Less 'would you like fries with that' and more 'needs-based conversations' expected from ANZ staff, as bank changes its remuneration structure

By Jenée Tibshraeny

The days of ANZ staff pulling out the, ‘Would you like fries with that?’ line every time you set foot in a branch, are expected to be numbered.

The bank is changing the way it pays staff so they’re less incentivised to hard sell products to customers who don’t want or need them.

From October, 25% to 30% of frontline staffs’ bonuses will be derived from how much they sell. Currently this portion sits at over 50%, depending on employees’ roles.

Speaking to interest.co.nz in a Double Shot Interview, ANZ’s retail and business banking managing director Antonia Watson says she hopes this shift won’t change the customer experience too much, as she trusts staff are already doing best by their customers.

“If you want to be in and out [of a branch] and are in a hurry, we’re not going to try to stop you by having a conversation about something you don’t want,” she says.

“If you’re someone who’s saving for their first home loan, and the person behind the counter’s identified that, they might ask you if you want to come back and have a conversation about that later. That might still happen.”

Watson says the change in pay structure will also encourage staff to better target those they cold call.

“We might have found out you might have come to one of our home loan seminars and said you’re interested in buying a house. We might give you a call and say, ‘Would you like to come in and discuss whether we give you a mortgage pre-approval?’”

77% of ANZ staff surveyed pressured to sell beyond customers’ needs

Yet First Union, which represents around 1,100 ANZ staff, believes ANZ has a long way to go to change its sales-driven culture.

Having recently surveyed employees (members and non-members) at 40 ANZ branches across the country, it found 77% felt pressured to sell beyond customers’ needs.

First Union’s national organiser for the finance sector Tali Williams says this is around 7-10 percentage points higher than ANZ’s competitors.

Williams says the survey outcome indicates that the unreasonable amount of pressure being put on staff is systemic, rather than stemming from a few “bad egg” managers.

Having provided interest.co.nz with a copy of the answers respondents gave when First Union asked them what they meant when they said they were under pressure, one can see Watson is correct in saying staff want to do what’s best for their customers.

Yet being penalised for failing to meet high sales targets, they are put in compromising positions. Some responses include:

"Personally I do feel pressured, but resist. You know that if you don't meet targets someone will start on you!"

"The pressure is to sell, sell, sell otherwise we are not meeting our targets then you feel incapable, incompetent and disempowered with major lack of confidence in your ability to succeed."

"Coming to work makes me feel sick. I am supposed to be thinking about giving good customer service and it is supposed to be an incentive but instead not achieving your target is used as a weapon against you as a threat to being dismissed. We all know that if customers do not buy the products we try and sell them then we could lose our jobs!"

"…Particularly with credit cards. Made to call people and recommend even though the person can't afford. Pushed to make many calls. Know that some staff push products that people don't need. EG someone on a benefit being set up a serious saver for $5/week then they get charged when they then take the $5 back out. 18 and 19 year olds with $20,000 loans."

Watson says she doesn’t want products to be sold to people who don’t need them.

“So that’s one of the reasons that I’m passionately a proponent of the model that we’re going to, because we will be rewarding our staff for having good needs-based conversations with customers.”

Under the new system, “customer, people, process and financial [IE sales volumes]” will be given even weightings when staff performance is measured.

A changing tide when it comes to regulation

These changes align with a wave of new regulations in both New Zealand and Australia that aim to transform the culture of the banking sector, from being sales to customer centric.

ANZ’s new incentive programme, for example, meets many of the recommendations Australia’s ex-Public Service Commissioner, Stephen Sedgwick, made in a retail banking remuneration review published on April 19.

Sedgwick, in the report commissioned by the Australian Bankers’ Association, concluded: “…there is not sufficient evidence of significant systemic risks of poor outcomes for customers to support an outright ban on all product based payments in retail banking.

“Nonetheless… some current practices carry an unacceptable risk of promoting behaviour that is inconsistent with the interests of customers and should be changed.

“Some of these relate to management practices that may reduce the effectiveness of the bank’s risk mitigation strategies. Other practices relate to the way incentives and remuneration are structured.”

In New Zealand, the soon to be completed review of the Financial Advisers Act is also expected to specifically require all advisers to put their customers’ interests ahead of their own “regardless of the differing financial incentives offered by providers”.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment explains advisers “would not be expected to consider the full range of products from across the market, but would be required to recommend the best product for the consumer from their suite and, if no product from those providers is genuinely suitable, to advise the consumer on that basis”.

