New Zealand born bank boss Ross McEwan, believes it will take two years for the economies of New Zealand and Australia to bounce back to where they were at the end of 2019.
McEwan who heads up the National Australia Bank, parent of the BNZ, made the prediction during an online interview hosted by the NZ CFA Society last week.
"I think 2022 is the year the economy will be back to where it was when we exited 2019. So it's a pretty tough two years to get through. But we should be looking to the future of both countries."
McEwan was jetted in to head up NAB after its previous chief executive resigned in the wake of scandals revealed as part of Australia's Royal Commission into misconduct in the financial services sector.
He is based in Melbourne where he is working out of an office in a bubble of three in a city which is in lockdown.
McEwan said before Covid hit the bank had the capability for about 4000 staff to work remotely but three weeks after the pandemic hit Australia it had 90 per cent of staff working from home - about 28,000 workers.
"And we have been in that position for four to five months."
McEwan said the building he was working from was built to house nearly 6000 workers.
The bank had another building down the road which had been completely closed and mothballed and a third office which normally had 4500 workers had about 100 staff working from it in essential roles that were difficult to do from home.
It took about two weeks for the bank to get the working-from-home situation under control.
"We had some glitches in the first weeks, mainly through outsourced operational contracts overseas where we had to get our own colleagues to pick up on those jobs and since then, even though we had so many customers ring and seek support, after about two weeks we were back in good shape serving customers again."
He said that showed the adaptability of people if they were given good technology.
McEwan said the ban carried out a survey of staff recently which found 80 per cent did not want to come back to work in the same shape they left with many wanting to spend two or three days a week working from home.
"I think we have got a structural shift going on here."
But he said New Zealand and Australia were two of the luckiest countries in the world when it came to facing Covid-19.
McEwan said the good financial discipline over the past decades by governments meant both countries had arrived at the crisis with low debt levels to GDP.
That had allowed both governments to borrow heavily through bonds to support their respective economies.
"I think it is worthwhile given we do not want masses of numbers of people unemployed. It is bad enough as it sits today. The last thing we want in established societies like New Zealand and Australia is high unemployment."
McEwan said he was very supportive of the employer wage subsidy put in place to keep workers connected to their employers.
He said extensions were likely to be necessary again to continue to support industries which had been forced to shut down.
"They are going to have to keep doing that because we have closed down big chunks of industries here that we will want to get going again when we find a solution for Covid."
McEwan was confident that tourism and hospitality would come back again.
"I truly believe New Zealand and Australia - if we look back in two or three years - will realise this was a great place to be and people will want to come here again which will get those economies moving again."
McEwan said the NAB job was likely to be the last big CEO role he did before coming back to New Zealand to live.
"I want to do something after and our view is that will be back in New Zealand."
McEwan said proximity to New Zealand was part of the reason he took on the NAB job after spending time in the United Kingdom heading up the RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland).
"That was one of the reasons we moved back here, to spend more time at home. But it hasn't worked out yet given Covid."