How I learned to stop worrying and love digital at MIT

In May, a group of ANZ executives selected for their influence on the bank’s  digital future travelled to the US to participate in a program jointly created with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The program was designed to help leaders respond to the opportunities and threats presented by new digital businesses, the use of digital technology to drive great customer experience and changing business models. Below are three key insights ANZ senior executive Craig Sims took from the program.

"My belief is once you jump on board the pace of digital transformation is a friend, not a foe."
Craig Sims, ANZ senior executive


Digitalisation is often perceived as something for incumbents like big banks to fear because they will be disrupted.

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There are people who look at ANZ and tell us our size and scale means we should be afraid of the pace of technical advancement which doubles every two or so years and is increasingly efficient.

My belief is once you jump on board, the pace of digital transformation is a friend, not a foe. The financial services industry has a strong track record of embracing technology - as far back as 1965 when ANZ was the first bank in Australia to successfully use a mainframe computer.

The truth is savvy investment choices and a focus on digital-first thinking for the benefit of our customers will mean incumbents can stand shoulder to shoulder with any fintech in this era.

Digital technology allows banks to do much more with what they have, in real time. By embracing digitalisation banks can improve the way we work and the ways in which our businesses evolve.

Let’s be clear: incumbency has its advantages. Banks have long-term relationships with large customer bases that trust them with their data, savings and investments. They have scale, they have resources and they have the capacity to experiment without betting the house.

Banks should embrace digitalisation, not fear it, and can create successful organisation equal parts bank and fintech.


It is not technology or how it transforms processes which differentiate high-performing, high-speed firms from the rest – it is the people who work in them.

If people are the ‘crown jewels’ of an organisation then what matters is how they are connected to a business’ technology and processes, how they relate to the organisation’s purpose and how they are motivated to give their best.

At MIT we looked at a case study involving Toyota taking over a General Motors plant. Within six months of Toyota taking over a woman wrote to the plant management.

“What have you done with my husband?” she wrote. “My husband is completely different to the person he was six months ago. Back then he would come home deflated and exhausted. Now, he is in the same place doing the same job - but coming home enthused and encouraged.”

The difference was the new management’s model for engaging its workforce.

This is a great example of how a company can have all of the processes and technology in the world but, if it is not combined with people, success will remain out of its grasp.

In a digital world everything needs to happen faster but in the background the process is often more complex.

To succeed, businesses need to have cooperative workforces where multiple disciplines come together; if staff are frustrated or if there is no structure to their work, things will start to crumble. Having a connected workforce will ensure the road to success is smooth.

Again, it’s not the technology or processes that make a company, it’s the people.


In a world where everything seems to be changing and changing fast we often overlook what is consistent. Some underlying forces never change. The basics of transformational change can be described in three questions;

• What’s the compelling vision?

• How do I engage the workforce?

• How do I back it up with a change program?

To achieve success within a business you first need to determine what success is - and be ruthless in your pursuit of it if need be.

You then need to engage your staff with simple, easy to understand explanations of what it looks like. And you need to ensure you fully embed the change in your business.

Digitalisation is a big thing to which the financial services sector needs to adap. While the change will be significant, the basics of it are the same as every other change it has been through – just as when the world went from branch to internet banking.

The same principles that have guided change for 10, 20, 30 years are all still relevant today.

Craig Sims is a senior executive at ANZ                                 

As part of the trip, Craig participated in a course run by MIT. The course, held in Boston, was co-created by ANZ to equip businesses for the rise of the digital era. It is tailored around ANZ’s shift towards a more digital banking environment.

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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