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How this CEO juggles 100 years of history with tech

An interview with Michelle Bagnall, Chief Executive Officer Banking, RACQ

You joined the RACQ in February, what did you find when you arrived?

A real focus on members. It’s not just something they say, they live it every day. RACQ is an organisation proud of its 113-year-old history, but committed to the future. We’re a group of people who are passionate about service to members, and about building an even stronger future.

Has the RACQ changed in the short time you’ve been there?

You don’t get to be a century old organisation without ensuring you move and change with the times.  The organisation and the people have embraced the RACQ Bank wholeheartedly. It is quite a new direction for our people and our members so there is a lot of change to adapt to. But we’re integrating people and processes really well to offer our members products and services they want and need.

However, in some ways we’re still very old school. RACQ always remains committed to its Queensland heritage, focus on Advocacy and commitment to members.

What are some of the water cooler topics at the RACQ at the moment?

  • Our new digital app which launches later this year has people very excited.

  • Royal Commission – both the areas where we feel we need to be even better for our members, but also where our purpose gives us a competitive advantage. We are already obsessed with doing the right thing by members.

Are millennials signing up to the RACQ? Is your membership of 1.7 million members steady, declining or growing?  

Membership is growing. While a lot of our members have been with us for many decades, we’re seeing new members constantly being attracted to RACQ. Some of that comes from the new technology we offer - things like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Two-thirds of all new RACQ members in the past 12 months are below 46 years of age.

You went to Silicon Valley’s Singularity University event earlier in the year, what were you hoping to achieve by attending?

To challenge my state of mind, to be inspired to be more courageous in our actions, and to be exposed to ‘new stuff’ and new thinking.

What were the best three key learnings that came from the SU faculty?  

  • Exponential rate of change - That the pace of change to date is deceptive and we shouldn’t rely on steady pace of change

  • Australian business is trailing key economies in experimentation and adoption of ‘new stuff’

  • “Bet on the innovators – not the incumbents”.

Do you feel SU equipped you to better face disruption from new technology?  How did it do so?

It was a timely challenge, and a reminder of the ‘pace’ at which things change.

Which new technologies will have the most impact on your business?
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) – and how they will impact the experience for both our members, and also our own people at the frontline – NOT replace them;
  • Blockchain – especially once there are agreed protocols between financial institutions;
  • The protocols that sit behind Open banking and the implications for current banking infrastructure.

How far ahead are you planning your business strategy?

One benefit of being a mutual, without shareholders to report to, is we can look long term. We have parallel views of the coming year, three years and a current view of the next 10 years.

How are you investing in leadership self-development around technology?

Right across our investment – both operationally and strategically.  We are both seeking out expertise to bring into our business, as well as shifting our view of the capabilities we are building internally.

What would you say to someone considering attending SU?

Go with a view of your organisation’s appetite for change and a sense of their risk appetite.  Look for ways to move your organisation forward given their risk and change appetite.

Capture facts and specifics that demonstrate change already emerging in your industry or in innovators disrupting your industry



  1. What book would you most recommend? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  2. If you co-author a book with a famous person, who would it be and what would the title be?  ‘Education is the answer – to every question’ and Malala Yousafzai
  3. What’s a great bit of advice you can pass on? Relationships are the differentiator.
  4. What’s been a significant event in your past? The times I’ve made courageous decisions that others thought were ‘stupid decisions’ or ‘unsafe moves’.  They are the ones that moved me forward fastest.
  5. What’s something about you we don’t know? Then you would know it …. And I’d lose my air of mystery!
  6. How do you start each day? With my kids, and exercise. 
  7. Is there a secret to success? Hard work, courage, perspective.
  8. What’s a prediction for 2025? Shifting of economic power from Baby Boomers to Gen Y and Millennials enhancing the personal power of the consumer.

There are limited tickets left for The Growth Faculty’s exclusive executive event direct from Singularity University in Silicon Valley, USA.  Members of The Growth Faculty get discount ticket pricing. 

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Christine Kininmonth is a journalist and former panellist on ABC TV’s The New Inventors.  An avid reader, Christine believes reading is essential to business success. She presents The Growth Faculty’s Business Book Club each week.