In this exclusive interview, he explains how directors must address three main priorities to improve governance. Watch him in action outlining in detail the dos and don’ts that must be observed by directors in looking beyond short-term profit and making governance simpler and more accountable.
During his address to the AICD’s Australian Governance Summit (AGS) in March, Gonski issued a three-part mea culpa on behalf of ANZ and its board. “We did from time to time think short-term,” he admitted. “When you talk about customer obligations, when you talk about your obligations to society, when you talk about thinking in the long term, all of that comes into place,” he told a packed auditorium.
“We had gotten too complex,” said Gonski, detailing the breadth of the bank’s operations in Australia and New Zealand as well as Asia. “When you become complex like that… [it] puts a lot of stress on both the decision-making, but also on the way the organisation works.” And finally, “[we] haven’t been great on accountability all the way down… at times you have to find who’s accountable and act upon it.”
To act in the best interests of the company, a board will consider stakeholder interests beyond shareholders, said Gonski: “If we look to the long term, in the old laws [the current formulation], it allows you, absolutely, to focus on all the stakeholders, not just shareholders.”
It is a difficult balancing act for directors, acknowledged Gonski. “Anybody who sits on the board who is arrogant or aloof is a fool,” he said. “It is not an easy job and it’s getting more difficult, but it’s a wonderful job. I am an optimist. I hope that we will — to the extent it’s required — pick up our game; that we will look further out in terms of long-termism.”