Innovation and leadership: From BPAY to BPAY Group to AP+

- By Collaborative Media & Publishing
When CEO John Banfield joined BPAY in late 2014, the organisation was built around an entrenched single product that delivered brilliantly to customers but was faced with the prospect of intensifying competition.

On one side, small and nimble FinTechs were launching their own payment products while on the other, global tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon were entering the payments sector.

Fast forward to today and the organisation has been rebuilt with new values that place innovation at its core. The company’s strategy has produced more successful brands and brought the BPAY Scheme to a new generation of customers.

"We've always got to be looking forward and we've always got to be listening, learning and trying," Banfield says.

"If we don't, then global companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and others will come in and eat our lunch. I think that would be a travesty because BPAY Group has brought industry changing products to market like BPAY and Osko that have changed the way Australians make payments.”

BPAY Group now stands on the verge of a wider industry merger with eftpos and the New Payments Platform Australia (NPPA). The new company, Australian Payments Plus (AP+), will bolster Australia's financial services sector to better compete by improving the way the organisations work together.

"The potential merger will create appropriate governance at the top level by co-ordinating activity across the three organisations. This in turn will enable the companies to better coordinate innovations and take them to market,” adds Banfield.

Transforming the culture with innovation

BPAY, launched in 1997, created one of the first major Australian payment innovations by bringing together competing institutions to create a unified way to pay bills. After many years of strong performance, the organisation stepped up to the challenge of changing the payments landscape again.

"The board entrusted me to be bold and create a strategy that would change the course of the company and that's exactly what we did.

“A part of that strategy was also to adopt four creative values that really embraced how we wanted the company’s culture to evolve."

Banfield worked collaboratively with the board and employees to form new cultural norms. He found that staff liked the organisation but wanted to move away from a hierarchical culture that was formal and structured, and to be empowered as part of a dynamic and entrepreneurial culture.

"They still wanted the same clan or extended family culture we had, but improved to one where leaders weren't seen as parents, but as coaches and mentors. There's a massive difference."

The transformation led to four new values: Better Together (focus on purposeful collaboration), Think Customer (always put customers at the centre), Minds Wide Open (be curious and open to new possibilities) and Always Step Forward (strive for excellence).

Employee engagement was just 59 per cent when Banfield joined – it is now consistently well above 85 per cent, according to Culture Amp, and BPAY Group has been recognised as one of Australia’s Best Workplaces by Great Places to Work for the last two years.  

It has also won AFR Innovation Awards in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The latest recognition focuses on its innovation platform – the system and processes that have ingrained innovation into the organisation's culture.

Innovation takes many forms with the right mindset

BPAY Group has launched a number of high-profile innovative services over the last seven years. Its payment service Osko is now built into the majority of Financial Institutions’ digital banking services and more recently has been used to send hundreds of millions of dollars in relief payments to Australians in near real-time.

Meanwhile, a suite of APIs has made the traditional BPAY Payments service more accessible and flexible, attracting a host of new business customers including FinTechs.

"Some of the FinTechs used to get stuck into us saying, 'We're going to kill BPAY because of what we've created'. And now they've come back, realising that we’ve made BPAY even better, and are asking, 'how can we work with you?'. They've become customers through our APIs, and as a result we're processing more payments and building revenue."

The organisation is not afraid to take calculated risks and look beyond payments for opportunities. It has launched start-ups including property platform Lodge which closed in May 2020 and document intelligence business Sypht which it sold in 2021.

BPAY Group is currently working on more APIs that will further broaden the appeal of the BPAY Scheme, and assessing the feasibility of other major systemic innovations including a national Digital ID proposition.

But innovation is more than launching new products and services, Banfield says.

"Our purpose is about making life simpler, and innovation makes that happen. Innovation could be anything: it could build efficiency, it could save money, it could mitigate risk. It could even be a time saver that enables a person within the company to spend more time on something more important."

Across BPAY Group, ideas are generated by employees and further developed through an innovation platform where they are prioritised and tracked against KPIs, then reported into the organisations Balanced Scorecard. Last year they generated 102 ideas and executed 61 of them, generating about $600,000 in value.

One simple innovation was overhauling the way BPAY Group people can recognise and reward colleagues with an "accolade", which could be something like a $5 coffee or $300 gift voucher. But the process was cumbersome and required manual emails to a receptionist who then handed out physical gift cards.

"A team at the annual Innov8 hackathon day created a process to automate the whole thing. To me it's a great way to spend a day to create an efficiency that takes angst away from a process that makes it really simple and easy to use – it makes life simpler."

Published by BPAY Pty Ltd (ABN 69 079 137 518) email: The BPAY Scheme is managed by BPAY Pty Limited.  When you use BPAY payment products, the BPAY Scheme is paid fees relating to processing costs and BPAY Scheme membership.  Contact your financial institution to see if it offers BPAY payment products and to get the Product Disclosure Statement.  Any financial product advice provided by BPAY Pty Limited in relation to BPAY payment products is general advice only and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on such advice, you should review the Product Disclosure.

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