Strategy shift pays dividends for ANZ

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 June, 2010, 12:00am

About two years ago, ANZ Bank announced a major shift in strategy, one based on significantly expanding its presence and range of operations in Asia. The focus of the new five-year plan was to move away from being very much an Australian-based organisation, with limited reach, and to instead develop a multifaceted franchise able to take full advantage of growth opportunities across the region.

Despite the challenges that affected many other banks in the past 18 months, these plans are still firmly on track. In March, ANZ completed its acquisition from RBS of the latter's retail, wealth management and commercial business in Hong Kong. This deal provided a neat fit with ANZ's already strong institutional and private banking services, brought in an additional 30,000 customers and doubled total headcount in Hong Kong to more than 800 employees.

The deal was part of a broader acquisition of selected RBS businesses across Asia, which included the RBS retail, wealth management and commercial businesses in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and the institutional businesses in Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam, allowing ANZ to accelerate its regional growth strategy.

'The recent acquisition was a significant milestone in terms of building our Greater China business. It has given us the opportunity to have a much larger platform,' says Susan Yuen, CEO of ANZ Hong Kong.

'We are now a substantial bank in Hong Kong, but we are also growing rapidly. From a regional perspective, we are now positioned to take a quantum leap, expanding our franchise in core countries and welcoming new customers.'

It is obviously a massive advantage, she says, to be regarded as one of the safest banks in the world at a time when others are still struggling with the knock-on effects of the global financial crisis. Traditionally conservative in outlook, ANZ avoided exposure to any direct fallout from the subprime meltdown and has remained well capitalised throughout. It has also benefited from the overall strength of Australia's economy, which has held up well thanks to sturdy export demand and steady commodity prices.

'We pride ourselves on our stability, and are one of only 11 AA-rated banks in the world,' Yuen says. 'Some of the problems in the financial crisis clearly came about as a result of a product-push approach. We, though, are a relationship-based commercial bank where we service our customers based on their needs, rather than a product push.'

The recent introduction of ANZ Signature Priority Banking is very much part of that policy. It provides a personalised service for affluent retail customers in Hong Kong, giving them access to specialist wealth advisers and allowing them to make full use of the bank's regional network.

ANZ's basic philosophy is to offer convenient, uncomplicated investment choices. Furthermore, each relationship manager, who works directly with customers, has the support of an experienced team of product and investment specialists, ensuring a high level of service and close attention to individual requirements.

'With a full-service platform, we are now able to cater to our customer segments,' Yuen says. 'Also, we are building our debt capital business in Hong Kong as a hub for the region.'

These developments mean there is a continuing demand for new recruits in all areas of the business. More specifically, there are regular vacancies for financial consultants, relationship managers and investment consultants, and for specialists in risk management and institutional banking.

As a general practice, the bank doesn't set fixed hiring targets. Instead, its approach is to take on suitable candidates as and when it finds them, on the assumption that business will continue to expand.

To be considered, applicants require a relevant level of experience and should aim to develop a long-term career with the bank.

At present, some roles require 20-plus years' experience. However, there are opportunities for energetic younger candidates with the right mindset and ambition to work their way up.

'Overall, we are looking for people who will embrace our values - especially integrity and accountability - and take them seriously. That is very important for us,' Yuen says. 'We do see quite a number of candidates, but getting the right people is always a challenge. So, if someone shows they have talent and potential, we will gladly give them an opportunity.'

Measured against market benchmarks, remuneration is 'competitive' and, Yuen says, the bank is prepared to reward well when targets are achieved.

Just as attractive, though, from ANZ's perspective, is that staff will be given the chance to unlock their potential and fulfil career aspirations. In the long-run, that can amount to something much more than the dollar-figure earned each month.

'With us, you can build a career because there will be opportunities that are only available with a bank that's growing fast in the region,' Yuen says.

'That is a marked difference. We are also passionate about helping people develop and mentoring them. This means that, as they move up, they can expect to get exposure to other markets, have roles within the region, and learn all the different aspects of an exciting multinational business.'