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Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Executive Success: Bringing tech to the top table

Role reflects banking's new digital focus.
Liz Maguire.
Liz Maguire.

As digital disruption reshapes banking, the local ANZ operation is making space around the top table for tech-savvy talent.

A recent reshuffle at leadership level has seen digital specialist Liz Maguire pulled into the ANZ New Zealand executive team. Maguire, 46, is ANZ's head of digital and transformation, and previously reported to retail head and now Australian boss Fred Ohlsson. She says the changes signal the importance of digital across the bank offering, not just its retail operations.

New ANZ group chief executive Shayne Elliot has been vocal about digital transformation being his legacy for the bank, so having digital expertise at executive level sends the message that he is serious, says Maguire.

As digital disruption ripples through banking, she says many leaders have worked out that they don't have a handle on technology and its impacts.

"A lot of bigger companies, their boards will have people who have functional expertise or expertise in their particular line of business.

"If you think about the ANZ New Zealand board, there are lots of really great people who have a huge amount of experience but none of them did a lot of digital in their careers; they didn't grow up with digital.

"I'm certainly not a digital native but they're even more removed from being digital natives."

Banks have long relied on technology to run operations, but there is generally a banker standing between the system and the customer.

It doesn't matter if the system is 20 years old with a clunky interface because a banker will be helping the customer, Maguire says.

Digital banking needs to deliver solutions that are intuitive, fast and easy compared with the alternative, she says. "That's a really key thing - it's got to be better.

"We don't do technology for the sake of doing some cool new technology.

"We try and go 'what's the problem we're trying to solve?' and try and solve the problem." Mobile banking, internet banking, the ANZ website and a number of digital tools used by customers and staff fall under Maguire's mandate.

Maguire herself is a retail banker with a strong background in consumer finance - from credit cards to personal loans - but has always been interested in how banking and technology can come together.

Within banking you don't find that many business people who are good at thinking about technology as well.
Liz Maguire

"I'm a good problem solver," she says. "Within banking you don't find that many business people who are good at thinking about technology as well so I was a natural fit, I think, to get in and solve what was seen as some technology issues."

The tiny team she joined eight years ago has grown exponentially in the past few years, and Maguire admits she would probably struggle to make the leap from retail to digital now without the technology knowledge she has built up.

"Eight years ago there wasn't really any digital banking experts so I could 'fake it 'till I make it' really." Alongside the jump across into digital banking, Maguire counts the move from branch work as a graduate to a role in the credit cards division as a key turning point, although it didn't feel that way when she returned from holiday to find a note stuck to her computer telling her to report to cards on Monday.

"In those days no one performance managed anyone out - everyone just sent them all to cards." But rather than a sideways move, it was an opportunity to work for someone she admired - who had requested she join the team.

Maguire says without that move across to consumer finance and ultimately into digital, it's likely she would have ended up a frontline banker.

That's not to say her sheer bloody mindedness wouldn't have put her on an interesting career trajectory anyway.

"I've got one hand - I was born without my hand - and I'm not the sort of person who likes help from people," she says.

"I'm very independent.

"For me, moving into new things or taking on new things feels like someone daring me to do something, so I'll always take the dare.

"There is nothing more guaranteed to do something than if someone says to me 'I don't think you can do that'."

Her favourite projects have been ANZ's mobile wallet, which makes payments through your phone using a contactless terminal, and the mobile banking app.

Since launching late last year it has had 20,000 customers sign up to the digital wallet.

"We're really pleased with how it is going."

The other high point was managing the property portfolio when ANZ folded National Bank into its brand.

That wasn't remotely digital, but was a job she picked up by dint of the "transformation" part of her job title.

Maguire oversaw as 70 side-by-side branches merged, new branches opened and others were rebranded, in a $100 million property investment.

When she joined the project, no one had any idea how it would all be achieved, which is the kind of challenge Maguire likes to get her teeth into.

"For me the projects that I've really loved the most have been the ones that are a bit high risk, but where I've had exceptionally good people to work with."

- NZ Herald

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