ANZ banks on agile workforce to emerge out of COVID-19 'even stronger'

The blue bank's profit drops 51% to AU$1.5 billion.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Corporation (ANZ) has reported a 51% drop in statutory net profit for the first half of 2020 to AU$1.55 billion. The bank said the profit decline was driven primarily by credit impairment charges of AU$1.6 billion that included increased credit reserves for COVID-19 impacts of AU$1 billion.

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The bank posted AU$1.4 billion in cash profit, down 60% when compared to the same period last year.

Its Australian operations saw a 23% drop in cash profit to AU$1.4 billion, with expenses totalling AU$1.9 billion, on revenue of AU$4.7 billion.

Over the ditch, its New Zealand operations produced NZ$600 million in cash profit, down 20% year on year, with NZ$700 million in expenses, on revenue of NZ$1.8 billion.

Its institutional division reported cash profit of AU$600 million, on revenue of AU$2.8 billion. Cash expenses were AU$1.3 billion.    

AU$75 million was spent on technology infrastructure, and AU$155 million on digital, data, and payments.

Under the banner of preparing for the future, ANZ said it is analysing customer behaviour and fast-tracking digital investments in readiness for future opportunities.

"Our thoughts are with those who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, particularly those who have suffered from the health impacts, as well as the millions of people who are now facing financial uncertainty," ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott said.

"COVID-19 has clearly impacted our performance, however the work done over many years to simplify our business, strengthen our balance sheet, as well as developing a more agile and resilient workforce meant we were well-prepared to support customers through the crisis and I'm confident we will emerge even stronger."

The bank revealed in May 2017 it would be adopting the methods used by tech giants Google and Spotify in a bid to quickly respond to changing customer expectations, engage and empower staff, and improve efficiency within the bank.

"In the digital age, customer expectations are being redefined by their experiences with businesses like Amazon and Apple. We need to break with some of the traditional 20th century approaches to organising and working to ensure we are more responsive to 21st century customer expectations," Elliott said previously.

"The use of agile will mean a much less hierarchical ANZ, one built around small, collaborative, self-directed teams focused on delivering continuous improvement in the customer experience."

Over 95% of ANZ's staff have been working remotely since 17 March 2020.

500 staff have been trained and reallocated to help with COVID-19 measures, while 300 staff have been trained to assist customers in Australia contacting the bank via digital channels

ANZ also announced the appointment of Emma Gray to the newly created role of group executive data and automation.

The former Woolworths chief loyalty and data officer joined ANZ in February 2017 as its chief data officer, tasked with the bank's data strategy, including how data is defined, gathered, managed, and protected.

She also had a hand in overseeing the bank's digital transformation.

Gray's new role will see her continue to lead the transformation of the strategic use of data, as well as "creating new customer insights and driving automation to ultimately improve customer experience".

"The effective use of data, insights and automation will be a key in preparing the bank for the future, particularly as we respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19," Elliott added.

For the 2019 financial year, ANZ reported AU$5.9 billion in after-tax profit -- down 7% from a year prior.

For the full year ended 30 September 2019, the bank's Australian operations returned AU$3.6 billion in cash profit, on revenue of AU$9.6 billion, a 6% drop from 2018.

It ended the year with 8.7 million total retail, commercial, and institutional customers.

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