ANZ celebrates 'best ever' year after Suncorp acquisition hearing

Major bank outlines plans for 2024

ANZ celebrates 'best ever' year after Suncorp acquisition hearing


By Ryan Johnson

ANZ celebrated its “best-ever year” at its annual general meeting, with the major bank reinforcing its ties to Queensland after the Suncorp Bank (Suncorp) acquisition tribunal hearing ended last week.

ANZ chairperson Paul O’Sullivan (pictured above left) and ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott (pictured above right) outlined the bank’s love for the Sunshine State - a heavy theme throughout both of their speeches to the board held in Brisbane on December 21.

The address, which touched on many issues, ended with Elliott outlining ANZ’s priorities for 2024.

Elliott: 2023 ‘undoubtably’ ANZ’s ‘best ever’

Starting with the financial results, ANZ’s full-year cash profit of $7.4 billion, up 14% on the prior year, can be attributed to all four of its divisions - Australia retail, commercial, institutional, and New Zealand.

“A year ago, I described our 2022 results as ‘one of the best set of results we have delivered’ and 2023 is undoubtedly our best-ever,” said Elliott.

“Each of them has a strong sense of purpose, a clear strategy built on unique strengths, and generates returns sustainably above cost of capital.”

Elliott said the major bank had started the new financial year well despite “high levels of competition and concerns around a slowing of the economy”, with the bank’s first quarter revenue in line with the second half of the 2023 financial year.

“ANZ has demonstrated a proven ability over many years to manage our expenses well. While facing into ongoing inflationary pressures, we continue to execute on productivity initiatives to partially offset these headwinds,” Elliott said.

ANZ competitive, not market-leading on pricing

Interestingly, Elliott sought to establish ANZ’s position in the home loan and commercial lending market.

Elliott said lending growth remained strong across ANZ’s retail and commercial franchises “in particular”.

However, he admitted that the focus was to remain competitive and reliable rather than offering the sharpest rates.

“Our investment in home loan processing capability and capacity and improved broker experience are providing ongoing benefits,” Elliott said.

“We want to grow our Australian home loan book profitably by continuing to offer reliable turnaround times, and in line with that we are competitive but not market leading on pricing.”

ANZ’s love letter to Queensland

While both speeches touched on everything from cybersecurity, ESG, and climate change to denouncing racism and antisemitism, the point was clear: ANZ likes Queensland.

The comments came days after the appeal to the Australian Competition Tribunal over the ACCC’s rejection of ANZ’s $4.9 billion acquisition of Suncorp Bank ended on December 15.

The contentious acquisition was rejected because of concerns it would reduce competition in Queensland.

However, ANZ has argued the acquisition would create a combined bank that is “better equipped to respond to competitive pressures to the benefit of Australian consumers” and deliver “significant public benefits, particularly in Queensland”.

Starting with the most recent news, both Elliott and O’Sullivan acknowledged the catastrophic flooding that that has occurred in Far-North Queensland in the wake of cyclone Jasper.

ANZ had contributed $100,000 to recovery efforts as part of the state government’s fundraising efforts.

“We’re especially grateful to our staff who worked hard to keep branches open and ensure customers had access to services,” O’Sullivan said.

“The bank is providing support packages for affected customers as they recover - including loan payment relief as well as waiving fees for restructuring business loans and accessing term deposits early.”

Elliott and O’Sullivan then reminisced about the rich history of ANZ in Queensland. O’Sullivan talked about the board’s visit to Brisbane, Toowoomba, and other areas meeting small business owners, while Elliott touched on the many ANZ initiatives currently running or piloted in the state.

“We have been serving the community here since 1851 when the Union Bank – a predecessor to the modern ANZ – opened in Queen Street…not far from where we are meeting today,” O’Sullivan said.

“At ANZ, we are optimistic about Queensland – a state blessed with a great mix of industries, proximity to Asia and a young and fast-growing population.”

Looking ahead to the ANZ-Suncorp acquisition decision

Eventually, both speeches led to directly addressing the ANZ-Suncorp acquisition.

Elliott said ANZ has “exciting plans” to support more customers as well as the economic growth of Queensland, which is “one of the fastest growing states”.

This included ANZ’s decision to build a major tech hub in Brisbane, creating 700 jobs for Queenslanders in digital, cloud and data if the acquisition goes ahead.

“We believe young Queenslanders should be able to access world-class jobs such as these, in their home state,” Elliott said.

O’Sullivan outlined the next steps for the acquisition when the Australian Competition Tribunal makes its decision in February.

“If we are successful at the Tribunal, the acquisition will then need the approval of the Federal Treasurer and the passage of legislation through the Queensland Parliament,” O’Sullivan said.

“We continue preparations to bring Suncorp Bank customers and people into the ANZ Group, subject of course to these conditions being met and much appreciated the Queensland Government’s submission to the Tribunal in support of our acquisition.”

ANZ’s priorities for 2024

Ending the speech, Elliott outlined five of ANZ’s top priorities for 2024:

  • Continue to run the group prudently, using strength to support customers through challenging times and seek opportunity from our regional network,
  • Further improve productivity, using tools like Generative AI to build further capacity for investment,
  • Grow the number of customers using ANZ Plus and deepen their engagement,
  • Continue to invest wisely in Commercial, Institutional and New Zealand,
  • And finally, complete the acquisition of Suncorp Bank.

“While the acquisition of Suncorp Bank would significantly increase the scale of our retail and commercial bank, helping us to compete even more effectively, if the transaction is blocked, we remain confident in the execution of our Australian growth strategy,” Elliott said.

“We have a fortress balance sheet, the right portfolio, and a proven team, to ensure we can support our customers while delivering for our shareholders through challenging times.”

“Let me finish by thanking our people at ANZ for their hard work and wishing you and your families a very happy festive season and a prosperous 2024.”

What do you think of ANZ’s year and its plans for 2024? Comment below.

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