ANZ NZ and Westpac NZ commit to Sedgwick

Watson says that ANZ’s remuneration restructure wasn’t specifically based on the Sedgwick report or the Financial Advisers Act review. Rather: “Everything’s going in the same direction.

“You’ve seen that with banking over the last number of years. It has been clear what our customers and our staff and our stakeholders are looking for.”

While the four major banks were quick off the block committing to implementing Sedgwick’s 21 recommendations in Australia; in New Zealand, only ANZ and Westpac have reassured First Union of their commitment.

Westpac has told interest.co.nz: “Westpac NZ is strongly committed to the principles behind the Sedgwick Report’s recommendations; while there are differences between the Australian and New Zealand environments, we will review and identify how we can use these recommendations to improve the way we operate and the service we provide our customers.”

ASB says: “Where the Sedgwick report can add value to our customers and the service we provide to them, we will certainly consider its recommendations in the context of the New Zealand Banking environment.”

BNZ says it is committed to honouring “the spirit” of the report. “Any changes we may make in the future will be done with customer front of mind, and in consultation with our staff as part of our normal employment negotiations.”

Incentives to continue making up around 10% of pay

ANZ has been piloting its new remuneration structure in the North Shore since April.  

Asked whether she can provide any reassurances the change in pay structure has proven to alleviate pressures on staff, Watson says: “I would hope so, yes.”

“In general, they are enjoying working under that new incentive programme…

“It’s a different mindset for our staff I think. Understanding the different leavers - that we’re rewarding them for behaviours, for the types of conversations they’re having - not just for the outright sales points or the customer satisfaction score…

“It’s not costly or anything like that. Our incentives tend to be a very low percentage of peoples’ pay - no more than 10%, depending on the role on average. That type of thing is not going to change.”

Asked how we will know whether ANZ has in fact achieved the cultural change it is setting out to make, Watson says ANZ NZ’s parent company will undergo an independent review to ensure it aligns with the Sedgwick recommendations in Australia.

“We [in NZ] tend to align a lot of things with them.”

Furthermore, she says there will be audits, surveys and reviews of the new incentive structure once it’s rolled out throughout the country in October.

“Although we need to test and learn a little bit. We’re not going to say it’s going to be perfect from day one, so there might be little changes that go ahead. And of course every year we do a thorough review of the plan for the coming year.”

*This article was first published in our email for paying subscribers early on Friday morning. See here for more details and how to subscribe.

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8 Comments

As an ANZ customer I can attest that they have been awesome on this front. We signed up with ANZ when we moved back to New Zealand earlier this year and we were assigned a contact person. I thought "here we go, we're about to be sold everything under the sun" but this hasn't been the case - even with Kiwisaver, our contact person talked us through some options, said something like "it's your money, take your time with your decision" and left it at that....zero hard sell of the ANZ product.

Not sure if we were even in the pilot area, but great work ANZ, very happy customer here!

I had an interesting experience where they closed all my transactions accounts without telling me because they said I hadnt used it in 6 months. I had current C/C.

"because we can" was the answer when asked why. Had to go to a physical branch if I wanted to open another. Nice. So they obviously dont get docked anything for closing them after opening them :)

There wouldn't be any additional incentive to sell to into a different Kiwisaver risk profile, just to sell you the product.

That's what I meant, they didn't even push us joining ANZ kiwisaver vs. any other bank or provider.

I can image the conversation: "There will be fewer incentives to sell. However if you want to keep working here you better meet these sales targets or we'll performance manage you out." You have to start out by defining what an incentive is.

No incentives, but still will be an individual target board in the back office somewhere and the poor banking person will be pressured to sale. It's no longer about service it's all about sales.
Next time go to the bank just tell them you want a credit card or try telling them you just want to do some account maintenance see the differences of their reaction.

The shift to online banking as opposed to bricks and mortar further screws the bank worker bees. It's all very well for Antonia and her "balanced scorecard", but I wonder if there objectives and shifts in business models have all been thought through.

ANZ’s retail and business banking managing director Antonia Watson is the same person quoted in the NZ Herald on 8 May 2017 saying "We have zero tolerance for being associated with people who recommend exploitation of individuals for their own benefit." The pot calling the kettle black I would say...