Marnie Baker is the CEO and Managing Director of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. The Bank is Australia’s fifth largest with around $90 billion in assets and 2.2 million customers. Marnie credits her success to many things: her country upbringing, her ability to stay true to herself, and the Bank’s flexible working arrangements to get to where she is today.
Now she is working hard to ensure the next generation of women in her organization have every opportunity to succeed.
Marnie was born and raised on a dairy farm in Cohuna in regional Victoria, a place she feels ‘most at home’. She was educated in a local public school and went to university in Bendigo. She has described her upbringing as ‘quite unremarkable’.
“While I didn’t necessarily aspire to be the CEO of an ASX100-listed company that early on, I credit my upbringing for giving me the qualities I’ve needed to get to where I am today.”
But Marnie’s ordinary childhood is exactly what makes Marnie’s story so compelling, a must read for any woman that has contemplated climbing the corporate ladder.
“We’re incredibly lucky as Australians to live in a country where a young woman, raised on a dairy farm in small regional town, can aspire to be whatever she wants to be. I hope my story inspires anyone from a background like mine to work hard and to strive to be whatever they want to be – particularly young women.”
The importance of authenticity, integrity, and community
When Marnie told her parents she had been appointed to the role of CEO and Managing Director, her father said something that brought her to tears.
He said, “I am not just proud of you for getting the role, but I am proud of you for not having changed who you are.” Marnie says that comment “meant more to me than any other comment I could have received”.
People who work with Marnie closely describe her as genuine and authentic.
“My style is genuine, open, and honest. People want to hear from the authentic me, they don’t want generic information that could sound like it’s from anyone.”
Authenticity, along with integrity and her love for community, has held Marnie, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank in good stead. Voted Australia’s most trusted bank in a poll conducted by Roy Morgan, Marnie credits these core values for her success.
“Our deep sense of purpose and authentic values flow through the whole organization. You know you belong when you can be yourself and be inspired.”
According to Marnie, the Bank is led by its purpose to feed into the prosperity of the community, not off it. Community is central to the Bank’s identity and it’s fundamental to how the organization approaches everything they do.
“There would be many banking executives who very rarely come across their customers in their day-to-day life – that’s not me. I don’t sit on the 27th floor of an office building in a big city making decisions that impact people I have no connection with. I immerse myself in my local community and welcome speaking to our customers – even if that means hearing tough feedback at the supermarket check-out.”
Remarkable representation of women in leadership roles
Marnie speaks regularly about the importance of leading from the front, especially when it comes to removing barriers to women and people with diverse backgrounds from rising up the ranks.
With women as both CEO and Chair, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank isn’t just a trailblazer in the banking and financial industry, it is one of only two ASX100 companies to currently achieve this feat.
More than half the Bank’s board are women, and 40 percent of its board and executive team are also women. Women also make up 54 percent of their middle and frontline leaders and 35 percent of their senior leaders.
“I’ve always been, and will always be, a fierce advocate for gender equality. As a career banker, CEO and Managing Director, mother of three young men, and the daughter of farmers – I know just how important it is to attract and retain the best talent.”
Marnie says removing barriers to progression, bringing people along for the journey with her, and ensuring fair, equal, and just opportunities for the organization’s 7000-strong work force motivates her each and every day.
“I would tell any woman looking for a change of job or career that Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is a supportive, safe, and flexible place to work – and the proof of that is in the pudding.”
Want a career with an organization that’s committed to closing the gender pay gap?
Find out about all of the support and flexibility available at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank on their benefits & policies page.
Offering flexibility and culture have been the key to success
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s employer value proposition is about their employees having a career that cares about them just as much as they care about their work.
And flexibility is a core piece of the culture puzzle for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank – especially for women looking to advance in their roles.
“Embracing flexibility extends beyond the nine-day fortnight, flex time, and other flexible working arrangements. It is a celebration of the diversity your people bring to work when they have the support and trust of their employer.”
Marnie says her organization understands their people need to feel included and valued by their workplace.
“For us, we know that when our people are at their best, our customers and stakeholders benefit the most. When our people are not worried about balancing their work and life priorities, they produce great outcomes for our customers and bring unique perspectives to their work.
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in this space so far at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. It’s taken attention and commitment, and there is always more to do for employees and our community.”
Marnie’s advice to women
“This will probably sound a tad trite, but first and foremost, you must believe in yourself.”
“We are all our worst critics – especially us women,” says Marnie. She describes negative self-talk being like a little gremlin in our brains that plants the seed of doubt, especially the doubt that we’re ‘not good enough’ to achieve something.
This gremlin was loudest for Marnie when she became a mother.
“All I kept thinking was, how am I going to do this? Can I really have it all, a career, and a family?”
Her advice is to be strong when these moments of doubt creep in. Use all your best qualities to beat the self-doubt. Strength, determination, and resilience is what got her through.
Marnie also has some strong views about the idea that women can have it all.
Describing work-life balance as being the biggest challenge in her career to date, Marnie says the notion that women can have it all is an unrealistic expectation.
“We’re continuously told – women can have it all – a successful career, a loving partnership, a family, time for yourself, time to exercise, and time to catch up with friends.
“Most of the time – this isn’t true. Well, not in a 24-hour day, anyway!”
Marnie says her experience is that life, and balancing the many, many priorities that come with it all, comes down to the decisions we choose to make, the compromises we weigh up, and the trade-offs we decide on. It’s not a cookie-cutter situation for everyone by any means.
“For me it’s always been about releasing the pressure I place on myself to do everything. For example, I promised myself that regardless of what was happening at work, I would attend every one of my children’s school sports – a promise that was important to me and my children and one I am pleased to say I’ve fulfilled.”
“As women, we place higher expectations on ourselves than our work or families do. Just by being more kind to ourselves, we will be better employees, leaders, and family members.”