​ANZ to bank on opportunities from simplification program

ANZ has said the first half of the 2016 financial year was a 'challenging period', reporting that statutory profit after tax dropped 22 percent.

ANZ is confident that the progress it continues to make in streamlining and simplifying its processes will pay off.

On Tuesday, the bank reported a statutory profit after tax for the half year ended March 31, 2016, of AU$2.7 billion, down 22 percent from the corresponding period last year. Cash profit was also down by 24 percent, to AU$2.8 billion, which the bank said followed a AU$717 million net charge primarily related to initiatives to reposition the group for stronger profits.

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot said the results reflect a "challenging period" for banking, but believes there is opportunity when the company moves to building a "simpler, better capitalised, and more balanced" bank.

"Our priority is to take bold action to ensure ANZ is fit and ready for this future," he said.

"This means for the immediate future, we are in a period of consolidation, simplification, and transition. We have a clear plan, and we have made significant progress this half through a focus on four strategic priorities."

According to the bank, some of its key technology achievements during the period included delivering a digital banking multi-channel platform, refreshing its cloud strategy to reduce time to market with 17 cloud services approved to date in FY16, reducing major incidents by 40 percent year on year, decommissioning 91 applications in the year to date, and building a digital partner ecosystem that engages with the fintech community.

Last week, ANZ became the first bank in Australia to launch Apple Pay, with Elliot boasting at the time that it would bring added convenience, security, and privacy to customers.

"The introduction of Apple Pay is a significant milestone in our strategy to use digital technology to provide our customers with a superior experience, and will be a watershed moment in the adoption of mobile payments in Australia," he said.

The introduction of Apple Pay followed the launch of Mobile Pay to allow Android customers to tap and pay at checkout, and to make withdrawals at contactless-enabled ANZ ATMs.

During the six months, the company also appointed former Google ANZ managing director Maile Carnegie to the lead the bank's digital team. Carnegie, who is expected to start her new role in July, will lead the development and delivery of the bank's digital experience, including digital projects and relationships with the fintech sector. She will also have shared responsibility for the financial results of the bank's Australian and New Zealand divisions.

In addition, during the half year, changes, which came into effect from October 1, 2015, were made to the bank's accounting policy to accelerate software amortisation.

According to the bank, by lifting the software capitalisation threshold and directly expensing more project-related costs, there is now greater discipline into the management of technology investment.

"The change, effective from 1 October 2015, of itself does not impact the group's total spend on technology, but better aligns the application of ANZ's policy with the rapidly changing technology landscape, increased pace of innovation in financial services, and the group's own evolving digital strategy," the bank said.

"These changes bring forward the recognition of software expense resulting in lower amortisation charges in future years."

The bank also reported an annual investment spend of approximately AU$1 billion. Of this, 35 percent will be spent on service and product processing such as modernising the payments networking and increasing systems and process standardisation; 19 percent will be invested in digitisation and improving the customer experience, including an enterprise-wide data management system, developing the foundation for an omnichannel customer experience service, and customer insight and related analytics; and 7 percent will be put towards divisional product enhancement, such as re-engineering and automating divisional platforms.