Bringing the new ANZ to life

David Hisco

  • ANZ National chief executive
  • Appointed August 2010, replacing Jenny Fagg.
  • Head of ANZ’s commercial segment globally
  • Worked at ANZ for more than 32 years

One year on from ANZ’s crunch move – merging the National Bank into the ANZ – its chief executive David Hisco can sit back and say he had a win.

It was the biggest challenge the South Australian has tackled in his banking career, which he started by sweeping the car park at his local ANZ branch in Adelaide when he was 17.

Scrapping the National Bank and its black horse logo in favour of the single ANZ National brand was a “complex and emotional” decision, but it was the background work to move the two banks on to the same technology platform that was the biggest hurdle.

He points to the issues with the education payroll system Novapay as an example of what could have gone wrong.

“Imagine if we upset a system that supports 35% of the country’s payments,” Mr Hisco says.


Planned with military precision

Rivals wasted no time pouncing with their creative advertisements, seeking to lure National Bank customers who were put out by the rebrand.But Mr Hisco says ANZ had already spent 18 months working on how its competitors would respond and planning how to counter-attack.

ANZ had a range of strategies if it got attacked, and Mr Hisco says it didn’t get hit as he thought.

Rumours about job cuts were killed early on and Mr Hisco says something he’s most proud of is how the frontline branch staff stood up and helped to bring the new ANZ to life.

Frontline staff had been the ones pushing for a decision on the brand – knowing National’s black horse and green colour branding, licensed from British Bank Lloyds TSB, was due to expire in 2014, and were supportive of the rebrand, telling him to “bring it on,” Mr Hisco says.

“I said to the team, if you are up for this, I will lead it but I need you with me, and everyone was really keen to do it.

“Sometimes you can have that [support] but your troops don’t jump out of the trenches.

 “But our frontline was ready on the day.”

ANZ has now rebranded all ATMs in this country and there is only a handful of branches to change from green to blue in the $100 million rebrand.

“The original plan was to complete the rebrand within two years. We’ll achieve that ahead of schedule, in the next couple of months,” Mr Hisco says.

Although some customers have voted with their feet, Mr Hisco says they were the “noisy minority” and mostly those with smaller accounts.

“Most customers we approached thought the decision was understandable,” Mr Hisco says.

In the last year the bank has also gained customers who saw the benefit of what the bank can offer through its size, he says.

Post-merger, ANZ will have about 280 full service branches – more than any bank

“We’re in more towns and communities than any other bank.

That means more experts in wealth, trade, markets and business banking on the ground in local branches, rather than centralised in the major centres …

“It’s very hard for others to drive into those markets without putting staff on the ground.”

Then there is the offshore network in 32 other countries.

“If you are in China you can walk into an ANZ and see the blue blazer – that’s powerful for our business customers.”

Moving to a single IT system had also stripped cost out of the group, which means ANZ can compete harder in the low-growth environment, where competition between banks is fierce.

“They [rival banks] haven’t stolen our market share and we have grown.”

ANZ’s market share has grown about 30 basis points over the last year for mortgages.


Street cred with staff

Mr Hisco joined ANZ as a school-leaver after the boss of his paper run – also an ANZ branch manager – told him he was good with money and suggested he worked in a bank.

From carpark-sweeper Mr Hisco became a bank teller and has been working his way up the ranks ever since. He now earns more than $4 million a year as chief executive.

Mr Hisco spends about half his time as chief executive meeting staff, customers and other stakeholders.

“The way to find out what is going on is getting out and talking to the front line,” he says.

Having done just about every job in a retail bank gives him street cred with the staff.

What does he love about his banking career?

“Just about every time, you’re helping someone get ahead. And that’s good fun – helping with their dreams to buy a house or take their business to the next level … the missing ingredient is often advice and money and we can help with that.”


What schoolkids need to know about money

Mr Hisco also visits a high school once a month to speak to young audiences about money and saving.

He tells them how by saving his paper run money he was able to buy his first car, a Holden Kingswood.

Borrow for the big things like a house but, for small things such as a car or stereo, which depreciate, they should try to pay cash, he tells them.

Hitting savings targets can be like getting a new high score on Playstation, he says.


On fair play on fees: see you in court

Mr Hisco wasn’t surprised ANZ is to take the first bullet in the landmark group action against banks for penalty fee-gouging.

“It was logical it would be us because we have the most customers. If they can’t get an action up with us, they won’t with anyone.

“We’ll see them in court,” he says of the Fair Play on Fees campaign bid to sue the bank for allegedly overcharging an estimated $250 million in dishonour or penalty fees over six years.

He points out these exception fees are avoidable, so it’s partly to do with how well organised a person is about managing their finances

“We will go to court and work it through and do what we have to do to defend it,” Mr Hisco says.

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