Meet the CEO, Cameron Clyne

Thursday, 28 July 2011  Features

Narelle Hooper, Editor of AFR Boss magazine in conversation with Cameron Clyne, Group CEO National Australia Bank at Meet the CEO, an Australian School of Business Alumni event.

National Australia Bank has been in the news a great deal of late and over 500 alumni were keen to hear from its CEO, Cameron Clyne and learn about his leadership style.

Cameron Clyne became CEO of National Australia Bank on 1st January 2009 and now presides over 44, 000 staff across eleven countries. Clyne says such a mammoth task is made simpler with the realisation that as CEO, "You actually aren't running the company... you cannot possibly hope to manage the minutia of a company of that size....you need to focus on what you can influence."

Influence, he says, comes from having a clear strategy promoted to staff and all stakeholders involved in the business. Strategy and best-practice behaviours in turn cascade through the organisation when the culture is right.

"The CEO has to role model constantly the culture they expect in the organisation," he says. "The number one attribute of a leader is resilience and a determination to work through issues".

Clyne talks about NAB's goal of achieving an "authentic culture" that helps create an organisation that is "more agile, flexible, open and transparent...with a casual informal air that sets a tone where issues can be raised and everyone's ideas count."

The 'casual, informal air' is symbolised in the lack of offices within NAB – even Clyne himself just works from an open desk. Results of the new strategy and culture are apparent, "morale in our organisation is at an all time high – staff pride in the company is extraordinary."

Reflecting this culture, NAB's aggressive 'break up' marketing campaign has enjoyed a lot of attention with its creative and unconventional approach to bank advertising. The campaign has been a significant success, resulting in 250 000 new customers. "It's the cheapest advertising campaign we've ever done, it was very reliant on social media," he says.

Cameron Clyne grew up in Penrith in Western Sydney and after finishing high school, enrolled in an Arts and Economics degree at the University of Sydney. Perhaps surprisingly one of Clyne's majors was Australian Literature –but he advocates for a broad education that among other skills, can teach potential business executives how to write and articulate an argument.

Clyne says he never particularly aspired to be CEO of a bank, he has planned his career by assessing each opportunity as it arises on the basis of "'Will I regret not taking this opportunity?' and secondly, I've got to enjoy 51% of the job", he says.

He concluded the interview by reflecting on a question from the audience regarding the legacy he would like to leave when he finishes with the National Australia Bank. "I would like to leave the bank in better shape than when I started. If customer satisfaction is better, the return in equity' s better, the balance sheet's stronger as are the prospects of the organisation then that's all you could want."

Meet the CEO​ brings together Australian School of Business Alumni, sponsors and donors, giving access to business leaders whose innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership are changing the business lands​cape. Find out more.

Watch the video:

Meet the CEO video - Camerone Clyne (youtube highlights version)
Meet the CEO video - Cameron Clyne (download full version)

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