ANZ now employs some 21,000 people in Asia – almost a three-fold increase from when its outgoing CEO, Mike Smith, took over seven years ago. If you’re working for ANZ in Singapore or Hong Kong right now you probably owe your job to Smith and the ‘super-regional’ Asian expansion that he pioneered.
You’re probably also very used to hearing criticism of your employer, in particularly that its Asian growth has become a drag on profits. Shayne Elliott, ANZ’s new CEO, is expected to cut back in Asia, with trade finance a possible target.
In a new Finance Asia interview, however, Smith is unrepentant about his growth strategy. “There is an urban myth in Australia that local companies fail when they expand into Asia…I have always been baffled by why no Australian bank had ever cracked the Asian market.”
Smith also rejected accusations that he favoured ideas for Asian growth even if they made little financial sense. “I have always looked at the business from an integrated perspective…”. And he pointed out that the success of ANZ’s Asian operations shouldn’t only be judged by its Asian profits. When Asian clients invest in Australia, for example, their business is booked as Australian revenue – but the fact that they became clients in the first place is because of ANZ’s strong Asian presence.
Asian staff at ANZ will be heartened to know that Smith has accepted a 12-month non-executive consultancy contract with the firm, starting in July 2016. Mr super-regional will continue to have an influence at the bank.
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