9 Aug 2018

ANZ to remove 'stressful' sales targets for frontline staff

7:55 am on 9 August 2018

ANZ has announced it's removing sales targets for front-line staff, and the country's other major banks look set to follow suit.

ANZ Bank sign on Queen Street, Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

One ANZ employee, who asked not to be identified, said there was a palpable sense of relief in his office when it was announced they no longer had to meet strict sales quotas.

"There's quite a relaxed feeling from staff; 'Oh my gosh, these pressures are going to be removed'," he said.

"It will be a much less stressful place to work without those continuing product sales pressures."

In the past, any ANZ staff bonuses were entirely based on meeting sales targets, but over the years this was reduced to 25 percent.

The employee said staff felt pressure to meet targets, which could conflict with customers' best interests.

"Some of my colleagues did feel the pressure of having to meet those required sales targets and as such did feel a lot of stress."

The financial services industry has come under fire recently, with some workers saying they feel pressured to sell customers services they don't need.

First Union, which represents the majority of the sector's members, believes ANZ's decision could create a cultural shift in banking.

The union's finance sector organiser, Stephen Parry, said sales targets had been the most consistently raised and deeply felt concern for union members.

"They've committed to moving away from a sales-based culture towards a culture which is service-oriented," he said.

"So what we're seeing is I think the beginning of the end for sales culture in the New Zealand banking sector and that's a really promising thing."

Given the negative attention the sales tactics have received lately, Mr Parry believes other banks have taken careful note of ANZ's move.

"They'd do well to follow ANZ's lead on this," he said.

Kiwibank's people group manager Danielle George said it wants to go even further than ANZ.

"What we're looking at at Kiwibank is how do we incentivise and recognise not just the front-line - so not just the sales piece - but the entire organisation from front to back.

Westpac said in a statement it had already made changes to the way front-line staff are incentivised and further changes were planned.

BNZ said it was also conducting a review.

ASB said it has made changes to what it calls its performance management framework over the past year, including removing individual sales targets for branch staff. It said more changes are in train.

Financial Markets Authority head of regulation Liam Mason said ANZ's move was positive, but the regulator wanted banks to remove sales targets for external advisers too.

"We've been asking financial firms to act to improve customer outcomes for some time. Removing incentives that can conflict with that can only help this, it's a good step from them."

The FMA has been reviewing banking practices in light of seamy practices and customer exploitation in the Australian banking sector, which is the subject of a royal commission of inquiry.