If the mining boom is over, someone forgot to tell George Frazis.
The new head of Westpac subsidiary St George says the bank is not seeing a slowing in WA's small to medium-sized business sector - often the canary in the iron ore mine when it comes to slowdowns in the State's resource-rich economy.
Mr Frazis was in Perth yesterday to meet customers as part of his ambition to double, admittedly from a small base, the bank's WA retail and commercial business in as little as 18 months.
His visit coincides with figures from risk assessor Veda that WA had 30 per cent more small and medium business closures than the national average over the past year - worse than other States.
However, Mr Frazis, who is bullish on China's growth, said WA was still performing better than other States. Part of that may be because of more local entrepreneurs.
"WA has a very distinct business culture," he said. "Its culture is much more innovative and can-do. Businesses are much more export-oriented and they do tend to take on a bit more risk, try something out. Given that, a few of those will not work.”
After posting a 7 per cent fall in cash earnings to $569 million in the six months to March 31, Mr Frazis said St George's operations had gained "momentum" in the second half, particularly in WA, and he expected a better outcome when results were released in November.
St George's major rival in WA, Bankwest, this month increased net cash profit to $524 million in the year to June 30, but banking revenue rose just one per cent to $1.66 billion, including a 4 per cent drop in the June half, indicating a loss of market share.
Mr Frazis said St George would target the small and medium business sector through better use of technology, including "smart" 24-hour ATMs that accepted and dispensed coins, and provided thermal images of deposited cheques for secure record keeping.He conceded WA's commercial property sector had been St George's sore spot, as it was for other banks.
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