NAB pledges to cut costs by $800m a year
NAB chief executive Cameron Clyne has pledged to cut costs by $800 million a year by encouraging customers to do more "self service" banking, as he seeks to ditch its reputation as the weakest of the big four.
After spending the past four years focused on rebuilding the bank's battered reputation and restoring its financial position, Mr Clyne on Wednesday vowed to rein in expenses and simplify its range of products.
In response to rapid growth in online banking, NAB will overhaul its outdated technological systems so that customers can do more of their banking through digital channels.
It expects the investments, coupled with moves to cut expenses across its branch network, to produce $800 million in annual savings in five years' time.
It also unveiled a shuffle of its senior management ranks, with chief financial officer Mark Joiner retiring and the long-serving head of MLC, Steve Tucker, leaving the bank by mutual agreement.
The push to cut costs comes after investors grew increasingly frustrated with NAB last year because of the ongoing drag caused by its struggling UK business.
But Mr Clyne denied the bank was reshaping its Australian business and management team to appease investors who were upset with its share price performance, which was much weaker than its rivals last year.
Instead, Mr Clyne said the cost-cutting and shuffle were driven by the need to offer customers better services in an age of slower credit growth, higher costs and rapid technological change.
"It's not tenable for us to bring forward the sort of changes that customers are increasingly demanding with 1970s infrastructure and architecture," Mr Clyne said.
"We need a much better customer experience; our customers are demanding it."
In other staff changes, Rick Sawers, who now runs the wholesale bank, will be appointed to a new role as the group executive in charge of product and markets. This position will involve simplifying the bank's product range.
Retail banking boss Lisa Gray has been moved to a role in charge of enterprise services and transformation, with responsibilities for cutting duplication.
Mr Clyne said there would be no wide-scale job cuts and he expected to achieve reduction in staff numbers through attrition.
As banks look to profit from Asia's economic rise, Mr Clyne indicated NAB would take a more cautious approach than some of its rivals, given the problems created by its UK business, which has been plagued by losses.
"If you take a realistic assessment, every Australian bank, to varying degrees, has mostly destroyed shareholder value by going overseas," he said.
The cost-cutting plan met a lukewarm reception among market analysts, who said it was necessary but NAB could have done more to rein in expenses.
An analyst at Bell Potter, T. S. Lim, said the cuts were probably the "bare minimum" the bank could have put forward.
Despite NAB's efforts to shed its tag as the serial underperformer, Mr Lim said it would continue to hold this reputation until it was able to resolve the problems in its UK business.
Shares in NAB dipped 1.8 per cent, or 59¢, to $30.95.