Elliott: banks must be more than profit

Banks are not popular. They are regularly criticised in parliament and the industry seems to have few friends on the public record. It’s an unpleasant reality ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott accepts, reluctantly. What he stresses is the role of banks in the community extends well beyond financial services.

Because of this, banks must be responsible for the social and environmental impacts their operations have, he explains in this bluenotes video.

They are however themes he has been tackling publicly and at length, for example in parliamentary inquiries.

"How are we contributing to community health and sustainability?” - ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott

“The ANZ that I will lead stands for six important principles, and we should be judged against them,” he told the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics.

“First, we should offer services that are easy to understand, competitively priced and designed to meet customers' needs. Second, we need to ensure customers get the right products for their individual circumstances. Third, when customers get into difficulty or when we fail them, it is our responsibility to work with them to find a fair and balanced resolution.”

“Fourth, we should be quick to fix mistakes and stop them happening again. Fifth, when making decisions that affect our customers, we need to explain them clearly. Finally, we need to ensure that our culture and processes are aligned to produce the right results for customers.”

Elliott outlined specific measures the bank has been taking in regard to concerns around minimum payments on credit cards, executive accountability, addressing customer complaints – both particularly and in general (ANZ has appointed a Customer Fairness Advisor, former Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave) – and focussing more intently on culture and purpose.

He recently expanded on the challenges for banks in restoring trust in an interview with the University of Auckland Business School, noting the paradox of the vast majority of customers having high levels of trust in their own bank but very low levels of trust in the industry.

“(As an industry) we have kind of lost touch with our community,” he said.

Speaking to bluenotes, Elliott said ANZ was very conscious of the impact of its work on the broader community.

“The purpose of ANZ is to shape a future where people and communities thrive,” he said.  “We really look at our impact on those measures.”

“How are we contributing to community health and sustainability? Are people involved, do they have jobs, are they able to start businesses?”

ANZ’s half-year Corporate Sustainability update details how the bank is tracking against the sustainability targets it set at the end of 2016. It comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of banks and their reputation, particularly on the political front on the back of the Federal Budget imposition of a new tax on bank liabilities for the major banks.

Elliott said the bank was particularly focussed on efforts in financial literacy and helping customers manage the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“We have a role in providing [financial literacy] education… so people can feel that they have enough skill to participate,” he said. 

“A healthy community is one that’s sustainable from an environmental perspective. So we have a role to ensure the people that we lend to behave responsibly.”

Elliott reiterated ANZ sees progress on its sustainability commitments as something equally important as its profit and loss statement.

“In order to operate a successful P&L we need to have a social licence to operate,” he said. “The community has to allow us to operate.”

“If we misbehave, if we’re not thoughtful about the impact we have on the community, that authority will diminished.”

Watch the video above to find out more.

Andrew Cornell is managing editor at BlueNotes

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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