Phil McCann speaks candidly with Shayne Elliott, Group CFO of ANZ Bank: ANZ Bank, a major Australian bank with a strong presence in Asia and one of the top 20 banks in the world by market capitalisation. Shayne has been in banking more than 25 years, working throughout Asia, Europe,the Middle East, the Americas and the Pacific. Shayne joined ANZ in 2009 from EFG Hermes, the largest investment bank in the Middle East, and prior to that he was at Citigroup for 20 years in various international roles.

ANZ is the only Australian major with a focus on delivering a truly regional strategy and you are achieving consistent growth in Asia. What type of people do you consider ideal to drive your Asia strategy?

ANZ is still in the relatively early stages of delivering the Asia strategy, although we are ahead of the curve. We therefore need people who can roll up their sleeves and get things done. We have a saying at ANZ - “that we need people who want to build a super regional bank and not just people who want to work in one.” In particular, people who are flexible, autonomous and adaptable. Our people are dispersed throughout 33 markets in the region. 

That regional footprint and diversity is an essential part of what we offer to our customers but it does create challenges for the way we work as a team and guides us when appointing people. We are a truly regional bank and “that is just who we are”. Our recent appointment, Mary MacLeod (CFO, International and Institutional Banking) is a good example of this. Mary has a non-traditional background for a CFO. She has a background in developing integrated regional strategies and building regional capabilities from an operational perspective. 

How have the regulatory changes and new capital restrictions affected the way you do business?

Well we have already experienced a massive amount of change since the Global Financial Crisis and there is no sign that the pace of change is abating. If anything, it looks like it may pick up again, particularly here in Australia after the Murray Inquiry (formally the “Australian Financial Services Inquiry”). The challenge for us is that the change is largely broad based and incremental but when you add it all up it fundamentally will change what we do and how we do it. 

The incremental and ongoing nature of the change makes it difficult. “It’s like starting out playing rugby in 2009 and by 2019 you are playing netball”. 

In light of this, you need to analyse every part of your business and make sure you have the balance right. Do we have the right people; the right portfolio mix? Which of our businesses will really suffer and which ones are the real winners? You then need to put the right strategies in place and allocate the appropriate resources accordingly.

You also come from a non-traditional background for a CFO. Has your institutional banking experience stood you in good stead for this role?

I believe there are two battles that you must win as a CFO of a public company. The first is the battle for customers. The second is the battle for shareholders. You cannot win just one of these battles and succeed. My prior business roles were 100% focused on winning over customers and so I came into this role with that focus and experience. For me, the learning curve was developing the skills and knowledge to win the battle for shareholders and that’s been a very enjoyable part of the role. I find the interaction with shareholders to be challenging, insightful and I have learned a lot as a result. They think about the business in a very different way.

What are the top three skills a CFO should have?

Firstly, strong strategic skills. For me that means understanding the market, the environment and critically having a strong sense of what core capabilities your company has- or put simply, an understanding of which wars are the right ones to win and how your company will win.

Secondly, a CFO requires very strong communication skills. As mentioned, communicating to the market and shareholders is vital but also to your own people. In my role I am in contact with people from all areas of the bank. Explaining to your people why you have chosen to do things differently and to take them on the journey is an important part of being a CFO.

Thirdly, and related to the above, is good negotiation skills.

What keeps you awake at night?

I am always thinking about ‘how we keep focus on our strategies without any strategic drift?’ Across the bank, sticking to the plan we have put in place is extremely important. I worry less about the fundamentals of the business as they are a little easier to control.

After 30 months as Group CFO, what will be the Shayne Elliott legacy you would be leaving on this role?

Although it is a little early to be talking legacies, I was hired into this role to bring a more strategic focus to the bank’s finance function. I have had the good fortune to work with a great team who have been able to give shape and colour to the bank strategy, allocating resources to address these strategies and making sure all of the key decisions are based on facts. Hopefully my legacy would be about these three key areas.

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Phil McCann

Phil McCann is a Partner in the Sydney office of Odgers Berndtson where he heads the CFO and Financial Management, as well as the Energy and Infrastructure Practices for the region. Phil has a stro...

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