By the time he retired as Chief Executive on September 30, 1992, one of his major legacies was modernising the bank, introducing automation and computerisation – and some technology still in use today. Indeed, ANZ opened Australia’s first “electronic branch” in 1985 under his stewardship.
"Those who worked with Bailey and knew him well remember a highly engaged, forthright but supportive leader who could be fiery but always generous.”
Bailey became Managing Director/CEO of the by-then ANZ (ES&A merged with ANZ in 1970, ANZ itself was created in 1951 via the merger of the Bank of Australasia and the Union Bank of Australia Ltd) on November 20, 1984.
He shepherded the bank through the highs of Asian expansion and lifted the bank’s profile in the corporate, government and media worlds. The low was the terrible Australian recession of 1991-92 where ANZ’s exposure to medium and large businesses, particularly those with connections to the property sector, saw it post a then record loss and barely survive as a corporate entity.
Willoughby James Bailey was born on the 29th of March 1933 and grew up in Melbourne’s south-east. His father was a highly qualified tradesman, his mother a devoted and strict housewife.
Those who knew him said his parents instilled values of hard work and helping others which he carried through his career and family life with wife Dorothy – whom he met at the Anglican church in Murrumbeena - and three daughters.
After retiring from ANZ, he and Dorothy established a Charitable Bequest through ANZ Trustees and co-founded a drop-in centre for street people and the marginalised in Melbourne. When they moved to Geelong in regional Victoria they supported the Geelong Community Foundation. Bailey was a Director of the Foundation from 2002 to 2009.
Bailey’s career saw him work in two Australian states – including a three-year stint in Geelong - New Zealand and the UK.
During his time as CEO, ANZ became the first Australian bank to establish a presence in Thailand, China and Korea. ANZ also established the first Australian Merchant bank in Singapore (1986) and opened its first branches in the Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, The Philippines, Chile, Vietnam, Brazil and Tonga. ANZ also expanded or consolidated its presence in Taiwan, Germany, Italy and the USA.
ANZ became the first Australian bank to offer late night foreign exchange trading, the first to offer customers a choice of their own PIN and the first to ban smoking on its premises.