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Judo Bank is Australia’s first challenger bank for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and the first fully licensed Australian bank to IPO in 25 years.

With a truly customer-first culture and a focus on relationship led banking, Judo began building an enviable team by attracting some of the country’s best business bankers to its growing organisation.

The Sunshine Coast was one of the first regional locations to have a Judo Bank relationship banker on the ground and now Judo has opened its first office in the region.

Sunshine Coast as a place for business

“Increasingly, we’re seeing more purpose-driven businesses establishing on the Sunshine Coast because they are finding a culture here that aligns with their own values,” says Andrew Eves-Brown, Sunshine Coast Council Head of Economic Development.

“Sunshine Coast Council has a vision for the region and Judo Bank’s vision and values are very much in alignment. For example, I know Judo sees itself primarily as a relationship business, with the success of its staff and customers its first and foremost objective. It uses technology as an enabler to meet objectives.

“Likewise, Sunshine Coast Council values technology and has been the first region in Australia to deliver high speed international fibre connection to its business community.

“At the same time, our community and staff are our first concern. Undertaking initiatives that respect history, protect the environment and enhance the quality of life for all residents is at the heart of council’s objectives.

“We are always delighted when innovative, high growth businesses like Judo Bank wish to set up, create jobs and do business from our region,” says Mr Eves-Brown.

Significant launch event

At Judo Bank’s March 2022 Sunshine Coast office launch, co-founder and CEO Joseph Healy shared his purpose driven approach to building a human-centric bank that treats business owners like people, rather than numbers.

“Our promise to the Sunshine Coast is a commitment to the region and its SME economy. At Judo Bank, decisions will be made by locals, for locals. The Sunshine Coast region is booming and so is business, which is another reason why Judo Bank is here to stay!” Mr Healy said to 150 guests.

“Judo was founded because SMEs were struggling to obtain the funding they needed and the service they deserved from the major banks to grow their businesses.

“Australian SMEs are looking for a banking alternative, one that is focused on bringing back the craft of relationship led banking and truly understanding their business. Our purpose is to be Australia’s most trusted SME business bank”

Image source: Judo Bank

Vision and values

“In building Judo Bank, we started off by describing the culture we did not want to be. We did not want to have an internally focused, bureaucratic, customer unfriendly, complex organization,” said Mr Healy.

“We wanted an organisation and a team that was passionate about small to medium sized businesses. An organisation close to its customers, with minimum complexity and bureaucracy.

“I liken bureaucracy to cholesterol. You want to keep your good cholesterol up and your bad cholesterol down.

“With most big banks, the arteries are blocked with bad cholesterol. There’s mindless bureaucracy, which makes it difficult for customers to do business with them.

“We want to make it easy for people to do business with us.

“We’re not focused on building the biggest business bank, but we are building the best and most trusted one.”

Big future on the Sunshine Coast

“We are big believers in the future of the Sunshine Coast. And we want to have a presence on the Sunshine Coast and be part of the local community, understand businesses and help them prosper,” says Healy.

“We 100% want to grow with the region and add more and more people to the team here.

“One of the most important things for us is to be part of the business community and to have really high calibre bankers, such as highly-respected and longtime local Gary (Waterson) leading the team.

“We offer a personalised service, with a banker, not a call centre, talking to businesses about their needs.

“That banker is empowered by Judo to make decisions – that is the Judo culture, which is a very credible alternative to the big banks.

“We meet in person with every business customer we lend to. We call it the ‘craft of SME banking’; the personal touch, the assessment of character, the assessment of a business and its vision. That is very much part of our DNA.”

Boldly backing business

“The term ‘people-first culture’ gets bandied about, but Judo Bank is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to building this culture.

The Sunshine Coast office launch was an opportunity for many of the Judo team to join an event in person for the first time in over two years due to COVID.

Each and every Judo team member at the launch was welcoming, enthusiastic and passionate about their part in being the best bank for business.

Growth against the odds

According to Judo Bank Sunshine Coast senior banker Gary Waterson, “When I joined in May 2019, Judo had around 70 staff, three capital city offices and $150 million in loans.”

“Fast forward to February this year and we have 380 staff Australia-wide, 13 offices and $5.17billion in loans. And it keeps on growing. The Sunshine Coast office has four staff now, but we’re already looking to recruit more. The region is growing and we expect to grow with it,” says Mr Waterson.

According to Gary Waterson, “Our bankers have stayed very close to all customers throughout COVID (via phone, video conference and meetings) and provided assistance when required. Our client base and loan book continued to grow strongly during COVID when a lot of banks’ went backwards.”

An Australian Financial Review article in February 2022 states “$4billion of Judo’s $5billion loan book was accumulated throughout the pandemic.”

“Despite the inflationary outlook, Judo predicts that business credit growth will expand by 8.5 per cent, its highest level in 14 years, helping the bank to hit its $6 billion lending target for the 2022 financial year.” the article reads.

“We are expecting 2022 to deliver the strongest business credit growth in 14 years,” says Mr Healy in the article.

“That [lending] number is now above $5 billion and momentum continues.”

Contact an investment specialist

Sunshine Coast Council has dedicated client managers who provide free assistance with site selection, relocation advice, navigating planning and regulatory requirements and introduction to the local business community.

For a confidential discussion about the opportunities available for businesses to relocate to or set up on the Sunshine Coast, please contact Sunshine Coast Council Investment Lead Wendy Macdonald.

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