Alex Thursby talks about ANZ's plans in the region

ANZ announces the completion of its acquisition of RBS retail and commercial businesses in Hong Kong and Alex Thursby takes the opportunity to talk about new services and the bank's target market.

Usually when a deal is completed, it doesn't quite make headline news -- the fanfare typically surrounds the announcement of a deal.

Wisely, ANZ paired up the announcement of the completion of the acquisition of the Royal Bank of Scotland's retail and commercial businesses in Hong Kong with the announcement of a new service to meet the needs of affluent retail customers, its ANZ Signature Priority Banking service, which it will roll out across Asia-Pacific during the next 18 months. And for the extra media-savvy touch, Alex Thursby, the CEO for Asia-Pacific, Europe and America, was on hand for media questions.

"ANZ has a different philosophy to many banks in the retail and wealth market," said Thursby. "We will be spending more time building relationships with clients and really getting to know their needs and individual goals rather than simply selling them products."

The features of the new service, available for individuals in Hong Kong with assets greater than HK$1 million to invest, include individual service through a personal relationship manager, access to investment and portfolio management specialists, and 24-hour phone and internet banking. Wealth management services will include investment products, insurance, mortgages and personal loans. The bank also highlights its ability to handle international banking and investments.

When asked how he foresees ANZ's ability to compete in this already keenly contested arena, Thursby underscored that the bank would take a client-led approach, or, to put it more bluntly, won't be pushing products for the bank's sake but rather selling products that fit clients' needs. When FinanceAsia pointed out that most banks talk that talk, he said: "We set this standard at the top. You [meaning bankers who work for him] can either get on board or go out the door... we're coming in, dare I use the word...a little bit purist."

Depending upon the country, ANZ is looking to capture the top 4% to 10% of the market -- for example, its target market in Vietnam might be the top 4% of the bank market, while in Hong Kong the target will be a larger chunk of the market as there is a bigger, wealthier pool here. The bank is broadening from targeting expatriates, and hopes to build relationships with wealthy Asian families. And, of course, as it builds its institutional business it hopes to capture business from the lawyers, accountants and bankers who are working on those deals and are becoming more familiar with the ANZ brand.

"ANZ has a very strong heritage in commercial banking, and we'll provide a relationship-led service for our new commercial clients, backed by our institutional product range and network across more than 30 countries globally," said Thursby.

RBS angle

Meanwhile, ANZ has re-branded the former RBS Hong Kong branches and brought customers and staff across to ANZ with what it says was minimal disruption. Thursby said that 96% to 97% of the customers switched over to ANZ. Former RBS customers retain their existing relationship managers and can continue to access branches, ATMs and internet banking facilities as usual.

Hong Kong is the third of six markets to transition to ANZ ownership, following the completion of the RBS acquisition in the Philippines and Vietnam in late 2009. ANZ acquired the RBS retail and commercial businesses in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and the institutional businesses in Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

When asked if he was considering further acquisitions, Thursby didn't rule out the possibility entirely. Instead he said that the bank has a three-pronged criteria for acquisitions: that they yield accretion in the medium term (roughly three to four years), that they are in line with the ANZ strategy plan, and that they are able to effectively integrate with ANZ.

"But we don't have to rely on more acquisitions to aggressively grow our business," he concluded.

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