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ANZ banks on Gonski


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Australia’s Future Fund chairman David Gonski has been recruited by ANZ as the bank’s board continues to undergo significant changes.

Gonski will join the ANZ board in February, and replace chairman John Morschel in May, more than 18 months before his term ends.

Gonski’s connections and experience in Asia made him an attractive target for ANZ, which has an aggressive Asian growth strategy.

He will stand down as chair of the the Federal Government’s $89 billion Future Fund, two years into a five year term, to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

The former lawyer, who has previously served as a director for ANZ, will remain chairman of Coca-Cola Amatil and a director of Singapore Telecommunications.

“David is one of Australia’s most respected business leaders and company directors,” Morschel said.

“David’s business experience in Australia and in Asia, and his broad range of involvement with government will be a significant asset for ANZ.”

The latest board change means the bank, the smallest deposit holder among Australia’s big four, will have farewelled four of its 10 directors within six months when Morschel steps down.

Former Graincorp chief executive Alison Watkins recently announced her resignation in order to focus on a new role at Coca-Cola Amatil, while Greg Clark and David Meiklejohn ended their terms at Wednesday’s annual general meeting.

Some shareholders at the AGM remained sceptical about the value of the bank’s Asian focus, citing a lack of transparency about its returns on capital so far.

But Smith and Morschel said Asia was the world’s growth engine.

“There are times when I feel that some domestically focussed commentators don’t really understand the true potential of what we are creating at ANZ,” Smith told shareholders.

ANZ made a record profit of $6.5 billion in its 2012/13 year, paid out a record dividend and enjoyed a strong rise in its share price, all factors vindicating the Asian strategy, Smith said.

Morschel said the bank was increasingly confident that global economic growth would pick up moderately over the next two years.

“The outlook in the US is improving; the Euro zone’s economic recovery remains patchy and Japan’s economic recovery is underway although not without setbacks,” he said.

Some shareholders spoke in criticism of Mr Smith’s $10.4 million remuneration package, but a vote overwhelmingly approved the bank’s executive pay policy.

ANZ shares opened today at $30.70.

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