ANZ's enterprise-wide digital approach helps profit gain

ANZ continues to undertake an enterprise-wide approach to its technology investments, such as simplifying its banking processes, which has helped deliver positive results for the first half of the 2015 financial year.

The rollout of new technologies continued to be a key focus for ANZ as part of its "super regional" strategy during the first half of the 2015 financial year.

Australia's third-largest bank reported a statutory profit after tax of AU$3.5 billion, up 3 percent from the corresponding half in FY14.

The company's super regional strategy comprises three focus areas: Strengthening domestic business in Australia and New Zealand; maintaining a profitable Asian growth; and executing an enterprise-wide approach to operations and technology.

As part of this, ANZ reported that it increased its investment spend in the half, where initiatives focused on enhancing its digital platform, growing ANZ's presence in New South Wales, and building its specialist propositions in key sectors for its corporate and commercial business.

ANZ reported total technology infrastructure spend of AU$437 million, down 10 percent from the AU$483 million that was spent during the corresponding half last year. AU$136 million was put towards its Australian business, while another AU$101 million went to its International and Institutional Banking (IIB), and another AU$28 million was spent by its New Zealand business.

The bank attributed the reduction in total technology infrastructure spend to cost efficiencies from greater utilisation of hubs and outsourcing partners, along with the completion of some large programs of work in 2014. These included the core banking system in Hong Kong, its HR foundation, and some transaction banking capabilities.

According to ANZ, the bank now invests approximately AU$1,200 million per year on technology-based capabilities, such as wholesale digital, consumer digital, and data and analytics capabilities; infrastructure security; and process automation workflow.

Total technology expense for the half year was AU$701 million, with depreciation and amortisation making up nearly half of it. Licences and outsourced services increased by 7 percent, to AU$209 million, up from the $193 million recorded during the corresponding period last financial year.

ANZ CEO Mike Smith said investment in technology continued to deliver a foundation that would allow it to deliver modern payment capabilities and services to customers.

"Given our business mix, which includes a substantial Commercial and Institutional business portfolio, and the more constrained environment, ongoing investment is being made to position ANZ for the future," he said.

"We are managing expenses carefully; however, we have been prepared to accept a slightly higher run rate on costs in the short term, where investment can deliver sustainable growth and returns.

"We have directed those investments toward customer technology platforms, growing our geographic footprint in both Australia and Asia, and more customer-facing bankers. These costs are being partly offset by further gains from enterprise simplification and efficiency in global operations and technology."

In Australia, the Banking on Australia program continued to be a focal point. ANZ said it invested heavily in physical, mobile, and digital channels to support its retail customers by increasing capacity to support its business banking customers, and by investing in customer analytics. This included the launch of tap-and-PIN ATMs, which will be able to read customers' cards without users having to insert them into the machine.

As a result of new digital solutions, the Australian division also saw the increase of digital transactions and sales. During the first half, digital transactions reached 73.9 percent, an improvement on the 70.4 percent recorded during the same corresponding period in FY14. Similarly, sales via digital channels reached 14.4 percent, an uplift from 9.5 percent reporting during the same period last year.

Meanwhile, ANZ New Zealand, the bank's New Zealand division, reported a statutory profit of NZ$877 million, up 3 percent on the corresponding half last financial year. The company said gains were driven by its technology-led simplification program, resulting in the introduction of improved digital options, streamlined processes, enhanced digital tools, and operations occurring on one technology platform.

ANZ New Zealand CEO David Hisco said the simplification of the business and the growing adoption of digital technologies for both customers and staff are contributing to greater results.

"Our focus on having the best people in the right locations meeting the needs of local customers is paying dividends, with strong growth in the key Auckland and Christchurch markets and the migrant customer segment," he said.

"Our scale and digital capabilities also position us well to respond to evolving preferences and be leaders in enabling New Zealand to achieve their goals, their way.

"Building on our status as the first New Zealand bank with mobile solutions for all types of customers -- from individuals and small firms to large institutional clients -- we recently announced plans to launch a mobile wallet within goMoney, New Zealand's most widely used mobile banking app.

"The goMoney wallet will transform the way Kiwis pay for goods and services, making contactless mobile payments available to 120,000 customers at launch later this year. Our goal is that it will be the most accessible, secure, and easiest-to-use mobile payments solution in New Zealand."

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