ANZ Banking Group boss Mike Smith isn’t going anywhere, but the most important agent for his Asia strategy is. Alex Thursby, chief executive of international and institutional banking, is taking the chief’s seat at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, leaving Smith without the man who has been essential building up the bank’s position. Two commentators address the significance of the loss and the circumstances of Thursby’s exit.
Also this morning, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens has picked up another three year term to no serious objections. Two commentators explain how much he deserves another run.
But first, The Australian Financial Review’s Andrew Cornell notes the fact that the nature of the role has changed with the regional business maturing.
“While Thursby would be missed, Smith said, it won’t be the catastrophe it might have been even three years ago. And despite recent speculation of tension between Thursby, with his Asian ambitions, and new chief financial officer Shayne Elliott’s insistence on return on capital, Smith was dismissive of internal disruption.”
The role might have changed, but The Australian’s Richard Gluyas emphasises just how central Thursby has been for the Smith’s flagship strategy.
“While ANZ has developed a strong management team in Asia, Thursby was a tour de force as the point man for chief executive Mike Smith's super-regional strategy. He had a habit of exhausting everyone who stumbled into his endless Asian orbit. Thursby once told this columnist that, in 2010, he'd slept 218 nights in Asia, as well as a further 30 in other parts of the world, to fulfill his obligations as head of Asia Pacific, Europe and America. It was Thursby's drive and ambition that enabled ANZ to deliver on Smith's vision of transforming the Asian beachhead established by his predecessor, John McFarlane, into a serious business.”
Meanwhile, Business Spectator’s Stephen Bartholomeusz says there have been some critics of Governor Stevens for keeping interest rates too high in the beginning then too low later on. But given the tumultuous state of the global economy over his entire tenure, the results speak for themselves.
“The Reserve Bank has, despite erratic fiscal policy and the pressures created by the resource boom and strong dollar over the past five years, played a central role in maintaining reasonable economic growth with modest inflation. It now has to deal with the subsidence of the mining investment boom, a recessed manufacturing sector and the continuing strong dollar. When his extended term ends, his deputy, Philip Lowe, will have been in place for nearly five years and well-placed to succeed him. The Reserve Bank also has bench strength, most notably assistant governors Guy Debelle and Malcolm Edey, to provide options for the next government."
And Fairfax’s Malcolm Maiden notes that Stevens doesn’t give speeches after interest rate decisions, in contrast to his counterparts at the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank. But his deputies are talking frequently and the central bank’s overall transparency has increased remarkably.
“There were 15 speeches in 2001, and 22 in 2006. Last year, there were 45 speeches, by officials including Stevens, Lowe, assistant governor financial markets Guy Debelle, assistant governor economic Christopher Kent and assistant governor financial Malcolm Edey. There are more central bank executives talking, and after they deliver speeches they take questions from the floor, on any topic. Audio files are posted soon after on the Reserve's website. Those changes, the confidence in the Reserve's economic stewardship they have fostered and the role the Reserve played during and after the global crisis, as a supplement to crisis fiscal stimulus and then as a foil to it, made Stevens' claim to another term very strong.”
While we’re talking banking, The Australian’s Criterion columnist Tim Boreham looks at the potential for National Australia Bank to cop another hit from its UK banking arm thanks to murmurings from Bank of England that the country’s banks might need an extra £52 billion ($75 billion) to cover troublesome commercial property loans.
In company news, The Australian Financial Review’s Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd argues that the market is not informed in relation to Whitehaven Coal thanks to rumours that the man behind the curtain of Nathan Tinkler’s stake in the company is Noonday Asset Management banker Ray Zage.
Elsewhere, The Australian’s Bernard Salt looks at where the shifts are in the high-end job market. The Australian’s Asia Pacific editor Rowan Callick has a very interesting piece on the narrow definition of international aid. This is particularly important when you consider how aid as a proportion of GDP is measured, which speaks to a nation’s sense of generosity, even its morality.
And finally, Fairfax’s Elizabeth Knight reports that the mining industry is well aware that it’s the target of the Gillard government’s quest to raise more revenue, either through tweaks to the minerals resource rent tax or removing the diesel rebate or deductibility of exploration.