Along with hundreds of others, Bryan Stagg stood up from his seat.
ANZ Institutional’s Head of Banks Australia was a guest at the Sibos annual dinner in 2018, the year the conference was hosted in Sydney. The MC had asked everyone to be up standing as they performed an elaborate loyalty check in an attempt to find who had attended the event – a critical part of the calendar for the financial services sector and its customers – the most times.
Sit down if you’ve been to two, the MC said.
Much of the crowd lowered.
Five? More contestants departed.
Twenty? Bryan was still standing.
“I actually won it,” Bryan tells ANZ News in a discussion ahead of the latest Sibos conference in October - although he is quick to point out he “didn’t actually end up getting a prize - as I would have had to declare it in the gift register”.
So, as he prepares for his 23rd Sibos, what makes the long-time banker keep coming back? The answer, it turns out, is ANZ customers.
“Customers want and expect us to be there,” Bryan says. “And that's what I learned from the first time I attended.”
More than 20 years ago, Bryan took the advice of an industry colleague and flew out to a fledgling financial services conference in Geneva.
“When I first went to Sibos, I was the only attendee from ANZ,” he says. “I'd heard from industry sources ANZ should be represented, so I went along to see what it was all about.”
Now, in 2020, ANZ will send a delegation of representatives (albeit virtually), in large part due to Bryan’s early efforts. Interest has grown rapidly and particularly in the last six to seven years when ANZ has realised the importance of the interaction with customers and peers, he says.
The customer benefit is twofold – firstly, it allows them to speak openly and directly with their bankers, sourcing insights into the latest trends and developments in the industry. This precious face-to-face time (at least until this year, anyway) is increasingly scarce in the modern world, particularly in the payments industry where oceans sometimes separate bankers and clients.
Secondly, ANZ’s presence allows it to keep its finger on the pulse of a sector in which it is regarded as a leader across Australian and New Zealand; gaining insight into new technologies, learning about the latest industry standards and bringing these back home to provide customers with real, tangible solutions.
Tapping this zeitgeist is critical for a bank like ANZ, which remains committed to investing in the future for its customers, even in these uncertain times.
With so many customers and contemporaries present (the 2019 event had record-breaking 11,500 delegates) the mechanics of Sibos meetings are quite unique, Bryan says – rather akin to speed dating.
“You don't waste time because you've only got a half-hour or 45-minute meeting with each customer,” he says. “Both parties come heavily prepared, no pleasantries, just straight into it.”
Each of ANZ’s attendees at Sibos 2020 will average 10 calls a day over the four days of the conference, Bryan says.
“It's not only an opportunity as far as we're concerned but in a lot of instances we are customers of each other,” he says. “Many see it as an opportunity to pitch ideas to us as well.”