Our Asia strategy is not a failure, says ANZ CEO

Key Points
  • ANZ offloaded a few assets in Asia in the past year, but CEO Shayne Elliott said the bank is not downsizing in the region
  • Instead, ANZ is tweaking its strategy to focus on corporate and institutional clients, he said
We want to be back on front foot in South Australia: ANZ CEO
We want to be back on front foot in South Australia: ANZ CEO

Australia's fourth largest bank ANZ may appear to be downsizing operations in Asia with the recent asset sales, but its chief executive said the lender was merely "tweaking our strategy."

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Tuesday the "tweaks" to focus on its corporate clients in Asia came after taking into consideration the changing landscape.

"Yes, of course we're tweaking our strategy, and what business doesn't? We tweak because we learn and this is a fast-changing economy. We've got to keep up with that change," Elliott said in response to a question on whether ANZ's strategy in Asia was a failure.

ANZ offloaded its retail and wealth businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia to DBS Group Holdings last year. Elliott noted that the retail segment was "really, really small," relative to ANZ's overall size, which was why the bank decided to "put our intellectual and financial capital to work in our institutional bank."

In addition, the bank also disposed of its holdings in several banks, including the Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank, to streamline its business — a decision that "doesn't really impact anybody" as those were just investments and not subsidiary banks, according to Elliott.

ANZ is not the only bank that has shifted its strategy in Asia. In May, National Australia Bank announced that it is selling its private wealth business to Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. to also focus on corporate and institutional clients.

The Australian banking sector is facing a rough patch after the government announced a surprise bank levy in its annual budget. Rising housing debt levels in the country also led to Moody's Investor Service downgrading the credit ratings of Australia's biggest banks.