Charles Rennie, a very modern leader

Banking community farewells Charles Rennie.

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Charles Rennie – a driving force behind the transfer of the ANZ Bank’s base from London to Melbourne – was farewelled at a packed service at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in the Melbourne suburb of Kew on Thursday April 24.

Rennie, who died in early April aged 101, was ANZ managing director from 1973 to 1976. In his eulogy, John Vanselow, who worked with Rennie when he was managing director, recalled Rennie was also integral to the success of the ANZ’s key merger in the early 1970s with the English, Scottish and Australian Bank. "He had an amazingly successful career," said Vanselow.

Rennie won a scholarship to the selective University High but was ambivalent about his studies. "He much preferred sport," said his daughter Elaine Provan.

He was the proverbial employee who started in the post room at the then Union Bank, aged 15, and ended up as the boss of one of Australia’s largest banks.

He served with the RAAF during the Second World War, training as a pilot officer navigator in Canada. A serious illness precluded him serving in the European theatre. He later told his daughters he was lucky to have missed action as most of his colleagues did not return.

Rennie served out the war as an instructor in Canada and after his return he became  the first Australian bank executive to attend Henley Administrative Staff college (now Henley Business School) in the UK, which was the civilian equivalent of military staff college in the 1950s.

A strategic and analytical thinker, Rennie played an active role in the bank’s international expansion in the 1960s. Also during that decade he overhauled the ailing New Zealand division and is still remembered affectionately by former staff members there.

"He made friendships there that last till this day," said Provan, who recalled her father as a humble man but with a dry wit.

Rennie retired in 1976, not long before the death of his first wife. He then became an active board director, chairing Utah Mining for a period. Even into his 90s he embraced the digital age, often buying the latest gadgets via the internet.

Although a man who dealt in facts and figures – he could still add columns of numbers in his head at 101 – colleagues remembered him as a warm, personable manager who actually got to know his staff. A 'people person' before his time, he travelled constantly and visiting local branches was a priority.

He was as happy doing the drying up after late night customer events as he was sitting in the boardroom. “Charles was much more than a boss, he was our admired and respected friend,” said Vanselow, who represented the ANZ Retired Officers at the funeral.

Rennie retained his links with the bank through the retired officer’s group and had afternoon tea with CEO Mike Smith at the bank on the occasion of his 100th birthday last year.

Something of a Renaissance man, he played in the bank’s jazz band (he was an accomplished violinist) and coxed the ANZ crew. He was notorious for running late for international flights and his chauffeur remembers many a trip to the airport with car’s exhaust trailing columns of smoke behind them. They always just made it.

Rennie’s second wife Joy, two daughters, seven grandchildren and 11 great grand children survive him. When his coffin left the church it was accompanied by huge bunches of red and blue balloons, the colours of his beloved Demons AFL team.

Also see Jackie's article on BankingDay and John Morshel's tribute to Charles Rennie.

Jackie Blondell is a Melbourne-based freelance contributor to BankingDay, a specialist financial services newsletter. She specialises in corporate publishing and edits HR Monthly.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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