Finance / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Belinda Hogan, Chief Financial Officer at 86 400

Belinda Hogan is the Chief Financial Officer at 86 400, Australia’s first smartbank. Previously she worked at Illawarra Credit Union for 12 years.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am the CFO of Australia’s first smartbank, 86 400. We received our banking licence one year ago, and our purpose is to help every Australian take control of their money.

We are a small team of just over 100 and have launched transaction accounts, saving accounts and mortgages in a completely reimagined way.

Before this, I was at Illawarra Credit Union for 12 years, starting as a cadet in the finance team and spending the final three years as CFO and Company Secretary.

What I enjoyed about Illawarra Credit Union was the small size, which meant I got to be involved in almost everything, and was able to learn all the nuts and bolts of banking.

The chance to build a smart bank from scratch doesn’t come round everyday! I made the jump to 86 400 as I wanted to help build a new type of bank from scratch, one that uses technology to offer a different customer experience, but more importantly, one that uses that technology to truly solve customers problems.

It’s a real joy to be part of the team and see the reactions from customers when they feel on top of their money again.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

This might be a surprise confession amongst executives, but I’ve never been an early riser. My routine in COVID is to be up around 7am.

A new habit now we’re working from home is to have a proper breakfast, I would previously skip it or grab a muffin or smoothie on the way out the door. I read the news and quickly check emails to see if there’s anything urgent.

I logon around 8am, and my day can be quite varied. Usually, there’s a lot of time spent communicating. I have a lot of stakeholders, including the finance team, the broader 86 400 team, auditors, investors and regulators, so I spend a lot of time talking or responding to queries.

Throughout the day I’ll be in video meetings, on Slack, responding to emails or 1:1 with team members talking through and solving problems.

One of the fun and challenging things about a start-up is you’re doing something for the first time a lot, so we try to bounce ideas around, and have discovered lots of ways to do this in a remote environment.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

At 86 400 we were already big fans of flexible and remote working pre COVID with many of the team working from home at least one day a week.

We are fortunate that platforms such as Slack and Confluence were already part of our day-to-day, and with our technology being 100% cloud-based, we could transition to complete working from home seamlessly.

For me, I’ve found more time for health and wellbeing since working from home. Given its winter here, I can get out for a walk around 4pm before it gets too dark and cold, and then am re-energised to power through some work in the evening.

No commute means I can work later in the evening but still have time to cook a healthy dinner and spend time with family.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

To me, it means working with your lifestyle and habits rather than against them. For some that means an early start, for others it means evening work, but working with your natural energy levels is so much more productive than forcing a 9-5 because that’s when you ‘should’ work.

For me, organisation and routine help. A well structured to-do list and tidy inbox means there are fewer surprises, and you do have the time to respond to the sudden dilemma.

It also means understanding what’s important to you, what are your values. This drives how you spend your downtime, what looks like wasted time to some might be a cherished moment to others.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’ve become more ruthless about keeping my inbox managed. This was always a habit, but something I’ve focused on more lately.

Particularly since COVID and the increase in written communication, I find having an almost empty inbox gives me clear headspace to focus throughout the day. It means I can comfortably close my inbox altogether for a few hours to focus deeply on a task.

Limiting to just one coffee per day is a habit I’ve implemented this year. It is so easy (and enjoyable) to creep towards the second or third, but I always feel more balanced sticking to one.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m the daughter of a librarian, so this is a serious question, I’ll try to limit it to a few!

For business or personal growth, I love Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers (10 years old now but still full of valuable advice), Leading on the Edge by Rachael Robertson (the first book that made me want to learn how to be a better leader) and anything by Brene Brown.

I also read for fun or to switch off. I’ll usually go for memoirs, or amongst fiction books, I’ll often pick up crime (Jane Harper and Sharon Bolton are favourites). Like anyone who was a child in the 90s, Harry Potter is a nostalgic treat.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

There are quite a few, it is a little scary how much Alexa and my phone now run my life. To pick my favourites;

86 400 app – I absolutely love the Coming Up feature. Knowing what bills are coming out of my accounts and when, without having to track it myself, is so reassuring and helpful.

Todoist – I’ve tried a few to-do list apps but keep coming back to this one, clean, simple, easy to use and helps me stay super organised.

Audible – I’ve been able to dramatically increase my reading time and can now ‘read’ while doing chores, working out or driving my car, it’s amazing!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

There isn’t one particular person, I usually find a new idea, book or app recommendation to try, inspiring thought, in everyone’s approach to work and life.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

We’ve heard it before, but I think at its heart balance is about passion and values. Spending time, whether in work or life, on things you aren’t passionate about or don’t value, will always make you feel out of balance.

Find what lights you up instead, and set boundaries so you can invest your time and energy there.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.