By Chad Barendse
Last week Fintech Melbourne had a rare opportunity to ask ANZ’s new CEO Shayne Elliott the big questions, as he held his first public Q&A session in front of Australia’s financial services industry.
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It immediately struck me how comfortable he was talking to a crowd full of entrepreneurs, developers and data scientists – and answering questions from them.
It felt as though we were having conversation with him over coffee as he laid out his vision to transform one of Australia’s oldest banks into one more digitally focused and one that acts more like a disruptive company.
Startups need to keep banks on their toes
Elliott started by highlighting the importance of Australia’s financial services industry to the country’s economy, and the role that startups play in “keeping banks on their toes” when it comes to innovation that improves the customer experience.
“ANZ is no longer just competing with rival banks but with companies like Uber and Airbnb that are now defining what a good customer experience looks like,” he said.
Acknowledging that “startups are needed for the system to work”, Elliott stated that ANZ is set to invest in and partner up with emerging companies that are focused on improving the customer experience.
He even encouraged the entrepreneurs in the room to email him or his chief technology officer Patrick Maes directly if they had a product or idea that could help ANZ improve its customer service.
It isn’t going to be easy for the big banks
When asked how he planned to create an innovative culture at ANZ, Elliott stated that he fully expected to face challenges in integrating the agile and entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley into the conservative and risk-focused culture of the bank.
“Banking is about identifying and mitigating risk; innovation is about taking risk, it is a challenge for us to figure out how to support both of those cultures in the same place”, he said.
He said that ANZ would need to attract and retain more curious and outward-thinking people, and that he hoped in the future he would see his executive team more interested in technology and talking more about it during their board meetings.
Banks are ready to unlock open data
Elliott also touched on big data and how the bank would use its treasure trove of customer data. In the past it was too difficult and costly to do anything meaningful with the data, however now that the cost of storing and analysing it has dramatically reduced, the bank is now starting to look at ways in which it could leverage its rich source of data to improve the customer experience.
There are enormous opportunities for fintechs in the SME market
Elliott also explained that he sees enormous opportunities for fintechs to innovate in the small to medium business market, because small business owners are far more engaged than retail customers.
“With retail customers, once they have they have a mortgage they lose interest in the bank, while small business owners on the other hand are passionately interested in their business and so remain highly engaged,” he said.
As for the opportunities, Elliott said that he saw a gap in the market for better technologies to make the process of running a business simpler.
“One of the main reasons people give up on running their own business is that they are frustrated with spending too much time on administration, so there is big scope for any fintech players who are working on improving that particular customer experience,” he said.
Chad Barendse is a member of Fintech Melbourne and a business consultant at NAB.