From bouncers to bankers: Mel Wainwright on female leadership and customer service

National Australia Bank

Having just celebrated 15 years in contact centres, Mel Wainwright, NAB Head of Specialised Channels, has spent most of her career providing support to customers, as well as her team. Having started her career managing nightclubs, Mel was no stranger to the needs of people waiting in a queue.

“My first job [out of nightclubs] was as a contact centre banker. I used to answer about 80 or 90 calls a day from customers on everything from their general banking, Internet banking and credit cards.”

Today, Mel leads a team of 250 people across Australia who support customers through messaging conversations in their Internet banking and mobile app.

Learning about leadership

“When I think about how I got to where I am now, I reflect on the exceptional female leaders who have really shown me the way,” said Mel.

“I had one leader early on, Karen Rogers, who was way ahead of her time in terms of helping shape the authenticity and vulnerability that forms the critical centre of my leadership style.

“It must have been 2008 when we were having conversations about being authentic and how important it is to allow people to bring their full selves to work. That really connected with me and has stuck with me for my whole career. It’s the thing that I’m known for now as a leader and the thing that I advocate for really strongly for everyone at NAB.”

Mel models work life balance for her team and works to create a culture that embraces flexibility.

Advocating for balance

Mel sitting next to her daughter in a cafe
Mel and her 13-year-old daughter.

“I’m really big on flexibility. I’m a mum of a busy 13-year-old daughter, so I’ve got to do the school drop offs and come into work, just like a lot of people in my team need flexibility in their lives for different reasons,” Mel said.

“It’s important we’re working with colleagues to make sure that work fits in as part of their life, it’s not their whole life.”

On top of the flexible working arrangements, Mel has regular conversations about well-being, to check in and create a safe environment for people to participate in at NAB.

Planning for the future

“Looking forward, I want to continue on this path of supporting people with their well-being and creating a culture where people can be themselves, be accepted and thrive,” Mel said.

“From a customer perspective, I’m focused on how we get better at supporting our most vulnerable customers, whether that be from fraud and scams, or how we provide ways for women to escape domestic and family violence safely.”

Check out the Australian Financial Review for Mel’s contribution to their International Women’s Day feature on women in finance.

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