Friday Connect: Beyond Bank and Latrobe Valley Bus Lines
Every Friday during lockdown, we brought together members of the B Corp community to share their stories and experiences of running a business in the time of coronavirus.
Anna Tyben and Nick May join Andrew Davies, CEO of B Lab Australia & New Zealand for Friday Connect
The chat gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how essential services adapted to the challenges of a pandemic and their role in the community during times of crisis.
These days, the phrase ‘frontline workers’ evokes images of doctors and nurses dressed head-to-toe in protective gear. But as most of the world stayed indoors, communities relied on a few essential services to keep running:grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and public transport networks.
Proud B Corps Beyond Bank and Latrobe Valley Bus Lines (LVBL) are just two of those essential services that operated through lockdown to serve their communities.
“When the pandemic first hit, the focus was just on which services were going to be allowed to stay open,” says Nick from Beyond Bank. “When we heard that banking was classed as an essential service, we took that tag very seriously.”
When there was no playbook to follow, business leaders were left to decide what being ‘essential’ meant to them. “We instantly knew that for us it was about instilling confidence in the community,”Nick recalls. “We had an obligation to stay open and to support the community, however, we also had an obligation to keep our staff safe.”
At Latrobe Valley Bus Lines, Anna faced a similar challenge. New policies and procedures were put in place as quickly as the health advice was announced. “We also immediately spoke to our most vulnerable members of staff and discussed whether they wanted to take leave or needed to be moved to another area of the business,” she explains. And while cleaning is a big part of public transport, “this was a different level.” Most importantly, all procedures were developed collaboratively with staff to ensure they felt safe.
The keys to leadership: transparency and communication
For Beyond Bank’s 600 staff, the transition to remote work was no easy feat. “It was important to open up communication around why some of the team were working from home and others weren’t,” Nick says. “We quickly saw that everyone had different vulnerabilities and levels of anxiety around the pandemic.” The solution for Beyond Bank proved to be simple: one-on-one conversations where individuals could speak openly about how they felt.
At LBVL, Anna made herself available to all 125 drivers across three depots by attending regular staff meetings. Her presence ensured that no question or concern went unaddressed, and gave her better insight into what the community experienced on the ground.
Remaining purpose-driven during a pandemic
B Corp values shone through in the approach taken by both businesses, from leadership to frontline employees. “We found that our staff were proud to be working on the frontline and offering community support,” says Anna. “It meant that people who haven’t been so recognised and appreciated in the community - people such as our drivers - were now getting that recognition.”
For LVBL drivers, they witnessed members of their own community grappling with the challenges of the pandemic. “Drivers were seeing a number of passengers travelling with no apparent destination. We spoke to community groups and realised that these individuals perhaps didn’t have a safe space to isolate. To them, the bus was a place they could be warm and safe.”
Anna and her team responded by quickly displaying information in buses about local services and aid available. By putting customers at the centre of their work, Latrobe Valley Bus Lines sets an inspiring example of how businesses can solve problems that strengthen the community and improve its services.
Looking to the future
As we start to ease back into life after a pandemic, Beyond Bank and LVBL are taking some hard-earned lessons from this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.
“We’ve learned so much about our people, our systems and the technology we use over this time,” says Nick. “There’s definitely a shift towards digital banking, but I do believe that the branch is an important part of community banking.”
“We don’t use the term post-COVID because we understand that this is a permanent change,” Anna tells us. “There should be an industry-wide focus on getting people back onto public transport safely.” For the future of the planet, Anna believes it’s important to come back from this stronger than ever. “We want to make sure we’re not pushing people into single-occupancy driving just because they feel safer.” For LVBL, this time acts as an incentive to improve their services and encourage the community to rethink transport.
What we learned
Latrobe Valley Bus Lines had such strong ties with the community that drivers recognised vulnerable passengers. They leveraged relationships with community groups to serve those passengers and the community. It’s a great example of how a business with strong community presence can solve problems it didn’t set out to solve.
The global health crisis has sped up the ‘death of cash,’ urging banks to prepare for the future of digital banking.
Both Beyond Bank and Latrobe Valley Bus Lines said that they increased communication with their staff during the initial stages of lockdown. Both businesses found that being recognised as an essential service gave staff a sense of pride and purpose as they came to work everyday.
Having a strong community focus and being purpose-led businesses helped guide Beyond Bank and Latrobe Valley Bus Lines in their decision making. In the early stage of the pandemic, when there were little guidelines, their values shaped their rule book.