Why Westpac is bringing in a former Disney exec as its Chief Customer Officer

Robert A. Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, at the launch themed parks in Shanghai. ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Brian Hartzer’s executive team at Westpac is almost complete.

He’s split retail and business banking, creating two new divisions, a recognition that the needs of retail customers are different to that of commercial entities.

But the appointment which most clearly shows the bank’s direction is that of Tom Boyles, from the entertainment giant Disney in the US, who starts in August in the newly created role of Chief Customer Officer.

It’s part of the new Westpac CEO’s focus on turning Australia’s oldest bank into a service business. He’s even added the word to the company’s vision statement.

The statement for Australia’s oldest bank, with the additional word, now reads (with bold added):

To be one of the world’s great service companies, helping our customers, communities and people to prosper and grow.

Hartzer, who replaced the high profile Gail Kelly as CEO, says the change is about increasing business with a focus on the customer.

Australia’s banks need to keep reinventing themselves as they come under increasing pressure from smaller, technology-savvy companies trying to take a piece of the rich financial services sector.

Having a Chief Customer Officer is something new to local Australian banking. But other banks are looking outside banking as well to get top talent in customer service and retailing. The ANZ this week appointed a senior McDonald’s restaurants executive, Catriona Noble, as managing director, retail distribution.

At Westpac, the new blood, Tom Boyles was Senior Vice President, Global Customer Managed Relationships and Travel Operations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

This means he was responsible for Disney’s customer first strategy designed to create a personalised experience and significantly increase trust in the Disney brand.

Disney knows magic on its own won’t bring success. As Walt Disney, the founder, put it: “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

Boyles, echoing the spirit of Walt Disney at a Hub Brand Experience Symposium last year, said: “Disney Parks and Resorts exist to make magical experiences come alive.”

A big part of that is knowing guests well enough to be relevant to them. “In 2010, we set the goal to be relevant to every guest, every day, every time they interacted with our brand,” Boyles said. “We wanted to stay the most trusted provider in the space.”

It’s all about putting the customer in control. Disney changed the traditional customer relationship management label to customer “managed” relationships. A subtle difference. But that’s how he became Senior Vice President, Global Customer Managed Relationships.

Boyles is also a fan of using databases to get close to customers, to personalise the customer journey and create emotional links.

Disney gives recommendations on what to do and see based on analytic models and tools from the data it gathers at its parks and attractions.

This is how perfect holidays are built at the Magic Kingdom. In a way, Boyles is a product of that customer experience. Before joining Disney in 2000, he was a visitor to Disney attractions every year.

At Westpac, there is a mountain of data on customers. Information on where, and on what, people spend money gives deep insights into their wants and needs.

Boyles also has a banking pedigree. He was a senior vice president at National City Corporation, a $100 billion top 10 US bank, where he was responsible for strategy and marketing.

Before that he was president of Integra Direct, a $20 billion retail bank where he was responsible for internet banking, the ATM network and marketing.

At Westpac, Boyles will be responsible for marketing, customer relationship management, digital strategy and helping to drive the service revolution across the bank’s suite of brands including Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA and RAMS.

Brian Hartzer, himself an American by birth, is looking forward to the arrival of Boyles.

“Tom is a global marketing leader, well-known for his innovative use of technology in creating a smarter, simpler, and more fun way for guests to enjoy the Disney Resorts,” says Hartzer.

“Westpac’s ambition is to be one of the world’s great services companies, and having someone of Tom’s experience and passion for customers on our team will be enormously helpful in improving service and building customer loyalty in both the physical and digital worlds.”

Boyles will report to the chief executive consumer banking, George Frazis.

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