Business leaders discuss the year just gone and what will affect them in 2019. Today, ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt talks banking conduct and improving New Zealand's productivity.

What is 2019 looking like for your business?

There are a lot of significant industry issues to consider. The largest is the RBNZ's consultation on how much capital banks need to hold. It's substantially different from the current regime and could have wide-ranging implications. The second is conduct and culture. We're pleased the RBNZ and FMA didn't find any evidence of systemic issues, however, we need to make sure we are investing so that none occur. We will also be keeping an eye out for global risks that may affect New Zealand, and focusing on the things we can deliver for our customers that help with their wellbeing - both financially and generally.

How is that different to 2018? How has the last year been for your business?

It's been nearly 12 months for me as the new CEO. I've really enjoyed settling back home in NZ, working with the ASB team and meeting our customers and other important stakeholders.

ASB continues to go from strength-to-strength. The pace of change in our operating environment has been very noticeable this year and it's only increasing. One of the challenges in 2018 has been figuring out how to innovate at pace and that's something we will be continuing to focus on in 2019. We have been investing in tools to make it simpler and easier for our customers and providing insight so that our customers are better informed.

What are the issues affecting your industry in the next 12 months?

I've already mentioned capital, conduct and culture. Two other important industry areas are keeping customers safe and supporting regional customers. The banking industry is playing a key role in helping address financial crime to keep New Zealanders - their personal data and financial position - safe from criminals, which is a significant investment. Regional presence is also very topical. Fewer and fewer customers are going into branches so we need to design a different model so our regional customers still get the access and customer experience they need.


What is the biggest issue you would like the Government to champion in 2019?

Productivity in New Zealand. We know we have lower productivity compared to other countries. Some of the things the Government can champion are firstly, skills and education - making sure we have the right skills coming through for future roles.

Secondly, investment activity and investment allocation into productivity opportunities. And thirdly, encouraging the development and use of new technologies, and helping New Zealand's innovation ecosystem to come together. It's obviously not something the Government can do on its own.

Do you get a break this summer? What's your favourite way to relax?

I sure am. I'm taking two weeks holiday, all in New Zealand. The first half will be in the South Island hiking and mountain biking, and the second half is in the North Island fishing and swimming, so I'm calling it a surf-and-turf holiday.

It's the first real summer in New Zealand for our children, so it's going to be a lot of fun exploring different parts of the country.