A child performs the role of ANZ. Photo: Getty

Everybody stop being so mean to ANZ immediately

They’re hinting that new rules might make them quit their New Zealand operations, and you should feel bad about it, writes Toby Manhire

In this brutal modern life there’s a lot to worry about, all the time, so it’s completely understandable if you rarely find a moment to stop and think of the downtrodden and struggling. But sometimes it is imperative that you suck in a big old breath and open your heart, and ideally your wallet, too, to those who have it really tough.

I’m not talking about the disgruntled customers of the Springfield cafe, who had to endure impoliteness in their quest to buy a delicious pie. I’m not talking, either, about leading disc jockey Mike Hosking, who has plummeted into a deep funk after being separated from the one thing he loves most of all: plastic bags. No, this one goes deeper.

How could any right-thinking New Zealander with a pulse not shed a tear nor feel a pang of national shame at hearing of ANZ’s hurt feelings in response to a Reserve Bank plan that would require it to hold more capital. It appears to be deeply glum, upset, betrayed, even. So affronted is it by the Reserve Bank proposal, it might, it might just – it just might! – “review and reconsider” its operations in New Zealand, or, to use the technical language, take its ball and go home.

The meanies at the Reserve Bank have upset them, and now they’re sad. Across New Zealand, kiwis are hanging their heads, and not just because that’s their default anatomical state. We’ve really done it this time.

In a submission to the Reserve Bank on the proposal to raise the big banks’ capital ratio to 16% to limit the impact of a GFC sequel, the group boss of ANZ, Shayne Elliott, said the very “size, nature and operations” of the New Zealand arm of the bank would be up for review should it go ahead.

It’s horrible to see such a plucky upstart so insulted, so unhappy, made to feel so unwelcome. Just because they’re New Zealand’s biggest bank, doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

Have you considered, for example, that New Zealand gets two of the three initials in their name? By rights it should be like a massive A, in 800-point font, and the NZ a tiny little 12-point or something. That’d be fine by us. But, no, we get font-size parity. How ungrateful we must seem. If they quit us altogether they’d be the A Bank, which would be much better.

Is it any wonder that the Black Caps played in such a cloud of whakamā against the fun-loving Aussie Battlers at Lord’s the other day? It was clear to anyone studying the faces of the lads at the “home of Cricket” that they had just been reading the RBNZ Summary of Submissions to the Capital Review Paper No 4.

No, we must stop being so horrible to ANZ. After all what a miserable few weeks it has been. ANZ New Zealand chairman Sir John Key, a former captain of the All Blacks, was shown utter disrespect as he munched on the Hisco biscuits and shuffled the CEO out the back exit over some minor issues around expenses for chauffeured cars and wine storage in a process that was definitely the same as would have happened if it had been a branch teller rather than a guy on $3.5 million a year.

The appalling indignity suffered by the outgoing CEO David Hisco was only magnified by reports that dragged his wife into the whole saga, and for what? Only because ANZ sold her an Auckland mansion for quite a lot less than market value. After all who can honestly say they or their spouse hasn’t scored an Auckland mansion from a multi-billion company for less than market value?

And that’s not the half of it. There’s the reports of numerous attempts to blow the whistle on expenses irregularities. The sacking of staffers after allegedly fiddling customer feedback. And the big one, that sparked the perfect storm: the malcontents at the Reserve Bank stung ANZ over the way it was calculating operational risk capital, telling ANZ it was a very, very naughty bank.

Taken together it’s enough to demand a re-release of that beloved charity single “Leave John Key Alone”.

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Is it any surprise that ANZ is hinting it might sulk off home, especially given net profit is down. Yes, only very slightly. And, yes, they’re still profiting virtually $2 billion a year from New Zealand operations, which is roughly $400 per human New Zealander, but forget that: have a bloody heart, will you, and stop being so mean.

It’s a grim state of affairs. And as long as Amnesty International remain silent, do at least this: take a moment out of your busy day, string your tiniest violin, and pay your respects by watching an example of ANZ’s finest hour, when they hired an Australian actor to advertise an Australian bank to Australians by putting on an American accent and saying bizarre things to strangers in cafes.

And, oh, what a slogan: We live in your world.


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