Elliott: ANZ prepared for crisis, essential banking a priority

ANZ is taking a four pronged approach to managing the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, according to chief executive Shayne Elliott.

The bank is monitoring the situation continuously and taking advice from experts while working closely with regulators and the government. The focus is on staff wellbeing, supporting customers and managing the bank for long term shareholder value.

"Not only are we willing to assist, we are able to assist and we have the resources.” - Elliott

Elliott said the first “prong” was to protect: “We need to make sure we're protecting our people, our customers and, of course, protecting the bank and making sure that the bank can continue to operate and provide the very essential services that it does for the community.”

The second imperative was adaptation.

“We need to adapt for the new world… There is an enormous amount of change happening in terms of behaviour - the need to work at home etc. Our customers are behaving differently with us. So we need to adapt into that new world,” he said.

The third part of the strategy is to engage “with all of our stakeholders, whether they’re regulators, our customers, our people, the government and the broader community, keeping them informed about what we are doing”.

“And one of the difficulties here… is, of course, that it is rapidly changing.”

The final imperative, Elliott said, was preparing for the rebound – even though that might not be a focus in these early stages.

“We need to prepare for that and make sure we're there to support those customers that have good businesses and those mums and dads to get them back on their feet and ready to contribute to the community.”

Click here for video transcript

Elliott said “sadly” banks were used to crises. But that meant the system was also well prepared, particularly following the rebuilding following the 2008 financial crisis. It also meant ANZ could draw on the experience of veteran bankers – even some who had retired.

“ANZ - and the banks in Australia as an industry - have never had more capital,” he said. “Never in our history have we had more capital, we've never had more liquidity… and we've never had lower credit losses.

“What that means is that not only are we willing to assist, we are able to assist and we have the resources."

That combination of more capital, historically good credit quality, sufficient liquidity coupled with official support mean banks were more than able to continue to function as an essential service in the community and withstand the earnings impact of lower interest rates and even extraordinary monetary policy.

Elliott also stressed the emphasis ANZ had on supporting customers and encouraged them to communicate regularly with the bank about any issues.

“If you have issues, if you're worried, if you've lost your job, if your business is suffering. The best thing you can do is talk to your banker,” he said.

“Don't wait, don't be shy, don't be fearful. We are here to help and we have the ability and willingness to do so. But we can only help if we know about the trouble you're in and the earlier we act together, the better will be for everybody.”

Andrew Cornell is managing editor of bluenotes

To see the full interview, watch the video above

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.