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ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott took the helm of the bank in 2016, when disruption and upheaval in the financial services sector were forcing changes in regulation, operations and prospects of traditional banking. Central to Elliott’s new vision was “to regain trust among the community”. “Shayne started to articulate a new vision for the bank, and to define our purpose as shaping a world where people and communities thrive,” recalls Serena Marriott, Senior Manager of Leadership and Coaching at ANZ.



“Our leaders are critical to our transformation,” says Kathryn van der Merwe, ANZ Group Executive of Talent and Culture. “What I call the ‘leadership spine’ needs to be engaged to effect change.” Jane Fraser, Group Head of Leadership and Talent at ANZ adds, “We’re driving a purpose and values-led transformation. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know it’s going to be different, so it’s requiring our leaders to both think and behave differently. They need to really believe in our purpose and our strategy, which is what gives them the energy to stay the course.”



To bring the new purpose and vision to life in the bank, and have it driven by the organisation’s leaders, ANZ’s Talent and Culture team ran a series of company-wide discussions over the course of a year. Their aim was to identify the most vital themes of behavioural and cultural transformation.

“The challenge we set Maximus, ourselves and the team,” says Fraser, “was that we wanted a leadership culture, not a leadership program.” She adds that the brief for the learning ‘mode’ was that it had to be practical: “Something that leaders can do or practise every day, on the job; not something they need to find more time to do.”

Enter Maximus. Mark Sowden, Associate Director at Maximus, says, “The idea for a social movement really began when we looked at the behaviours that ANZ wanted its leaders to exhibit. They were quite simple, humanistic behaviours, so we needed to match them with a simple but effective approach.” Drawing inspiration from successful, participant-led movements, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and R U OK? Day, together with ANZ, Maximus designed an opt-in, leader-led social movement that would grow within the business, rather than being forced by HR.

The idea of a social movement struck ANZ as, “completely fresh and different,” says Marriott. “It was something people could do easily, it was fun, it relied on people’s inner motivation, but it was also connected to a higher cause.”


ANZ coached 60 influential leaders in its operations around the world through all the challenges, so that they could become catalysts for the movement. Each then tapped 10 other people in the organisation to start the challenge. Beyond the starter pack of 60, participation in Five to Thrive is voluntary; but anyone who completes a challenge is rewarded with a $20 donation to their choice of ANZ charity partners and can invite another five people to the movement.

Van der Merwe says the five leadership behaviours – Be curious; Create shared clarity; Empower people; Connect with empathy; and Grow people selflessly – may not seem typical for a bank, but “we’ve  determined these are the behaviours we need to succeed in our transformation.” In the challenge, each key capability is expressed as a habit that participants must practise for five minutes each day, for five days.

The ‘habit’ leaders are asked to practise to Grow people selflessly is to seek feedback. “To grow people selflessly we of course need our leaders to give useful feedback, but you’re far better off helping leaders to ask for feedback in order to create a feedback-rich culture and to role-model proactive feedback-seeking,” says Marriott.

A microsite dubbed the leadership Academy was designed, with simplicity of user experience in mind, to support the movement. It manages the nomination process, acceptance and completion of challenges, the stories of participants, and provides an accessible platform for ANZ leadership resources. At the time of writing, it had received 8300 unique visits, which represents more than 90 per cent of ANZ’s 8500 leaders.


The data speaks for itself; within eight weeks 38 per cent of leaders (3300 leaders) had been nominated to adopt a new habit and more than 2200 challenges accepted.

“Every week I hear more and more stories about how these seemingly simple changes to our leaders’ behaviours are inspiring, engaging and empowering their teams,” says van der Merwe.

“I love the story shared by self-confessed ‘hard-nosed’ banker Vinod, who challenged himself to Connect with empathy with his team. In doing so, he learned that one of his team members wanted to adopt a more flexible working arrangement so she could spend time with her kids while remaining committed to her career, but she’d felt uncomfortable asking him. This was a huge awakening for Vinod, because he hadn’t realised the way his focus on outcomes was affecting his team.”

“The main learning for us is that companies need to have courage and to trust in their leaders,” says Sowden. “Five to Thrive reinforced our existing thinking that translating business values and behaviours written in HR terms, into actual tangible actions leaders can take every day is extremely impactful – it changes people not just professionally but personally. The switch of focus in this approach is to say to leaders: ‘We think you know how to do this; here’s a mechanism to enable you.’ We’re not treating them like students in a classroom.”


This article was originally published in the 1st edition of M Magazine, an exclusive print magazine aimed at inspiring and driving change through Australia’s executives and heads of HR.



  • Anz
  • Behaviour
  • Clarity
  • Culture
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Growth
  • Habits
  • Kathryn Van Der Merwe
  • Learning
  • Mark Sowden
  • Shayne Elliott
  • Social
  • Social Movement
  • Talent
  • Transformation