​ANZ to fast-track change to a digital culture: CEO

ANZ will have to step out of its comfort zone and make big leaps in its efforts to fast track its alignment to a digital culture, according to the company's CEO Michael Smith.

ANZ Banking Group's CEO and director Michael Smith wants the company to fast track its adaptation to the digital culture in a bid to not only keep pace with technological advances, but also anticipate the "big shifts" that are emerging in the global market.

"At ANZ, I want us to fast track the change to a digital culture," said Smith during the company's annual general meeting on Thursday. "We need to embrace the change in customer behaviour that technology brings, and to make sure we are offering the best possible digital services.

"We need to adapt to the widespread disruption of traditional business models, and make sure we are helping our clients thrive in these exciting but challenging times," he said.

Smith, who has headed up ANZ since 2007, said that it is more effective to make big moves to keep up with changing technology and market demands than it is to attempt to keep pace incrementally.

"Today, we live in an age where the spirit of Moore's Law -- the theory that computer processing speed doubles every two years -- actually seems to apply in many areas of life ... from the adoption of new technologies to urbanisation, to the impacts of climate change," he said. "In a fast-changing world, we need to take quantum leaps rather than make small, incremental steps to really take advantage of the forces shaping the region and the opportunities they are creating."

While Smith said that one of the reasons why a company like ANZ should "get closer" to big shifts is to better engage with the "big issues" that apply to society as a whole. The bank has moved swiftly over the past 12 months to keep pace with technological changes taking place in the finance industry.

ANZ's 2014 full-year result indicated that the bank's enterprise-wide approach to operations and technology helped it deliver a 15 percent increase in statutory profit after tax to AU$7.3 billion for the 2014 financial year.

The bank reported that its AU$1.5 billion five-year customer-facing Banking on Australia program launched in October 2012 is continuing to transform the way the bank does business. It has improved distribution capability, delivering new digital and mobile solutions, building capability, and improving productivity by simplifying products and services.

In September, ANZ reported that transactions made through its goMoney app reached AU$100 billion, with the e-commerce technology being adopted by more than 1.4 million users since its launch in 2010. ANZ also said at the time that goMoney user logins account for 62 percent of the bank's total customer digital login tally.

In October, ANZ also announced plans to unveil its Watson Engagement Advisor Tool in its Sydney "Grow Centre" that leverages IBM's cognitive computing platform Watson in a bid to improve its financial advice process, and extend the service to over 400 financial planners in Australia.

Smith said that the the pace of technological change is accelerating every day, creating a profound cultural shift in banking.

"For 179 years of ANZ's history, the branch network has been at the core of our psyche; and that has changed to digital almost overnight," he said. "In the business world, there are many who still underestimate the impact of technological change.

"We need to adapt to the widespread disruption of traditional business models, and make sure we are helping our clients thrive in these exciting but challenging times," he said.

While Smith did not hint at any new technology that the bank might be expecting to develop or release in the coming year, he did say that it would have to step out of its comfort zone -- along with other businesses -- in its aim to stay at the industry's forefront.

"Today ... the big shifts which are reshaping our operating environment are no longer occurring at an evolutionary pace; they are happening at a revolutionary pace," he said. "In a more transparent, connected world, we have to do more to step out of our comfort zone and engage with the conversations about the macro-forces which are reshaping our world ... and to ensure we stay relevant to our customers and the community."

While Smith is talking up ANZ's technology developments of the past year, Australia's biggest banks have all made substantial investment in new tech, with Westpac announcing the January launch of its Touch ID fingerprint identification for its digital banking platform on the iPhone, Galaxy 5, and Galaxy Note 4 as part of its plan to roll out biometric authorisation across all of its online banking applications.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia's freshly appointed CIO David Whiteing outlined plans in October for the bank to use its existing cloud-based and revamped core banking infrastructure in order to take a platform approach to remove duplication as part of its IT strategy.

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