Half-year profit almost doubles for ANZ Bank as CEO touts investment in automation

The blue bank has ended the first six months of the financial year with nearly AU$3 billion in profit.

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) has reported its results for the first six months of the financial year, making AU$2.9 billion in profit as it touts recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

This is a 45% improvement on the AU$1.5 billion posted in the first half last year.

"Work done over the past five years to simplify our operations, strengthen our balance sheet, and de-risk the group helped us deliver a strong result this half, meaning we are well-placed to continue to support the ongoing economic recovery and customers doing it tough," CEO Shayne Elliott told shareholders on Tuesday.

Operating income for the blue bank was AU$8.3 billion, a decrease of AU$123 million over the same period a year prior. Personnel expenses decreased AU$16 million, with the bank saying this was a result of investment in digital capabilities and process automation.

ANZ Bank ended the six months with 38,555 full-time equivalent staff.

"Following the trends of the first quarter, all parts of our business performed well. Costs were down 2% and we also increased investment in new digital capability that will provide ongoing productivity improvements and better customer outcomes," Elliott added.

The bank spent AU$785 million on tech during the six months, AU$54 million less than it did during the first half of 2020.

ANZ app users increased by 23% when compared with the same period last year, the bank said, and transactions were also up 26% over the same period.

During the six months ended 31 March 2021, ANZ also launched the ability for new customers to open an account via the ANZ app, contributing 5% -- around 8,000 -- of all new to bank customers.

The bank also introduced the ability for customers to put a "gambling block" on credit cards in March 2021 with more than 1,000 customers activating the service in the first month. Westpac earlier this month announced a similar initiative.

Boasting a handful of further "wins" during the reported period, ANZ said its small business customers who use accounting software platforms can now apply for lending online and get funds within four days, reduced from 30 days. It also boasted 42% of all retail sales in Australia, including home loans, are now through digital channels.

ANZ said it increased the number of New Payments Platform payments for other banks by 115% when compared with the same period in 2020, and also introduced the ability for customers to track cross-border payments via its digital platforms.

"We're feeling like we've got our settings in a really good position, lots of capital -- in fact record levels of capital -- lots of liquidity, so that means we've got the ability to support customers who need it," Elliott said. "And, operationally, a really resilient team of people who have got the right technology and tools to be able to do the right thing and pivot where that help is needed."

For the 2020 financial year, ANZ posted net profit after tax of AU$3.58 billion, down 40% from the AU$5.95 billion reported a year prior.  

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