Why we must enable banks to be enabled

As befits a forum as expansive as Sibos, the 2018 theme 'enabling the digital economy', is an expansive idea. But I’d like to add a twist: banks such as ANZ are not just about enabling, we have to be better at being enabled.

We are already deeply in a digital world and that means we have had to transform ourselves as much as help our clients – and I’m pleased to say we are well down that track.

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Being a digital bank is not an internal project - it’s about learning from our partners and our customers - and them from us. The pace of change is now so fast we have to become better and better at learning from each other.

“We are already deeply in a digital world and that means we have had to transform ourselves as much as help our clients.” - Shayne Elliott, ANZ CEO

As the realities of the digital economy unfold, it is clear banks can’t do everything themselves – we need to collaborate and partner with others in a way that makes sense for our customers, bringing in skills, technology, innovation.


Fundamental to this rapid evolution is shifting the mindset of all our people. For ANZ, establishing a digital division has definitely been a catalyst. It’s not just about technology and tools and process efficiency, it’s about thinking differently about what customers want. Part of that of course is improving the user experience but we also want to build a bank that is responsive and adaptable.

All large organisations can be like oil tankers - they take a long time to change direction. Yet everything is changing at such a great pace – we don’t know what the future will hold – so we need to ensure we can anticipate and react quickly.

I want ANZ to be different and that takes some boldness. Interestingly, it also means doing less – simplification, concentrating on doing fewer things better, is essential. That’s also why we have focused on becoming an agile organisation. That too has been a major cultural transformation.

Put simply, digital banking relies on people and technology. We are developing people who have a growth mindset, who understand how the world is changing around them, that we need to be open to different ways of doing things and what our customers will need in the future.

That also means building the technology platform that will enable us to move at pace well into the future.

Real-time payments

Take Australia’s New Payments Platform. We’re delighted we can offer customers in Australia access to near real-time payments. We know that’s what they want. That’s also why we moved early to offer Apple Pay: our customers wanted it.

But we’re really at the beginning. Consider the internet - the first era was putting the protocols in place, then the innovation erupted in ways we could never have predicted. With NPP we now have the protocols in place. The rails are there for innovation which I’m sure will surprise us all.

NPP has been a challenge. Programs of this scale and complexity inevitably are. It involved industry wide collaboration and is now being rolled out by more than 60 banks, building societies and credit unions across Australia. From our perspective NPP gives us the flexibility to tailor the experience to best meet the needs of our customers.

Of course we are working with SWIFT on its global payments innovation service involving cross border transactions and 150 banks worldwide – again because it makes sense for our customers.


Fintech is another element of this new world. Fintech is disruptive but we’re ready, we’re engaged. Without a doubt there are threats to us in this world yet is also inspiring and challenging in a positive way.

The interesting development we’ve seen over the last 18 months or so is a shift to the view banks will work with fintech – rather than fintech replacing banks. We don’t see an Uber of banking or an AirBnB of banking replacing us - rather we see innovative fintech working in partnership with innovative banks.

It’s good for fintech as we bring scale and trust and it’s good for us because they bring radical thinking and different mindsets.

Again, these changes are coming about because customer expectations are changing and technology can provide greater opportunities. ANZ customers don’t compare banking experiences, they compare what they get from Amazon or Alibaba or Apple.

At ANZ, we want to be the best partner for these dynamic start-ups - which in turn helps us to evolve the bank to be better for customers. We’re focused on selecting the best ideas and technologies and then partnering with the relevant firms to apply those ideas and technologies in a banking context. Some of those partners may be fintech and some may be from quite a different realm.

We also know – and welcome – the advent of open banking which is essentially an expansion of the idea of partnerships from business to business to business to consumer. Our customers own their data and while the detail and regulation is still being worked through, our ambition is to help customers use that data they have to their greatest benefit


The other fascinating dimension to this is how does our traditional role as a bank work in this new world?

These startups don’t have fixed assets, property or any of the usual collateral for lending. We really have to think differently about how we bank them because we do want to bank them.

What are the biggest challenges to a bank’s ability to deliver value-added, differentiated services to customers - geo-political, competitive, technological, cultural - and what can they do to tackle these?

That’s a cultural challenge, a mindset change. That has its own risks and as part of our cultural transformation we have placed a lot of emphasis on our values and purpose.


We’re going to hear an enormous amount about blockchain here at SIBOS – and everywhere else. We know it will be transformative and we accept we don’t yet know exactly how.

At ANZ we are already working with partners like Gresham and on programs being coordinated by regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore.

There is enormous opportunity and with an institutional and trade bank like ours the ability to improve security and efficiency in trade finance is clearly evident. But we also know we are only at the beginning of where distributed ledgers will take us. Together with our partners, we will have to move very quickly.

SWIFT, because of the strength of its members, should be a ‘centre of expertise’ in this new era and we will continue to work widely with you all.


As if all these radical new technologies with their massive implications for banking are not enough, we also have artificial intelligence and machine learning. AI, together with NPP, blockchain and open banking, represents a genuine revolution in banking.

It’s no exaggeration to argue these radical disruptions will bring about the most profound transformation in banking for centuries. Open data removes a key barrier to entry in the industry; blockchain overcomes a need for substantial, expensive infrastructure, NPP vastly speeds up transactions and AI can deliver insights and outcomes beyond the ken of existing systems.

At ANZ, 30 per cent of our trade transaction processing is now done by AI and our customer turnaround time has improved by about 40 per cent.

AI will change the way we work, live and think. And it will introduce some extraordinarily complex challenges.

Think about how we might program a self-driving car - we don’t even have legal consistency around liability across borders. Who is responsible? The car manufacturer? The software designer? The network? The passenger/owner?

In some cases AI might make decisions and we will never understand why – what was behind its ‘thinking’?

Yet the potential for improving the lives of people and communities is truly immense.

Having AI rapidly and accurately perform repetitive tasks or research vast amounts of data frees up medical specialists or lawyers or teachers to concentrate on where they can be most valuable as humans.

This is where we see the revolution in banking - certainly at ANZ. We don’t believe these technologies we are talking about here at SIBOS spell the end of banking but they can certainly spell the end of banks which don’t rapidly adapt, which have leaders lacking flexible mindsets, or which lose sight of what their customers value.

In the face of so much rapid change I believe the most-successful organisations will have a strong sense of purpose which will be a critical compass to help guide them in addressing the challenges of the future.

And we firmly believe no robot can replace a true relationship with a banker.

Shayne Elliott is CEO at ANZ

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