Elliott: learning to flex in a changing world

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott says the bank has learnt many lessons over the past year as the world continues to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and he is very satisfied with how bank is performing.

Speaking to bluenotes on video as the bank posted an unaudited statutory profit for the first quarter to 31 December 2020 of $A1.624 billion with an unaudited cash profit on its continuing operations of $A1.810 billion, Elliott says the bank’s operating environment is still changing day-to-day.

"We were able to flex and change. Whether operationally… or getting out there and doing what we’re supposed to do which is lean in and support the economy.” – Shayne Elliott

“We went into [the COVID-19] situation last year in a really strong position,” Elliott says. “[In] the last quarter of 2020 that really came to the fore and showed the strength of our position. We were able to flex and change. Whether operationally… or getting out there and doing what we’re supposed to do which is lean in and support the economy.”

Elliott says the bank saw strong lending growth through the initial COVID-19 period for the businesses and home owners who needed it while still providing deferrals and other forms of assistance for customers in financial stress.

Click here for a transcript of this video

On the decision to unwind around $A173 million – or about 10 per cent - from the bank’s collective provisions for potential bad debts, Elliott says ANZ is still incredibly well provided for if economic conditions did happen to deteriorate in 2021.

“The outlook isn’t quite as bad as [we thought] so that meant we were able to trim those [provisions] back a little bit. But the outlook is a lot more positive where we sit today than it was going into the fourth quarter of 2020.”

Although he says there is a lot to like about every aspect of this result, Elliott acknowledges there is always room for improvement – particularly around the pace of execution of digital offerings to customers.

“What we saw in 2020 was this massive shift of customers towards digital choices. We’ve got a really exciting agenda of releases over the coming year [and] we want to get on with that and… we have the capacity to do it,” Elliott explains.

“We’ll do the right thing about COVID-19, we’ll do the right thing looking after customers and [also] be on the front foot about some really exciting new propositions for those that need them.”

Referring to the bank’s decisions to delay dividends and reduce shareholder payouts in 2020, Elliott says ANZ is very conscious it asked a lot of shareholders last year however it was the right thing to do to protect long-term interests.

“We’ll continue to manage [shareholder money] really prudently… and at some point when the environment is more certain, we’ll be in a great position to decide the best way forward.

“We do see growth opportunity – our ability to redeploy some, maybe not all, of that capital to really sow the seeds for future growth and opportunity for shareholder interests over the long-term.”

You can hear the whole conversation by watching the video above or by reading the transcript.

Andrew Cornell is Managing Editor of bluenotes

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