CEDA member profile: ANZ



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Alexis George, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Group Executive Wealth Australia, ANZ

What are some of the current priorities for ANZ?  

Improving the financial wellbeing of our customers is at the heart of what we do. We are in a phase of transforming our business to create value for customers and shareholders, through providing more valued solutions for customers, serving them more efficiently and reducing the complexity in how we do business.

The Royal Commission was a confronting and humbling experience for us. We learnt a lot about ourselves, our industry, community expectations and where we must improve. What remains clear is that to succeed we need to make changes to become a better bank – and we’re focused on two key things:
 
First, we want to be simpler and faster. We want to do fewer things and do them really well — while ensuring they are aligned to our purpose.
 
Secondly, we need to keep our promises and continue to listen and learn. If we fail to live up to our promises to customers, we will acknowledge our failures and learn from them. Our culture is critical to living up to this — continuing to create a stronger sense of our purpose and ethics will help to increase accountability and build community trust.

What do you think is unique about ANZ as an organisation?

ANZ’s purpose is to “shape a world where people and communities thrive”. This means striving to create a balanced, sustainable society in which everyone can take part and build a better life.

We know that our purpose helps guide the behaviour of our people, helps them navigate ambiguity and is core to the decisions they make for customers.

Just last month, the results of our employee survey showed that 93% of our people take ANZs purpose into consideration when making a decision. This sends a message that our people consciously want to make a difference to the lives of our customers and the broader community.

One way we’re bringing our purpose to life is through helping tackle complex issues that matter to society and are core to our business and strategy. We are focused on three areas: housing; environmental sustainability; and financial wellbeing.

We believe that delivering great customer outcomes aligned with our purpose and underpinned by our values, will drive balanced and equitable returns for all stakeholders.

Where do you hope to see the organisation five years from now?

In five years’ time, I would hope that we have truly simplified our business and we are a fairer and more responsible bank. ANZ has such a diverse workforce, operating in 32 markets, with over 37,000 employees. Our employees are passionate and engaged and in five years I hope our employee engagement score continues its upward trend, which means our people feel valued, respected and are invested in delivering great outcomes for customers. To do this, we need to be clear about our aspirational culture and focus on the behaviours that drive cultural change. Always learning, making things simpler and delivering great customer outcomes are key to driving cultural change.
 
If we get this right, we’ll be a long way towards improving the financial wellbeing of our customers.

What is your role at ANZ? And what are your main responsibilities?

I am fortunate to have dual roles at ANZ. I am the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, appointed to this role in May 2018. In addition to this role, I am also responsible for leading our Wealth division, and was appointed Group Executive Wealth Australia in November 2016.
 
As the leader of our Wealth business I continue to lead the divestment of ANZ’s life insurance and superannuation businesses and maintain responsibility for wealth partnerships in Australia, while also holding responsibility for ANZ’s group service centres in Manila, Bengaluru and Chengdu, and assisting the Chief Executive Officer with Group-wide initiatives including ANZ’s engagement with government, regulators and employees.   

How long have you been with the organisation? How has it changed in that time?

I have been with ANZ for almost six years, joining the bank in December 2013 as the Global Managing Director, Insurance (ANZ Wealth).
 
The bank has changed considerably since then. One aspect I’m really proud of is our progress on the diversity front, with a greater focus on women in leadership roles. Our group-wide representation of women in leadership currently stands at 32% – up from 31.1% as at September 2017. We have in place a target to increase this figure to 34.1% by 2020. Additionally, our Board currently has 33.3% female representation.
 
The way customers want to engage with a bank has changed dramatically over the past six years. We now have 2.8 million of customers using the ANZ app for their banking needs and we’re listening to customers and continually adding in valuable features.
 
Of course, we’ve also been through a Royal Commission during that time, that’s been a humbling and confronting experience. What’s most important is that we learn from this – that we accept responsibility for our failings but then do everything we can to ensure the same mistakes aren’t repeated. I’m confident the final report and insights arising from the Commission will change our industry for the better. It provides a thoughtful path forward that will ultimately result in a better banking system for all Australians.
 
The Royal Commission has led us to reflect more broadly on the issues we face in reshaping our bank. This includes how we govern the bank, how we pay our people, how we hold people to account, our products and how we provide them. We are not treating our response to the Royal Commission as a compliance exercise. Rather, we are taking action now to respond to many of Commissioner Hayne’s recommendations that directly impact customers as well as the spirit of his final report.

What might a typical day or week look like for you?

It usually starts by walking the dog. I’m really disciplined about getting outdoors and getting exercise every day. This is my time to relax, to think and reflect and a really important part of keeping a healthy mind.
 
Much of my day is filled with meetings with our team. Being in a role where I am in constant contact with our people is extremely rewarding and one of the best parts of my role. By sharing our experiences, I believe we can learn so much from each other.
 
I also spend a lot of time meeting and talking to customers – I love hearing their stories and passion for what they do, the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. We have such a diverse customer base – just recently I met a barramundi producer from the Northern Territory, an apple farmer in Tasmania and the owner of a clothing wholesaler in Melbourne. 

Can you take us through some of the highlights of your career? Have you had a favourite project or something you have initiated that you are particularly proud of?

There are a couple of initiatives that I am really proud to have been involved with.
 
The first of these was a women’s campaign we did in 2015. ANZ published a report which uncovered some of the key drivers of financial inequality, including a sizeable pay gap between Australian men and women and the impact this had on super savings for women. ANZ introduced a number of new measures where we could address the imbalances women face in the workplace and in retirement, including:

  • superannuation contributions on paid and unpaid parental leave for up to 24 months for Australian-based employees on their return to work; and
  • to address the gap in retirement savings, top-up super payments of $500 each year to female employees in Australia.

 
The second initiative I’m particularly passionate about is the changes ANZ introduced to improve the quality of financial planning after the Royal Commission. Key to these changes was the removal of incentives for sales and the introduction of new assessment measures based on customer satisfaction alongside stricter risk and compliance standards. We wanted to ensure our customers felt confident in the quality and trustworthiness of seeking advice so they can save for retirement and protect the things they care about.

How does CEDA help ANZ understand and meet the challenges and opportunities you or your clients face?

Today, more than ever, Australia’s and the world’s politics and economic status continue to evolve at a rapid pace. CEDA helps businesses such as ANZ understand some of the domestic and global issues which have the potential to impact different industries, trade, Australia’s international relationships and ultimately its communities. It’s important for us to understand the emerging trends and the risks they pose to Australia’s economy and our customers. This viewpoint can inform many decisions across our bank from risk appetite to the causes that we support.  

How does ANZ engage with CEDA?  

ANZ has been a member of CEDA since 2009. We have a number of people involved across the country who regularly attend events and have the opportunity to highlight some of ANZ’s insights to help inform other businesses on the state of the economy and ways to strengthen Australia’s position in a global marketplace.