S5 Ep 18: Why leadership matters

David Marshall

This week on the WarriorU Podcast Bram talks to David Marshall the CEO of Defence Bank.

David grew up on a farming property in New Zealand. He studied at Lincoln College (Canterbury University), London Business School and the Wharton Business School.

He commenced his role as the Chief Executive Officer of Defence Bank in February 2018 after spending more than 30 years in the financial services sector in New Zealand and Australia. He has worked for such institutions as Suncorp, Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank. 

David’s leadership journey was forged some years prior to this current appointment. In his career he has had to navigate significant customer-driven transformations across the financial services industry. These changes were as a result of the events of September 11 and the Global Financial Crisis, and these experiences were deeply profound for David and shaped his own leadership style.

Bram and David delve into these experiences and his thoughts on leadership in the financial sector. In particular, David describes how conversation skills are the most vital tool for a leader. He outlines how a leader must always be consistent and as a leader how moderating your own temperament is crucial if you are to be effective.

Episode Highlights:

  • What changes have you seen in the financial system over the past 30 years?
  • David sees people increasing their sense of community.
  • David explains the importance of basing your decisions on facts when in a leadership position.
  • When do you reach out to people who are joining Defence to help them with investing?
  • David believes that there is still a large need for personal interaction within banking.
  • David is not interested in getting into an “arms race” with big banks.
  • If you could reach out to our listeners who are Defence or ex-Defence about your point of difference, what would you say?
  • Does Defence Bank still support local communities or sporting clubs?
  • What have you learned about leadership in your long career in the financial sector?
  • Leadership requires courage, consistency, and confidence.
  • People need to be absolutely clear about what their role is and what is expected.
  • How has the emergence or equality played into your leadership journey?
  • As a CEO, how do you have conversations about unconscious biases with your leaders so the culture is one of acceptance?
  • Even though you don’t like to use the word “resilience,” how do you measure if someone is resilient or not?
  • David believes that, more often than not, lack of resilience is related to things that happen outside of work.
  • David speaks about the importance of seeing both the details and the big picture as a leader.
  • Take the view that you are always ready to learn something from who you work for and who works for you.
  • David explains the “articulate minority syndrome.”
  • David believes that banks will start hiring more people with proven experience.
  • Bram mentions how the ideals of leadership are often the same across sectors.
  • Great leaders ask questions and aren’t scared to admit they don’t know something.

3 Key Points:

  1. Despite the increases in technology with banking, people still need human interaction.
  2. Leadership requires conversations, human interactions, and managing ambiguity.
  3. Operate on the basis that you’re never surprised by anything.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “You have to have conversations with people. Some of those conversations require courage and some of those conversations don’t require as much courage.” -David Marshall
  • “Eight or nine times out of ten, it’s not as bad as it seems.” -David Marshall
  • “Being gifted is a curse, more often than not.” -David Marshall
  • “In leadership, you can’t take anything for granted and you can’t assume anything or be surprised by anything.” -David Marshall
  • “The other big thing in leadership is ‘don’t play favorites.’” -David Marshall

Resources Mentioned:


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