While Citi in Hong Kong may be scolding its bankers for dressing too causally – no slippers, bandannas or micro-mini skirts – Shayne Elliott, ANZ’s new chief executive officer, turned up for his first job interview with the bank wearing a T-shirt, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Back in 2009 ANZ was looking for a new head of institutional banking and a recruiter called up Elliott, who was taking a post-financial crisis break from banking after spending three years at Egyptian firm EFG-Hermes. Elliott, inspired by ANZ’s quest to build a ‘super-regional bank’ across Asia, wanted an interview but he was in Rome renovating a property and didn’t have a suit with him. Instead of buying one, the New Zealander simply arrived at the video interview – set up in a nearby church – wearing a T-shirt.
Ironically, Elliott is now expected to roll back at least some of the super-regional Asian expansion – pioneered by his predecessor, Mike Smith – that first endeared him to ANZ at the T-shirt interview. The bank’s Asian operations have become a drag on profits. “ANZ needs to have a glorious Asian exit,” Brett Le Mesurier, an analyst at APP Securities, told the SMH. “The institutional business in Asia has an extremely low return way below the cost of capital. I always thought they had an insufficient strategic advantage to generate the return.”
Under Smith, ANZ’s Asia headcount almost tripled to 21,000 over seven years – job cuts seem more likely under Elliott. Which parts of the bank in Asia may be most vulnerable? Trade finance, hurt by the China slowdown and slump in commodities prices, may be first in line. In October the bank said it would cut about A$9bn (US$6.5bn) of trade finance exposures in Asia. ANZ will instead try to grow its cash transaction business “in areas such as cross-border payments, collections and investment services for clients”, reports the SMH.
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Image credit: Grosescu Alberto Mihai, iStock, Thinkstock