As the race to succeed Charles Goode as chairman of ANZ got down to the wire late last year, leading contender Margaret Jackson made a potentially fatal decision — she became chairman of a listed competitor.

Flexigroup was founded by former lawyer Andrew Abercrombie who will shortly be making his debut on the BRW Rich List. The press release announcing the float last November described it as the:

Leading Australian and New Zealand provider in the growing point of sale lease and rental finance for the IT equipment and electrical appliance markets.

Hmmm. Westpac might have sold its finance company AGC to General Electric for $1.6 billion in 2002, but ANZ remains very prominent in the space through Esanda, which describes itself as:

Australia’s leading provider of vehicle and equipment finance solutions” that has a long history helping “the medical profession, professional services firms, retail outlets and franchises.

Former Harvey Norman finance director John Skippen is on the Flexigroup board, which presumably explains why Gerry Harvey’s outfit is the company’s biggest and most important customer.

However, the latest presentation to the market on 22 February reveals that Flexigroup’s next big thing is “expanding to the fast growing personal loans market”.

Surely a director of the ANZ Bank, let alone a future chairman, shouldn’t be chairing an emerging competitor that now has a market capitalisation of $609 million.

I’m hearing that the move has raised eyebrows inside the ANZ boardroom which, when combined with the controversy over the Qantas, has significantly reduced Jacko’s chances of succeeding Charles Goode.

There’s no doubt that ANZ needs a new chairman — especially if the polls are right and we have a Rudd government by year’s end deciding what to do with a bank cartel club member like the ANZ, which is chaired by a prominent Liberal Party fundraiser.

Goode’s prickly relationship with CEO John MacFarlane is another issue that suggests we need a quick transition, but there aren’t any obvious candidates on the board.

Maybe ANZ should follow the lead of Westpac and go for a respected federal bureaucrat. If former Treasury Secretary Ted Evans can lead Westpac, why not a former Reserve Bank boss for ANZ?

Step forward Ian Macfarlane — who was only appointed to the ANZ board in February but knows far more about Australia’s financial system than any of the other non-executive directors.

And what fun it would be having the ANZ led by Macfarlane and McFarlane.