People First appoints post-merger CEO

Steve Laidlaw CEO appointment

People First Bank (PFB) deputy chief executive Steve Laidlaw will next month succeed Peter Lock as chief executive of the newly merged mutual bank.

The recently rebranded ‘People First Bank’, a merger of the Toowoomba-based Heritage Bank and Adelaide-based People’s Choice, welcomed the promotion of Laidlaw as providing “a smooth transition” for the bank as part of its merger commitments, timed with beginning of the new financial year.

Lock will depart from the organisation at the end of August after nine years at the helm of Heritage Bank and of the newly merged entity. Lock makes good on his commitment, signalled during the early M&A negotiations in late 2022, to retire from the firm 18 months after the successful completion of the merger.

Lock was announced as prospective CEO during the merger approvals process in late 2022, with then People’s Choice CEO Steve Laidlaw agreeing to serve as deputy.

“These changes reflect our merger commitments to ensure a smooth transition through the merger of Heritage Bank and People’s Choice and now the creation of People First Bank,” said PFB chair Michael Cameron.

“I extend my gratitude to Peter for his leadership and dedication to our members as our inaugural CEO.

“Peter leaves People First Bank with a strong balance sheet, deposit and lending growth that is outperforming the market, high customer satisfaction and a clear plan for the future.

Cameron also congratulated Laidlaw on his appointment, adding he was “excited about the future under his leadership”.

PFB’s delivered promising results in its inaugural half-year report, with a reported 5.3% increase in consolidated assets, reaching $24.6 billion, and a net half-yearly profit after tax of $31 million.

Its residential loan book also surged by $550 million, achieving an annualised growth rate of 6.0%, which was well above system growth of 4.2% over the same period.

PFB also confirmed the expected retirement of two directors, Kerry Betros AM and Georgina Williams, who will depart after the bank’s annual general meeting in November.

The departures are in accordance with PFB’s post-merger constitution, which committed to reducing the bank’s board from twelve to eight directors.

A further two directors will also retire at next year’s AGM.