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Co-Op Bank CEO hits the road

1 Jun, 2:10pm by Matthew Martin

The Co-operative Bank will be looking for a new chief executive when its current leader rides off into the distance at the end of July.

David Cunningham joined the bank nine years ago and has decided to take a six-month break from his 9 to 5 and take his family on a fundraising cycling trip from Adelaide to Perth.

Cunningham joined the "new bank on the block" just after it gained banking registration in late 2011 under the guidance of former chief executive Bruce McLachlan.

The Co-op Bank was formed in 1928 when the Public Service Investment Society (PSIS) was founded.

"By 2011 we'd achieved lots, but we had a long way to go to offer a full suite of banking products and services," says Cunningham.

"We had no mobile app, a brand no-one had heard of, no scheme debit or credit card, no KiwiSaver, a 5-day contact centre, no mobile mortgage managers, tired-looking and poorly located branches, it was a long list."

He credits the bank's hard-working staff, along with the support of suppliers, its board and customers, that have made the bank "...a credible and successful alternative to the mainstream retail banks in New Zealand".

Cunningham has been chief executive for the past four years.

"Member-owned businesses like Co-op are different from most others in that they ultimately exist for one purpose - to benefit their members," he says.

"Yes, they have to be well run and profitable, but ultimately they are about delivering on behalf of past, current and future customers, who are our owners.

"So as a leader of such a business, I have really just been a guardian of an entity that is truly intergenerational."

He will leave his role at the end of July after the bank's 2021 financials have been released and its AGM has been held.

"I have truly had a ball over the last decade.

"At Co-op we accept that our people will not work here forever, but we want them to look back over their career and say 'that was the best place I ever worked'."

So, what's next?

"First-up I'm taking a sabbatical for up to six months, starting with a three month family holiday in Australia.

"For leg one of the trip, I'm cycling from Adelaide to Perth, which is about 3000km, with the family in tow in a campervan.

"I’m also fundraising, this time for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"Their mission is to grant the wishes of New Zealand children who have critical illnesses to give them hope, strength and joy.

"I know this will make a difference to lives.

"After that, I’ll have lots of time to reflect while sitting on my bike seat as I cycle across the Nullarbor Plain. It might be elsewhere in New Zealand, in Australia, who knows?

"But I suspect it will be something in financial services and hopefully somewhere I can make a difference."

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