Turning innovation into success

Q&A with Antonia Watson, Managing Director of Retail & Business Banking at ANZ New Zealand.
Airpoints for Business partner ANZ's Antonia Watson.

ANZ has a strong track record of successful technology innovation. What do you think is the most critical success factor?

Technology innovation is part of a much bigger challenge for all businesses - digital transformation. Digital transformation strategies need to come from the very top of an organisation and they need to connect all of your digital, technology, data and customer tactics. 

You can then approach technology innovation by focusing on the problems you need to solve to progress your overall digital transformation strategy.

All too often, companies have disparate pockets of tech innovation here and there without being connected with an overall strategy to move the company forward.

There are a lot of smaller financial technology (fintech) companies emerging - are you worried about this disruption on your business? And should SMEs be worried about disruption?

What we're seeing is a model where banks and fintechs co-exist and even partner to provide customers a better service than either could do on their own. Certainly, that's our approach.

We all know disruption is borne of dissatisfaction. We need to constantly take a step back and identify customer pain points because this is where someone else might be able to offer our customers a better service than we do. If we know that, we can improve - a good thing for customers.

Does ANZ have a philosophy of being a first adopter of the latest and greatest technology? Do you think SMEs should aspire to this?

Not necessarily. We're not about introducing technology for technology's sake. It's about looking at our customers' needs and using technology to meet those - not introducing flash new technology and then trying to convince our customers to use it.

For example, our list of updates for our digital banking tools (ANZ goMoney app and Internet Banking), is always based on the most requested items from our customers. Given we have more than 30 million digital log-ins each month, that's based on quite a lot of user-experience!

Have you personally had to up-skill in the digital and technology space? How should SMEs approach this?

Managing technology has to be part of the job description for any modern executive. You have to stay in touch with what's happening around the world, being aware of emerging trends, assessing them against the needs of your own business and customer base and employing the best talent to help navigate the way. Mostly though it's about being open to knowing what you don't know and doing something about it.

What are you doing in the tech space to make it easier for SMEs to work with ANZ?

Lots! We're all about making things easier for small business. We recently launched a collaboration with New Zealand company SmartPayroll to give business customers a six-month free trial of its easy-to-use online payroll system. Our customers were telling us that their biggest struggles were time and staff. We also knew that more than half were still using a spreadsheet or desk-based solution to manage their payroll. With SmartPayroll, business owners have access to a fast, easy and secure way to pay employees in line with the latest legislation and can automatically send reports to the IRD.

Sometimes companies need to introduce technology which cuts down on the work previously done by staff members. How do you deal with this?

For us, technology supports our staff so they can do their jobs better, while freeing them up from simple transactions that customers can do themselves. It puts the customers in control and frees up our staff to provide more meaningful help for customers.

For example, from July we've enabled customers to report lost or stolen credit cards and order replacements through goMoney. Already, customers have moved to block more than 100,000 cards. That means we've saved all those customers from having to come into a branch/call the contact centre, but we've also freed up our staff to be able to help customers with more complicated enquiries.

The average ANZ customer uses our goMoney app two times a day, Internet Banking two to three times a week, and visits a branch one to two times a year. But when customers visit a branch, it's usually to talk about big life events like buying a home or new options to support their business growth. People mostly prefer to talk to people about these things - and this is where our staff can be most valuable. We have more banking specialists in more places so freeing them up to have those conversations is key.

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Next up:

Read 'Building your business up', a Q&A with Randstad Recruitment NZ, where we dig a little deeper into the smartest strategies for business development and workforce planning.