This might be a story about the decline of Melbourne as a financial centre. Or, it might be story about supposedly big tough banks running scared.

Whatever it is, the fact remains that 2006 will be the first year in recent memory that Melbourne won’t be hosting a big bank shareholders’ meeting. Melbourne was once the finance capital of Australia, so what’s going on?

The Commonwealth Bank hasn’t been back to Melbourne for an AGM since 2000 when I got a surprisingly large 40% primary vote on the proxies and gave them stick about their cash for comment deal with Alan Jones.

Westpac hasn’t deigned to visit since 2002 but has since even gone as far afield as Brisbane and Auckland.

NAB routinely had their AGM in Melbourne for more than a decade until they got hit by an angry former CEO, Nobby Clark, in 2005 and decided that Sydney was the place to go in 2006. Presumably they’re expecting an even quieter time in Adelaide on 30 January, especially with an indecent 9am start.

Along with NAB, ANZ is the other Melbourne-based bank but it has been the keenest of all to scarper from its home town come AGM time. Indeed, we’ve only seen them twice in seven years.

ANZ has also mastered the dark art of scheduling the AGM on a Friday close to Christmas, knowing full well that most shareholders will be too busy to attend and there are no shock jocks to beat you up after reading the Saturday papers.

Talk about having Friday on your mind:

  • ANZ 2000 AGM: Friday, December 15, Melbourne
  • ANZ 2001 AGM: Friday, December 14, Sydney
  • ANZ 2002 AGM: Friday, December 13, Perth
  • ANZ 2003 AGM: Friday, December 19, Brisbane
  • ANZ 2004 AGM: Friday, December 17, Melbourne
  • ANZ 2005 AGM: Friday, December 16, Adelaide
  • ANZ 2006 AGM: Friday, December 15, 10am, Darling Harbour, Sydney

No wonder punters are cynical about the bank cartel. Not happy with ripping customers off blind, they then work overtime not to be accountable to shareholders.

ANZ has this year even resorted to hiring the wife of its licensor, Peter Costello, on a six figure sum. And chairman Charles Goode seems to think he can go on forever after an excessive 11 years in charge.

There’s much to discuss so if anyone fancies being my proxy at Friday’s AGM, drop us a line to [email protected].

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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