ANZ went ballistic at The Daily Telegraph in October 2006 when it splashed the paper claiming its Indian offshoring plans were far more comprehensive than the reality.

There was this defiant ANZ press release pointing out that technology out-sourcing is very different from shifting call centres offshore.

Media Watch weighed in, ANZ’s legal threats were reported in The Age , the call centre industry was up in arms, the scandal makes The Tele’s Wikipedia entry and Crikey’s coverage at the time showed the depth of anger led by former ANZ CEO John McFarlane who wanted to pull the bank’s News Ltd advertising.

Fast forward two years and new ANZ CEO Mike Smith told this Indian newspaper in April about hugely comprehensive offshoring plans, although once again it is back office rather than call centre functions.Whilst the comments to Australasian staff and media were more circumspect, The India Times quoted Smith as follows:

I hope to move much of the straight-through processing and really start to build stuff like the Internet bank channel and electronic channels. So your back office disappears anyway. Process re-engineering of the back-end operations will mean using our Bangalore facilities much more. I think our systems at times are somewhat archaic. They have been basically adapted over time and are sometimes not as efficient as they could be.

His comments did not bode well for the bank’s Australian back-office staff, understood to be between 3000 and 4000.

It is surprising the Finance Sector Union hasn’t weighed in more aggressively on this one yet. And as if ANZ hasn’t had enough grief of late with Opes Prime, Bill Express, Chimaera, the Gunns pulp mill, Steve Targett’s $57 million writ and a share price that by Tuesday night had fallen 44% from last year’s peak — more than its three big rivals.

ANZ spindoctor Paul Edwards explains the latest Indian push as follows:

The concern over the story in The Daily Telegraph was associated with the journalist knowingly misrepresenting our operation in Bangalore as a call centre on page 1 when we had made a very public commitment to keep customer facing roles, including our call centres in Australia. That commitment remains in place today.

At present, we have about 2,200 people working in Bangalore in technology and back office operations roles and we are continuing to look at opportunities to reduce costs, improve efficiencies through process re-engineering and to access talent by using Bangalore.

At the same time, employment at ANZ in Australia has also been rising as we invest in the business including opening 80 new branches over the past 4 years.

So far, the use of Bangalore has primarily related to Australian technology and operations functions however in April we announced that we intended to extend this to New Zealand by moving some processing and operations work to ANZ Bangalore over the next 18 months.

ANZ National, our New Zealand business, flagged publicly at that the time this would involve about one percent of ANZ National’s total workforce of about 10,000 in New Zealand in 2008 (ie. about 100 roles) moving to a total of about five percent by the end of 2009 (500 roles). In New Zealand, all customer-facing functions, including call centres, will remain in New Zealand.

In a globalised world, where our major international competitors here in Australia, all use offshore operations and technology centres, not thinking about this issue would simply leaves us uncompetitive. Equally, most of our domestic competitors are now also looking at offshoring to outsourced providers. In this environment, we believe an ANZ owned and staff facility in Bangalore is an advantage for ANZ.

Huge profits from the world’s most expensive banking system, unilateral increases in mortgage rates and now a renewed offshoring push, is there anything that will get Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan up in arms about our outrageous banking cartel?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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