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Bring on the disruptors

Disruption is underway in the financial services industry and many are asking if banks can survive the influx of new technology and innovative competitors. Banks are convinced they can, but how?

ANZ's Chief Financial Officer Shayne Elliott and ANZ’s CEO Australia Mark Whelan sat down to discuss the issue. Below is an edited transcript of the conversation.

" I’m, not scared of disruptors, I actually think it’s exciting as it means it will change the way we do things and if we do it well I think we end up in front of our competitors."
Mark Whelan, CEO ANZ Australia

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Photo illustration by Jennifer Farmer

Elliott: There’s been a lot of noise about disruption in financial services and tech giants like Apple, Google and other characters coming in with all these start-ups and new ideas. There’s a lot of money going into it as fintech becomes bigger and bigger. As a bank, do 

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Whelan: I think they could eventually. Ultimately I think it depends on the attitude we take to them. Bottom line. I think banks will end up working with them a lot more than we currently do today. I think we’ll learn a lot about what they do and how they do it, the agile approach to things.

In fact we’re actually doing a bit about it now. I didn’t realise half the stuff we are doing at ANZ around development of apps and different parts of our business, where we’ve taken it away from the mainstream and worked out how to use the cloud to create testing environments where we can do things quickly. So I get quite excited when I see that.

It’s really good stuff, and it’s been inspired by the way some of the fintech operators are working. I think the more banks open ourselves up to the way these companies operate the better. But what we’ve got to be very careful about is doing it pragmatically and not putting ourselves at risk.

Our customers trust us and that is something we’ve got to be really conscious of. So how do we use the good stuff around agile innovation and development to becoming more efficient? What can we learn in the way these disruptors look at customer experience?

I’m not scared of disruptors, I actually think it’s exciting as it means it will change the way we do things and if we do it well I think we end up in front of our competitors.

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Elliott: Pretty soon the financial services industry is going to have to make some fairly big decisions around some of this new stuff, around payments and data.

One of the things is around innovation and almost everything, with one major exception, everything you talk about with disruption, banks could have done.

I mean there is nothing – the only thing truly innovative we wouldn’t have done is these crypto-currencies like Bitcoin. Everything else – peer-to-peer lending, all these digital wallets, all that stuff – we could have done that. And we still can.

There was some silly article a few months ago saying banks haven’t innovated anything since the ATM. I mean that’s just nonsense.

When you think about it, it’s not that long ago we just had internet banking. I mean when I started at ANZ, six years ago, we didn’t have mobile banking. At the time I think GoMoney was just a prototype. Now it’s our biggest channel in terms of transactions. 

It’s not just in retail either, it’s in institutional. Derivatives and securitisation and all those things which are actually really good products for people was all innovated by banks.

Banks have actually been really innovative and I like your point about learning and partnering with others is the way forward. We’re not going to always beat everything else out there.

Whelan: We’re not, and sometimes we can be fast followers. At ANZ we’re just launching now an FX app which will compete with some online services.

That sector is a good example of us not recognising right away how customers wanted to be dealt with. Once we recognised that we’ve been quick to get something out.  Now we’ll be the first of the majors to get something out on mobile.

If we’re good at learning new ideas, changing how we bring it to the bank, not being afraid of it and being pragmatic about the way we execute I think we win. That will come in different forms, be it in partnerships or as a fast follower.

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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