In addition to this, Japan integrated the ANZ Group policy which requires during the hiring process for at least one of the interviewers to be female.
As a result of the changes to the hiring strategy and process, not only gender, but also a lack of diversity in terms of nationality was addressed.
“Previously, apart from the CEO, the entire leadership team was made up of Japanese nationals," Knuckey says. "However we now have a Chinese national, a Briton and in total 5 different nationalities on the leadership team”.
“As a bank that deals with international customers both externally and internally, it makes sense to have a variety of nationalities on the leadership team. We also don’t just have people who have come through traditional banking pathways, we have diversity of experience with people who have come from and know other industries."
"As a result of this, we have seen better collaboration, exchange of information and better debate. This has meant our decision making ability has improved."
"It has also been a new influence on our frontline staff. With increased diversity within our management team, in July 2017 we were able to form a grassroots working group to discuss sustainability and diversity within the bank. We made it so that anyone who wanted to be part of this working group could be."
"That said, the topic of female participation within our organization is still very much a live issue. In particular we have the overall number of female managers at just 24 per cent. Now in Japan, that is a high percentage, but it still means three quarters of our managers across all levels are male."
"We can’t change that with the stroke of a pen. But targeted mid-manager hires, and taking greater interest in our internal promotion processes at that entry manager level are two of the things we can do."
Ninety per cent of ANZ’s worldwide workforce of 50,000 people can work flexibly
In other jurisdictions, three years ago ANZ introduced a policy called ‘All Roles Flexible’. This system of workplace flexibility was introduced to the Japan operation in September 2016. This means employees are able to work flexibly, anywhere and anytime.
“A rigid employment policy does not necessarily meet the needs of our clients, let alone our staff," Knuckey says. "What we are trying to achieve is to have our employees be as productive as they can be, whilst still having work-life balance and meeting their various commitments.”
At ANZ Japan, the employees themselves don’t need to give a reason as such to ask for flexible working conditions. As long as they and their line manager are in agreement it can be either a temporary or a permanent arrangement.
With the agreement of their manager, they can go home early for the day if required, or start and finish earlier or later than their usual working time. Flexibility can also take the shape of flexible hours, working from home or another location, or working part time.
With 90 per cent of ANZ staff worldwide having the ability to work flexibly, according to Knuckey, this was the catalyst for introducing flexible working to the Japan office.
“However there’s a big difference between talking about such a system and actually putting it into place, especially in Japan”, he emphasised. "There are two main reasons why we’ve been able to increase the number of employees taking advantage of flexible working."
"Firstly, we’ve increased the IT support on offer, making it easier for our employees to work from home in terms of technology."
"Secondly, to overcome the perception in Japan that flexible working is too hard and to change people’s ingrained habits, it was important to provide staff with “live” examples of how flexible working can be used."
"For example, seeing colleagues working from home when they have to look after a sick child or relative, or seeing members of the management team working from home, made it easier for our employees to take the leap to flexible working."
"For me personally, I had to work more flexibly in a period where my wife was overseas for an extended time, with our children still in Japan. Even though it was challenging given that in my role “face time” and physical presence is very important, I was pleased to have contributed in the sense that our staff had more confidence around whether they could do the same thing themselves. This is essential!”
Knuckey also explained that shareholders and investors are increasingly looking at diversity these days, in addition to the more well-known environmental, social and governance factors.
"Companies that are more diverse in their leadership and staffing empirically produce better results. Investors are only too aware of this fact," he says.
A company’s policy on diversity can of course change as a result of regulatory changes.
"However we haven’t changed our policy because we’ve been told to or forced to," he says. "We’ve moved in this direction because it’s the right thing to do in every sense.”
Globally, ANZ has the current target of having 42.5 per cent of its managers being female (presently this figure is 41.5 per cent) The Japan branch has the same goal, though with a lot further to go.
Female role models
ANZ’s two home markets of Australia and New Zealand have been acknowledged as early leaders in the fields of women’s rights. In particular, in 1893 New Zealand women gained the right to vote, which was a world first. New Zealand has also had three female Prime Ministers, including the present female Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“I grew up in New Zealand and from an early age was surrounded by successful working women. My mother ran her own business, I had aunts who were lawyers and successful entrepreneurs. Both of my grandmothers also worked. And I could also see that reflected to some extent in NZ politics and institutional leadership,” Knuckey says.
“So from my point of view, it was entirely normal that women be in business and in leadership roles. As someone from that background, of course it does appear that Japan is in an entirely different mindset. Indeed, there are probably still people here who cannot readily accept the idea of females being in leadership roles."
“For that reason, it is important for the corporate world in Japan to take the initiative when it comes to female leaders. The media also needs to play a role to promote more women as business role models because that is what will engage the next generation of young Japanese”.
Maiko Oda is editor and staff writer at Nikkei Dual. English translations by Joshua Sharkey.
This is an edited version of a Nikkei Dual interview with ANZ Japan CEO Grant Knuckey which was originally published in Japanese on 7 February 2018, and has been translated back to English, approved by Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. Comments are therefore not verbatim. All rights reserved.