Data, Technology and the Workforce of the Future

The last 12 months have challenged every belief we have about work and workplaces. It has challenged us on the pace of business transformation – and particularly the use of data and the shift to what, broadly, we call digital banking.

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And it has dramatically changed the way we think about how we should structure, build and train our workforces.

" Five or 10 years ago, a software engineer would not have considered a bank as an option. Now we see not just data scientists but software and mechanical engineers in the bank.”

These changes ranged from the mundane - we had to train people (including me) to use Zoom, WebEx, Hangouts, Teams. I used every one of them so many times - to the fundamental. How do we ensure business continuity, data security and customer services when nine out of 10 of us are not in the office?

Even before the pandemic, one of the things changing rapidly was data and technology and – from the workplace perspective – the skills we will need our people to have to maximise this new opportunity.

This really was one of those shifts where we had five years of change in one. That shift is being driven not just by technological innovation – or crisis - but by the demands our customers make on us.

We all know data is important, increasingly so. The impact of COVID-19 has shown how important it is to have accurate, timely and well presented data, in order to operate a business effectively during a crisis.

At ANZ, we could not have made many of the critical decisions we made – around loan deferrals for example – without near real time data.

Data driven insights are crucial to help our customers and our bankers make informed decisions.

Our customers now have a very different appetite for technology and with that comes higher expectations and greater opportunity to innovate. During 2020, the most visible of these was the shift to digital banking and away from cash and bricks and mortar.

When we look at the long term trend, the last five years have seen over the counter transactions decrease by 50 per cent in the branch network. Amplified by COVID, we’ve seen the decline of over the counter cash transactions accelerate by 22 per cent in the past year.

We have also seen a huge increase in digital payment transactions. ATM withdrawals have declined by 10 per cent in terms of dollar value as customers continue to take advantage of Fee Free withdrawals from OFI ATMs as well as switching to POS/digital channels for some small value payments instead of cash payments.

Meanwhile, throughout COVID around 25 per cent of our retail customers interacted with ANZ via assisted digital channels (features like online chat, secure mail, our socials and through our Chat Bot) compared with 5 per cent pre-COVID.

This more rapid adoption of digital banking extended to much more frequent use of ANZ’s updated mobile App. Within the ANZ App we saw a 30 per cent increase in total transaction volumes between the 2019 and 2020 financial years.

The ANZ App added 442,000 new registrations over the 2020 financial year, a 15 per cent increase from the end of financial year 2019 and 37,000 per month.

The more established internet banking channel saw continued usage particularly in Retail and Banking for Business (however there was a decrease in usage for our small businesses due to COVID).

The pace at which we all needed to adopt new tech tools to connect with our colleagues and customers was extraordinary. To watch “Zoom” go from cool tech to a mainstream verb in a matter of weeks was incredible.

Of course, it’s more than Zoom - it is the use of contact tracing apps, the preference for contactless payments, the rise of the podcast and webcast and the boom in online retail.

The effective use of data, insights and automation will be key in preparing ANZ for the future, particularly as we respond to the challenges presented by COVID.

Future Skills

Regardless of how the roles of the future evolve, curiosity and passion are two attributes highly valued within many organisations. At ANZ we are looking for people who are curious, adaptable, value growth and connection and, of course, have a deep passion for what they do.

We expect to see an increase in engineering, data science and cybersecurity roles. Five or 10 years ago, a software engineer would not have considered a bank as an option. Now we see not just data scientists but software and mechanical engineers in the bank.

We have journey experts, design thinkers – of course there will be an ongoing role for bankers but we also need to be a centre of excellence for engineers.

Graduates don’t necessarily need to have completed technology degrees to gain entry into our Graduate Program but 50 per cent of graduates ANZ hires have completed STEM degrees.

We are focussed on building the digital literacy skills of our people. We have benefits in Australia of seeing companies like CSL and hi-tech agribusiness but we need to build on those broader skills. This is an emerging way countries, not just companies, will differentiate themselves.


At ANZ, since we moved to agile ways of working and an adaptable workplace, flexibility has been a pillar. But I admit I wasn’t a great role model - I didn’t even have a desk at home.

I fear we also had some group-wide biases. We are in 33 countries but we have had a propensity, however unconscious, to see those in our home country of Australia as somehow smarter than other countries. So we do need to embrace the reality we have talent everywhere – this is global pool of talent and we are incredibly fortunate to have such a workforce.

People do want more flexibility but now younger people might not have the same appetite to travel to build their career, the model we have seen for years now. We have to adapt to that. And to be an employer of choice, our employee value proposition has to offer opportunity, flexibility and the capacity to grow those critical skills like digital literacy.

We are really conscious of the threat of new and emerging unconscious biases. For example, people working from home aren’t physically present. That means new skills are needed for online presentations or holding productive meetings (something which became all too evident last year in too many online meetings).

A good online meeting is not dominated by those who happen to be in a room together or have the loudest voice. Nor is it just a ritual where participants read out laundry lists to show how busy they are.

Senior people need to role model – to show it doesn’t matter if you are at home three days a week.

People do say “we won’t know who’s good if we don’t see them personally”. But I also see another side: there’s a lot of people who are good at telling you how good they or how busy they are and playing on that presenteeism. This will be difficult but it gets back to us recognising what really is merit, what is genuine productivity.

Being good in person in a meeting and dominating conversations is not that. Nor is working long hours but without productive outcomes.

The role of leaders has fundamentally changed. We have 10,000 managers who used to manage by KPIs etc but now they have to focus on people. Are their people well? Are they satisfied? What are the stresses? This is a very different model of leadership.

I think this is a permanent change in the way we work. But then a lot of people can’t work from home, they can’t work in a blended way. For them, we need to ensure they feel comfortable, to feel able to work in a way that is good for them and good for ANZ.

That doesn’t mean everyone goes back to the office all the time but nor does it mean 100 per cent remote is the way forward.

We are finding for us, when you’re in the office, it is about the teaming, the personal interaction. That is the productive outcome. It strengthens our culture.

Meanwhile, if we are working from home, is that environment safe? Is it set up properly, is there the right equipment? This is an ongoing challenge.

The Future of Work

COVID is still having devastating effects across the globe but we need to use the principles and lessons from this period to inform how we think about work - and the workplace - in the future.

We have learned so much about productivity, efficiency and the capability and preferences of our work force in this period that we can use more permanently.

We will need to consider the tools and technology, culture and wellbeing, policy and processes that are needed to support effective, healthy working regardless of location. Just as we need to build and enhance the skills needed for ANZ to be a leader in using data and technology to help our customers grow their wealth.


This article draws on a presentation given to CEDA; Flexible work is here to stay: ANZ.


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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