Steve Jurkovich has ambitious plans for Kiwibank, and he wants your help to achieve them.

The 49-year-old took the reins of the state-owned bank in July, moving from ASB after a long executive career with the Australian-owned rival.

Jurkovich was approached about the Kiwibank role after missing out on the top job at ASB and says the long-term view of Kiwibank's owners was a real drawcard for him.

"I got approached about it and it was obviously of interest. The more and more I got into discussions with shareholders - being particularly with the New Zealand Super Fund and ACC - and the way they were thinking about the business and the way they wanted KiwiBank to be the best it could be over five, seven, 10 years was really interesting.


"And then I started to think more and more about those shareholders and what their purpose in life is - protecting people and looking after their retirement and both with a really long-term view."

But with that opportunity also comes the huge responsibility of running a bank that is ultimately owned by all New Zealanders.

"Everyone is invested in it, literally. It is easy to talk in corporate jargon but actually, literally people do own Kiwibank and it is an obligation - and just about everybody has got a view."

Combine that with the pressure facing banks at the moment as regulators and the public demand more action in the wake of damning revelations from Australia's Royal Commission and there is plenty of weight on Jurkovich's shoulders.

But that isn't putting him off plans to double Kiwibank's impact in the next five years.

Exactly what that means isn't clear, but Jurkovich says it's about having more customers and doing more with those it already has, using technology.

The bank already serves more than 1 million Kiwis and he says it is putting its focus on home loans and small and medium-sized businesses.

"The challenge as I look around for Kiwibank is to make sure what we deliver is much more in context of what a customer wants."

Jurkovich says that for the past 20 years banking has grabbed information from the back office and delivered it up to customers.

"It is now about being much more aware about what else you are doing and what is relevant for you now."

He points to the fact that banks could be telling people information such as the fact that their power bill is 40 per cent higher than last month, or how to use their money better when travelling.

"We have got that information, we are just not surfacing it in a way that makes sense."

And it's about getting the right timing for that information, he says.

"If I tell you that on a Friday afternoon, you might not want to know that. But if you pay bills at Sunday 7pm, that is relevant."

He says all the research points to people wanting businesses to understand them better while offering services that are timely and relevant.

Jurkovich says the changes are urgent for the bank and will start becoming visible from as early as next year.

He is excited about the changes in banking and says it was the start of online banking that originally got him interested in the sector.

Jurkovich trained as a lawyer at Otago University and worked in a property law firm before making the call between moving to a bigger law firm or becoming legal counsel at ASB.

"It was a time when internet banking was taking off. It was a really interesting time and it felt like the world was going to change with the way people were doing things."

He says big changes in banking have often been met with resistance.

"If you think back over these big changes, customers have responded to stuff where you have made them make a choice they didn't want to make."

He says when he was at school the banks would open 9am until 4.30pm and people had to do their banking business within those hours.

"Then when ATMs came along, that took away the problem of the bank shutting."

He says internet banking really opened up what people could do and since then it has moved off the desktop and onto mobile phones.

"I think we are about to step into the next one again - people want the human touch but self-service that is great service as well."

He points to airlines leading the way in giving customers control.

"We have gone through the full circle of 'everyone is going to do it all themselves - it is all going to be about online' versus well, actually, I want the features and ease of it being online but I want someone involved.

"In my mind I call it augmented intelligence. Technology that helps a team member be the best she can be ... but if a customer wants to do it themselves they could - that is the vision I see for us."

As well as growing the business, Jurkovich has plans to beef up its Auckland presence and says that as well as its central city office, it could look at having bases in South Auckland and Silverdale.

Unlike previous Kiwibank CEOs who were Wellington-based, Jurkovich is commuting between his Auckland hometown and Wellington, and spends at least one day a week in the country's biggest city.

Jurkovich originally comes from Paeroa, where his father's family owned a dairy farm in Netherton and his uncle was the local postmaster.

"My dad's grandparents had come out from Yugoslavia/Dalmatia and basically pulled stumps out of a swamp to create a farm there."

His parents split when he was young and his mother moved to Auckland's North Shore, giving him a childhood split between the country and the city.

"It was a real shift in gear from being out in a hay shed to being in Auckland."

In Auckland he attended Glenfield College and was in the same class as model Rachel Hunter. He was the first in his family to go to university and after false start at teachers' training college, Jurkovich headed off to Otago.

But graduating into a slow economy meant he had a tough time getting his first job, and applied for 75-plus positions.

"When I graduated, I came out into an economy that was pretty tough to get a job unless you were an grade A student and I certainly wasn't one of those."

After joining ASB, Jurkovich moved from being legal counsel to the bank's technology arm and then wealth management.

"While I enjoyed being a lawyer, once I got a taste for the online space, I moved into ASB's technology team - I loved being part of it."

It was around that time that he approached Dr Lester Levy to help guide his career, after his boss urged him to find an external mentor.

"I met him at a friend's wedding. He said he had written a book and I cheekily asked if he would mentor me."

Jurkovich continued to move up the ranks at ASB and was then sent to its parent company Commonwealth Bank of Australia to get overseas experience.

But he learned the hard way that too much travelling can be a bad thing and he returned to New Zealand with his young family.

"I did a lot of travelling and spent a lot of time away from home - and I got that wrong. If you think of the challenges people raise around the job and keeping things in balance, I should have been smart enough to work that out."

Jurkovich is not afraid to admit to making mistakes, but is passionate about everything he does.

And he plans to bring that passion to the full in his new job at Kiwibank.

"The passion I have got is to bring out the passion in people. And this place has got massive opportunity - people are super passionate. They feel that sense of ownership. So for me it is about how do you sustain that energy and how do you direct it."

Steve Jurkovich
Job: Chief executive, Kiwibank.
Age: 49.
Family: Married with two daughters - Georgia, 18 and Bella, 12.
Education: Bachelor of Law degree from Otago University; Executive MBA from University of Sydney.
Career: Worked as a lawyer before moving to an in-house legal role with the ASB, where he moved into the technology and wealth management side of the business. Had a short stint with ASB parent Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney before coming back to New Zealand to work for Westpac. Switched back to ASB and was working his way up the ranks before taking the top job at Kiwibank.
Last movie seen: "Don't tend to watch movies but enjoy a good documentary – most recent on my Netflix watch list are Last Chance U and the Narcos series.
Last book read: Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick.
Last overseas holiday: Family holiday to Hawaii.