FACE TO FACE : Wayne Besant - A Bit of a Legend; We Need More Authentic Kiwi Leaders, Says AIA's New Group CEO, Wayne Besant. as He Moves from Banking to Take a Fresh Perspective into Insurance, Besant Tells Brenda Ward the Finance Industry Has to Do More to Help Kiwis Understand Money

New Zealand Management, July 2010 | Go to article overview

FACE TO FACE : Wayne Besant - A Bit of a Legend; We Need More Authentic Kiwi Leaders, Says AIA's New Group CEO, Wayne Besant. as He Moves from Banking to Take a Fresh Perspective into Insurance, Besant Tells Brenda Ward the Finance Industry Has to Do More to Help Kiwis Understand Money


Byline: Brenda Ward

When Tuakau boy Wayne Besant was the first in his family to pass School Certificate, they saw him as C[pounds sterling]a bit of a legendC[yen], he laughs. When the bright-eyed young political science masters graduate flew for the first time at the age of 22, he admits he was excited. Best of all, when ANZ paid his airfare to Wellington for a job interview he was so impressed he took the job.

Besant is completely unembarrassed about his early naivety and his roots far from the private school privilege of many of his peers. Maybe thatCOs why, now aged 46, thereCOs still a sense of wonderment in the way he sees the world, a freshness and enthusiasm that heCOs brought to the banking industry as ANZ BankCOs retail managing director and that heCOs about to take into the insurance industry as AIA Group InsuranceCOs New Zealand CEO.

C[pounds sterling]Certainly banking was not something I thought of as a career,C[yen] he admits. C[pounds sterling]I was interested in going into foreign affairs, but a chap from the bank flew me down to Wellington for a second interview.C[yen]

That led to over two decades with ANZ and C[pounds sterling]a fantastic careerC[yen], rocketing from ANZCOs Panmure branch, to managing regional branches, to corporate banking and on to lead ANZCOs branch network and SME business. He then landed a key role, as managing director of ANZ Retail, as the bank merged with National Bank. C[pounds sterling]To be involved in helping set that up was an exciting time for me,C[yen] he says. C[pounds sterling]We basically brought two large competing brands into the same family. For me that was a really fantastic opportunity.C[yen]

In the banking world itCOs rare to have two brands working together, with the retail divisions still operating under ANZ Retail and National Bank Retail, but the merger created greater reach, with each bank appealing to different parts of the market Co and it also created a goliath in banking terms. The new entity became New ZealandCOs biggest bank overtaking Westpac, which had earlier bought out the TrustBank group.

Having recently stepped outside banking, Besant looks back with affection on what he calls a crowded market. C[pounds sterling]What the banks are trying to achieve, in such a competitive market, is differentiation,C[yen] he says. C[pounds sterling]ItCOs not a big population in this country, so you have to have a differentiated service proposition.C[yen]

For example, Kiwibank is pushing its identity as a Kiwi-owned bank. C[pounds sterling]However, Kiwibank shouldnCOt be overplaying the anti-Aussie bank sentiment,C[yen] he notes. C[pounds sterling]In my opinion the global financial crisis has shown Australian banks have been good for banking here in New Zealand.C[yen]

National BankCOs black horse appeals to provincial and rural customers, says Besant, while ANZ has chosen the convenience space to play in, promoting its access to ATMs and branches. ASB plays the C[pounds sterling]one step aheadC[yen] card, with a progressive technology slant. C[pounds sterling]TheyCOre all trying to appeal to different parts of the market,C[yen] he says. C[pounds sterling]ThatCOs the challenge for the banking industry Co to win you have to truly differentiate yourself.C[yen]

Already after three months in the insurance industry, Besant can see thereCOs very little differentiation among insurance companies, in a similarly crowded market. ThatCOs where he sees he can make a difference with plans to create a C[pounds sterling]brand promiseC[yen] in the market that makes AIA stand out from the crowd.

Another learning he made almost straight away was the discovery that KiwisCO uptake of insurance products is only half that of OECD countries. C[pounds sterling]ItCOs almost a systemic thing. If you look at our school curriculums, thereCOs very little work that we do with kids around budgeting or financial planning. …

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FACE TO FACE : Wayne Besant - A Bit of a Legend; We Need More Authentic Kiwi Leaders, Says AIA's New Group CEO, Wayne Besant. as He Moves from Banking to Take a Fresh Perspective into Insurance, Besant Tells Brenda Ward the Finance Industry Has to Do More to Help Kiwis Understand Money
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