficult conversations to the call centre. Making outbound calls to customers and engaging with them directly around their experiences, negative and positive, is a way to keep her finger on the pulse.

“We are always looking and learning to be different, to be better,” says Sally.