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Board minutes: banks, trust & the governance challenge

“This idea of being simpler - trying to make sure we can understand all the parts of what we're doing - was not something that arose on the steps of the Royal Commission.” – David Gonski, ANZ Chairman. 

As part of bluenotes’ new series, Board minutes with Andrew Cornell, we sat down with Chairman David Gonski for a frank discussion on the challenges for the industry – and the likely solutions.

Look out for further editions in the series on bluenotes in 2019.  

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After a year of turmoil, dominated in Australia by a Royal Commission into financial services and in the region by a trade war, the challenge for bank boards has been to assess or reassess how they operate, their structures and skills.

ANZ chairman David Gonski is clear on this front: this is not something new even though the environment may be different.

“Governance does change over time anyway,” he tells bluenotes. “We've been changing or evolving for some years now.”

Simple

For ANZ’s board, underlying this evolution is a fundamental strategy that precedes 2018. It is the concept of simplification.

Where the environment previously encouraged the pursuit of revenue aided by the addition of businesses, the recognition this has sometimes delivered poor customer outcomes and introduced errors into the business has dramatically shifted focus.

bluenotes has explored this idea in recent years too and evidence of ‘dis-economies of scale’ and complexity costs is high.

“We want to be a simpler bank,” Gonski says. “This idea of being simpler - trying to make sure that we can understand all the parts of what we're doing - was not something that arose on the steps of the Royal Commission.”

“This is something (CEO Shayne Elliott) started when he came in and which we as the board massively are behind. So I think so too is the case with governance.”

Simpler

Along with simplification, Gonski stresses the importance of banks – and boards – being more in touch with their customers and communities. 

Just as critical is having diversity on the board itself, he says.

“The concept of diversity round the board table is absolutely necessary (to properly engage with communities),” Gonski says.

“The concept, for example, that only men can determine what the community should get is, in my opinion, absurd. The concept that we should only have people from a particular place is also absurd and I'm very proud that our board presently does have a mixture of geographies round the table.”

“Backgrounds from all parts of business and indeed allied fields are very valuable.”

Gonski also explains the board’s thinking around capital and dividend policy.

Watch the video above to find out more.

Andrew Cornell is bluenotes Manging Editor

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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