Sense of purpose
It was a clear need to focus on this purpose, according to Elliott, that really informed the bank’s response to COVID-19.
“Communities and individuals are worried about their future and their safety,” Elliott says. “A thriving community needs, in our view, support and a bank that can support them through those really difficult times. As a result of that sense of purpose, we are acting and behaving differently, and our customers appreciate it.”
Elliott explains this sense of purpose also extended to the way in which the bank’s staff rallied to support each other as they quickly moved to 95 per cent of employees working from home globally.
“In a time of crisis, [in companies with] good culture, people bind together,” he says. “They become more supportive of each other and more respectful and empathetic of their team members’ situations
“In a crisis it's really clear what we have to do [and] people love that clarity. In more normal times… we tend to overwhelm people with lots of competing priorities and messages. Some of those things have been really great lessons.”
He explains the real challenge for an organisation like ANZ is figuring out how to retain that clarity and empathy in the post_COVID future.
Elliott says he expects to see a permanent shift in some consumer behaviours and expectations – accelerating trends that were gaining momentum prior to the pandemic.
“There was already a trend of people moving away from needing to go to a branch and preferring to do their banking on a phone,” Elliott explains. “This has accelerated dramatically because people didn't feel safe being out or branches had to close temporarily. There was also already a move [away] from cash to credit or debit cards [and] all of these things have accelerated.”
Elliott also expects both individuals and businesses to become more risk averse as people cope with the increased stress that comes from dealing with this crisis.
“That doesn't mean everybody will be wearing a mask for the next 20 years, hopefully, but I think people will be more thoughtful about hygiene and human interaction,” he says. “It has [also] raised bigger questions about the risk profile of companies.”
Elliott says although ANZ had previously identified pandemics as an operational risk, the core assumption was there would be a pandemic somewhere, not that there would be a pandemic everywhere.
He stresses, however, that although their plan was never intended to be a step-by-step manual for dealing with a pandemic, it served the bank well as a starting point for thinking through some potential scenarios.
Annette Kimmitt is CEO and Managing Partner at Minter Ellison