ANZ Board Minutes: creating a nuanced focus

Banks in Australia are having an existential moment, according to ANZ Non-Executive Director, Paula Dwyer.

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Pic: ANZ Director Paula Dwyer sits down with bluenotes' Andrew Cornell

Speaking to bluenotes’ Andrew Cornell over her morning coffee in Melbourne, Dwyer says despite the headlines, banks are still very important in people’s lives and to the broader society. 

"Ultimately, we want to ensure the organisation is sustained and delivering competitive returns for shareholders.” – Paula Dwyer

“So what's a reasonable expectation for these institutions?” she asks. “What sort of systems do we want them to have? What sort of growth profile do we want them to have? What sort of regulation do we want them to have?”

Dwyer admits there's a lot of new thinking on those topics occurring in Australia, but that ANZ’s board is playing its role with a number of new committees set up to tackle these issues. “The committees are the structure by which we engage… but [there is a] nuanced focus on different things,” she explains.

Unsurprisingly, in 2019 the board has navigated through some incredibly complex issues. “Ultimately, [we want] to ensure the organisation is sustained and delivering competitive returns for shareholders,” she says.  

Dwyer says although she has been in very intense situations over the last few years, being part of a high-functioning board brings her great joy. “It is a very capable group of individuals coming together as a team under the leadership of David [Gonski]. You feel like you're part of something really good and can contribute.”

Board genesis

Before joining her first board in 2002, Dwyer had an extensive career in financial markets and corporate finance. But following the birth of her second child, she took a career break to focus on her daughter’s health.

“I decided to take a break at the encouragement of my colleagues. But I kept an oar in by taking on one board role and that was really the genesis of my board career,” she recalls.

Once her daughter’s health recovered, Dwyer decided to continue down the path of a portfolio career and has been a member of over 10 boards since.

Dwyer says being able to take her career down a new path has allowed her to continue to contribute to both her corporate and personal lives. However, she says society needs to keep changing to best harness all of the capabilities of women.

“As a community, we need to better understand that people will be living and working a whole lot longer and we want people to reach their potential and to really feel that they can contribute,” she says. “I think we're at a bit of an inflection point with interest rate policies being where they are and our economy looking as it does - we need to really kick start things.”

“By harnessing the female component of our society, we can really change the way Australia and our capital system operates,” Dwyer explains.

Evolved culture

Being on a number of high-profile boards, Dwyer says the different environments inspire her to think about the company’s broader culture.

“What would make someone speak up and how do you measure that? Why do people show up for work?” she asks. “A large part of that for me is diversity. Having females and males engaged professionally to solve a problem does permit a more evolved culture because you have different perspectives.”

On the topic of social issues, Dwyer says the voice of leaders in corporate Australia matter and that it is appropriate for them to express their opinions. However, she challenges the nature of what is a solely “social” issue.

“What is tax reform?” she asks. “A social issue, a political issue or a corporate issue? Is tax deductible childcare a social issue, a political issue or a corporate issue?” She admits the answer isn’t clear. 

In April 2012, Paula Dwyer joined ANZ’s Board as an Independent Non-Executive Director. Dwyer has extensive experience in financial markets, corporate finance, risk management and investments, having held senior executive roles at Calibre Asset Management, Ord Minnett (now JP Morgan) and at Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers).

She recently sat down with bluenotes managing editor, Andrew Cornell, as part of the Board Minutes series to discuss post-Royal Commission challenges, taking a break from her career and the reality of social issues.

Andrew Cornell is managing editor of bluenotes

To access more of the Board Minutes series, click HERE.

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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