Award-Winner Interview – Nicola Stokes, ANZ

April 11, 2021 0 Comments

At the end of April, Nicola Stokes – formerly General Manager Shared Service, ANZ Bank – was honoured as APAC 2008 Thought Leader of the Year. Now we catch up with Nicola to find out a little more about the qualities and achievements which distinguished her from the competition – and to hear about her plans for the future, and life after the financial services industry.

Q: How did you become involved with ANZ’s shared services program?

A: I was appointed General Manager Shared Services in 2005. There was probably about two-thirds of the organization that exists today in place when I got there; the organization was all based in Melbourne at that stage. I think the most striking feature for me when I arrived was probably that the people didn’t really understand why they were all put together in a shared service; each piece was run quite separately, and was very much a cost-driven service-delivery focus ca coaching institute in bangalore.

Q: What functions are in place now?

A: Basically as ANZ Shared Services exists now, we are responsible for HR Operations such as recruitment, remuneration, learning and development, pension/superannuation; Finance processes such as payroll, accounts payable, reconciliations, indirect taxes, information and reporting; Strategic Sourcing (IT and business services); and ANZ Environmental sustainability program and system. We’ve expanded quite a lot over the last couple of years. We have a team of 400 now, half in Melbourne, and the other half are in India, in Bangalore with our captive center there. The clients are based in various geographies, Australia, New Zealand, India and SE Asia. The headcount for ANZ is about 35,000, and the 400 of us service all of them.

Q: That does sound like a major expansion. So was this planned when you came in, or was it as a result of your own strategy formulated after your appointment?

A: When I went in, you could just see the opportunity; I looked at ANZ’s strategy, where it was going with its five-year plan, and it was definitely based around having a very efficient and effective and high-quality infrastructure to support its planned expansion. ANZ had a captive center in Bangalore for nearly 18 years, and it was used for software development; my boss at the time – Mike Grime, managing director of Operations Technology and Shared Services (OTSS) – understood we had a huge competitive advantage in India and we weren’t using it. So I looked at how we could use the captive for shared services and started to move the transactional elements of our service offering to Bangalore, with great success. We kept the roles that interacted with the client in the same country as the client – a hub and spoke model. I also looked at overall cost, because obviously in all SSOs cost is an important factor, but we had quite a different way of approaching that I think. ANZ’s products are not the cheapest banking products on the market, but they are cost-effective, and so the question was, how could we match the cost-effective nature of shared services to meet that sort of customer delivery.

When I talk about “customers” I mean the customers of the bank; my “clients” are my internal customers, if you like. Sometimes when you use the term “customer” for your internal clients, you create a kind of master-servant relationship within the organization. That doesn’t actually do any good, because in the end what we’re trying to do is all oriented around the end customers, which for us are the retail banking and institutional customers.

My strategy involved using the Heskett model of the service-profit chain, to help my own staff understand why they were all in a shared service: basically if you can deliver an excellent level of internal service, that will enable the front-line staff to deliver a similar level to customers. Indeed Heskett’s model shows how front-line staff can ONLY deliver the level of service they receive on the inside of the organization. So that gave everybody a bit of vision as to how all the pieces fit together given everything we were responsible for was about the internal operations of the Bank. It also helped our clients understand what else we could do for them and what would or would not be effective. It was also important that we did not become the dumping ground for things the rest of the Bank did not want, so if a process/service was customer-facing or revenue-generating it did not belong in Shared Services. Then when we started to demonstrate this strategy/model to our clients, and to articulate our value proposition, that’s when we started to grow and we started to take on more work for them, which was wonderful.

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