Zac de Silva: Top banker Karen Silk on nuturing innovation

In the last of this year's series on speakers attending the inaugural Nurture Change business retreat, Zac de Silva talks to top banker, Karen Silk.

Business coach, Zac de Silva.

Business coach, Zac de Silva.

Top banker Karen Silk has helped many businesses make key decisions in her role at Westpac, New Zealand where she is the general manager of commercial, corporate and institutional banking.

Karen Silk is general manager, commercial, corporate and institutional banking for Westpac, New Zealand.

Karen Silk is general manager, commercial, corporate and institutional banking for Westpac, New Zealand.

She is considered to be one of the most powerful women working in financial services across Australasia today, and as part of Nurture Change 2015, she will be a guest speaker talking about "What it takes to be successful in today's business world!"

Great companies are a mix of the best traits of both big corporates and SMEs. Silk has seen so many companies of all shapes and sizes, and we expect her tips of best practice to pack a punch.

Who is the Leader you learnt something incredibly valuable from and what was the lesson?

Gail Kelly, who was the previous CEO of Westpac Banking Corporation taught me many things.

The biggest was that if you want to build a sustainable business then you must keep your focus on your customer.  The creation of customer value delivered efficiently is what will ultimately drive sustainable shareholder returns.

I find it amazing how many companies do not focus enough on the customer. Think, "will this make it better for our customers" when making decisions.

What is the key lesson you pass on to others?

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You can't win for long on your own.

Building and maintaining the best team is essential if you want to stay ahead of the pack. I have found when you have the best team, great things happen.

Who do you think is a great innovator (individual or company) and why?

For me one of the keys to great innovation is reflected in the ability of a company, industry or individual to adapt or reinvent themselves as circumstances change.

Steve Jobs and Apple are examples which readily come to mind. I look forward to seeing what companies show themselves as true innovators over the next 5 to 10 years. It will be great to see many New Zealand companies coming to the fore.

What is  one of your biggest learnings in business to date? 

Always look for the opportunity in the challenges you face.

They will always exist, and it helps you reframe your mindset and get energised to take action. How successful you will be usually comes down to how you manage your challenges, as well as taking advantage of the right opportunities.

What am I most excited about in attending the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji?

Spending time with a group of people who are passionate about what they do, and enthusiastic about getting better at it.

I expect some of the future innovative New Zealand companies of the future to be at Nurture Change, and there they will create some of their innovative ideas and the motivation to implement them.

Karen Silk will be an expert speaker at the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji, November 11-15, 2015. See for a full list of speakers and further information on the business retreat.

Bookings have closed for this year's event, but registration of interest for future Nurture Change events. Congratulations to the two winners from the Fairfax Media Nurture Change competition: Joanna Williamson from Howler Hotdogs and Dave Lewis from Junk 2 Go.

 - Sunday Star Times

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