ANZ CEO Mike Smith once got shot for doing his job - here's his thoughts on that moment, life and leadership

Former ANZ CEO Mike Smith. Photo: Michael Dodge/ Getty.

Mike Smith has announced he will step down as the CEO of ANZ on December 31, making room for the bank’s chief financial officer Shayne Elliott to take the lead.

Smith joined the bank as chief executive in October 2007, when the world was entering the global financial crisis.

Despite headwinds and a volatile environment for banks around the world, his leadership saw “ANZ continue to grow market share in Australia and establish a strong, growing New Zealand business under one brand,” said ANZ chairman David Gonski.

“He has transformed ANZ into one of Asia Pacific’s leading banks with operations in 34 countries, delivering strong outcomes for our customers and for our shareholders.”

But Smith had form well before the GFC when it came to making difficult decisions – even to the point of putting his life on the line for his job.

So to celebrate him as a leader, who showed resilience and determination in uncertain times to produce Australia’s most valuable bank brand in 2014, here are 7 quotes that give you an insight into Smith beyond his role as ANZ CEO.

On why he owns a Jaguar

While running HSBC’s Argentina business in 1999, Smith was shot in an attempted kidnapping. He rammed his Jaguar past his attackers to escape.

“So I’ve owned a Jaguar ever since as a matter of principle,” he said.

“It never even occurred to me to leave. To me I was there to do a job. [The attack] had happened because of my job, and I felt that wasn’t going to defeat me. These guys weren’t going to get the best of me.

It was “one of life’s defining moments for me”.

In an interview with ft.com from September 2014.

On becoming an Australian citizen

“I will be very proud to be an Australian as I have lived here longer than almost anywhere else in the world,” he says. “I think Melbourne is the most liveable city of anywhere I have been.

“I’m very happy and very comfortable here and plan to make it my home long-term. I could go and work elsewhere and travel but my base will be here.”

In an interview with The Herald Sun from May 2013.

On being the CEO of ANZ

“I’m paid to give my all,” he says.

“It is like spinning plates. Sometimes you have to put some new ones up and let others fall. I expect a lot from myself and others.”

In an interview with The Herald Sun from May 2013.

On ANZ a “super regional” player in Asia

Smith boasted that ANZ was “firing on all cylinders” against in October, 2013, after the bank delivered a record annual profit of $6.5 billion.

“You wonder at times: what else do they bloody want? We have just produced a result which totally vindicates the super-regional strategy,” he said, slamming analysts skeptical of his plan.

“Given the economic future of Australia and New Zealand is now completely linked to Asia, the world’s fastest-growing region, the logic [of ANZ’s strategy] is compelling and ANZ is the only Australian bank positioned to fully benefit from this shift.”

In an interview with BRW from October 2013.

On understanding other cultures

“My overriding message to people wanting to work and do business in Asia is that you need to immerse yourself in the culture by living it. As an outsider you may never completely understand the culture but you have to develop empathy and a love for it to succeed.”

He wrote in a Linkedin article from August 2013.

On gender equality

“It feels like there is a lot of talk but things are still moving at a glacial pace,” he once wrote.

“This is more than just improving diversity in our workplaces. It’s about ensuring women have the same opportunities as men, it’s about demanding women receive the same economic rewards, and it’s about not discriminating against half of the population simply because of gender.”

He wrote in a Linkedin article from July 2015.

On what makes a good leader

“A good leader quickly recognises they are not expected to know the answer to every question. Rather they turn to those they trust for advice and actively listen before making decisions.

“It’s important for all leaders to develop an environment that encourages debate, an environment where it’s safe to raise new ideas or question the status quo.

“An effective leader should also seek out external views on the complex issues facing the organisation because ultimately a successful company cannot be deaf to the community in which it is operating.”

He wrote in ANZ’s Blue Notes in January 2015.

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