Sir John Key is being quietly promoted as the next chair of Melbourne-based ANZ Banking Group within senior Australasian business circles.
It would be a huge feather in Key's cap — and for that matter New Zealand's — if the former National prime minister can pull it off.
Key is also being courted by NZ kiwifruit exporter Zespri to assist it to make headway with some thorny issues in China. This is a market where Key has particular expertise to bring to the table. It makes sense for him to shuffle his governance portfolio to take on new roles where his expertise can be brought to bear.
Key is to bow out as a director of the Air New Zealand board next year. The cognoscenti says he is taking a jump because the coalition Government thwarted plans for him to chair the national flag carrier.
In fact, Key has been urged to set his sights on a much bigger target. That is to become chair of ANZ Banking Group in Australia when David Gonski ultimately steps down.
To pull off this feat — which in my view he is admirably suited for notwithstanding my earlier criticism that he needs to sharpen up his governance skills — Key has to focus.
Currently, he is chair of the ANZ New Zealand board and a director of its Australian parent company. Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr has been weighing Key's joint role as chair of ANZ New Zealand and a director at parent company level, evidencing concern there is a conflict of interest. But he is simply following in the footsteps of Sir Roderick Deane.
Within ANZ NZ's senior executive team there is strong support for Key to stay as a director of the Melbourne-headquartered bank. The argument goes that having both him and John "JT" Macfarlane (who served with Key at Bankers Trust in Auckland in the 1990s) on the group board means there are two Kiwis who at least have an appreciation of the interests of the New Zealand arm's operations and the New Zealand economy. This might not have been so evident when group CEO Shayne Elliott — also a New Zealander — was threatening to curtail operations here if the Reserve Bank's capital review resulted in a fait accompli.
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But it is noticeable the muted stance from ANZ when Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr unveiled the central bank's final decision. There is a way to go before this saga plays out.
When it comes to Air NZ, a sensible person would not want to detract from the board's call to endorse Dame Therese Walsh to take over from businessman Tony Carter as chair. Walsh brings particular strengths to the role.
Being a mere director of Air NZ does not carry with it the influence Key previously enjoyed as NZ's tourism minister and prime minister. At that stage, he was integrally involved with the airline's senior team, including prior CEO Christopher Luxon, promoting the NZ brand overseas and working to open new routes for the airline.
His own skill set — particularly in this era — is more suited to the financial world.
He is already being touted as a possibility when Gonski steps down sometime in the next year or two. Gonski has been working towards this as has been evident from the public emphasis on his concurrent role as chancellor of the University of NSW recently.
In Sydney last month, at Australian's strategic forum, he called on businesses to "savour" the opportunities presented by co-operating with China. This is one issue on which Key and Gonski are aligned. But Key is much more a China bull than the current ANZ chair.
This is a tricky time for Australia-China relations. This week the Chinese Ambassador to Australia dished out yet another serve criticising Australian reports that 1 million Uighur people have been detained as "utterly fake news".
But at the same time it indicated Prime Minister Scott Morrison may finally get an invitation to meet China's leadership in Beijing.
Key is a realist when it comes to both the New Zealand and Australian relationship with China.
When it comes to ANZ New Zealand, Key succeeded in having his preferred candidate, Antonia Watson, confirmed as CEO. Watson is also one to watch.
Her predecessor David Hisco was pushed out. But Hisco was a good talent spotter and ensured the former ANZ chief financial officer was blooded through the opportunity to manage serious P&L as managing director of the bank's retail and business banking sector.
Watson is respected by the tight senior executive team.
It has been a truly shocking year when it comes to the Australasian banking sector.
Much of the leadership in Australia has been effectively decapitated.
Next year will remain onerous but hopefully with no more major scandals to unveil.
Please have an enjoyable and safe Christmas and New Year. My column returns on Wednesday January 22.