Innovation starts with finding the right people: ANZ bank

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott is transforming his bank into an 'agile' organisation focused on people and technology.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
(Image: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet)

When Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) was first established in 1835, being agile wasn't written into its modus operandi. However, 182 years later, Gerard Florian, ANZ group executive of technology, said being agile is front of mind for the bank that suddenly finds itself innovating like a technology firm.

Speaking at Australia's Asian Future Summit 2017 in Sydney last week, Florian said the notion of being agile is driven from the top, from CEO Shayne Elliott and his strategic plan to hire the right people for the right roles.

When announcing Florian's appointment in November, Elliott -- who only took on the role of CEO a couple of months prior -- said technology holds a critical importance in transforming ANZ, a "strategic shift" the bank was embarking on.

"Elephants can dance and I guess from our side you can be agile even if you're 180 years old, as long as you've got the right leadership," Florian said, quoting IBM's Louis V Gerstner.

"The biggest things for me, and one of the reasons for taking the opportunity at ANZ, was around the leadership that not only Shayne himself shows, but also the board and the rest of the [executive team] around understanding what's happening in the market, what's happening from a financial services perspective, and the need to be far more agile and nimble in this world."

Florian said Elliott has intentionally looked for diversity in his leadership, pointing to the bank's digital banking group executive Maile Carnegie, who joined ANZ from Google, where she was the managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

"An insight into the difference in approach is how you build that blended team who understand the opportunity around innovation, the role technology will play. Shayne refers to it as a bionic bank, and to that he means there are two key ingredients: People, but also the technology," Florian explained.

"For me, bionic has this emotion of blood and bone wrapped around some technology -- it's that deep awareness that my role in this is how do I make sure I understand what the businesses need, both retail and wholesale banking, and what our customers need, and make sure that technology plays the appropriate role."

In addition to Florian and Carnegie, Elliott's hiring spree also included a new general manager of Digital Transformation and Performance in Jennifer Scott; Emma Gray, who took on the newly created role of chief data officer for the bank in February; Kathryn van der Merwe, who also joined the bank in February as group executive of Talent and Culture; and a new chief information security officer in Lynwen Connick, who left her role as first assistant secretary information sharing and intelligence at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to join ANZ.

ANZ's company reshuffle was announced in September, after its COO Alistair Currie revealed his departure. At the time, Elliott said the new structure would help the bank continue the progress it has made on the technology front.

Nine months into the role that sees him charged with overseeing technology operations, Florian said he is confident the bank is not going to become redundant in a climate where fintech firms are popping up everywhere to take a slice of the big four-dominated market.

"I think we fit in very well," he said of working alongside fintechs. "Whilst there's an old tag around, it really also depends on against who we're comparing."

Florian conceded that the fintech explosion has brought with it a competitive environment, but said there is an opportunity for ANZ to partner to build the services the market needs.

"This opportunity that sits before us is exciting," he said. "I look at it quite simply as a race, whether that's in Australia, Asia, or around the world."

To Florian, the best approach is realising each other's strengths. He noted that smaller organisations can move a lot faster than regulation-restricted banks; however, he said they need to not only be able to take their game-changing idea to market, but also continuously improve on it while trying to build a customer base.

"For the smaller organisations, it's a question of how you get scale; for the larger organisations, it's how do we innovate. We've got the customer base," he explained.

"And while we're working at [maintaining long customer relationships] we've got to be looking at how we bring in innovation either within the organisation or externally.

"For me, in this world, you can't win on your own."

ANZ announced last month that it is on the hunt for a technology provider to bring its "innovative" insights and experience to the financial services giant. Florian said that the successful vendor will support the bank's implementation of "agile ways of working".

At the time, Florian said that when thinking about the shape of technology, what really matters is the speed at which the world outside is changing, and the need for organisations like ANZ to meet the needs of its customers.

Echoing that statement on Friday, he said the bank's success will lie in recognising that if it stays still, it will fall behind.

"So we have to move and we have to move quickly," he said.

"As Jack Welch once said, 'If you're not changing faster than the world outside, you've got a problem', and when he said that it was 1980. And in 2017, the world outside has changed very quickly, but we need to change even faster internally."

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