The ANZ Bank has started a long goodbye to its wealth management business

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The ANZ Bank has formally started looking at ways to get its wealth management business off its books.

The bank still wants to offer insurance and funds management but it really doesn’t want to be in the business of building and maintaining such products.

“We’re not just putting a ‘for sale’ sign up,” says chief executive Shayne Elliott. “We want to partner up with someone that’s really world class.”

Financial planning has been problematic for the major banks in terms of publicity. A series of scandals has revealed that advice paid for wasn’t received and when it was given, some of it was of poor quality.

Andrew Tamby Rajah, a former ANZ Bank planner, was banned from providing financial services for a five years after falsifying loan documents.

The ANZ is on a program of cutting operating costs, exiting low-return and non-core businesses and reducing reliance on low-return parts of institutional banking.

And Elliott, who in January 2016 replaced former CEO Mike Smith, a big believer in Asia, has been clear that he wants a more targeted business in Asia.

The bank has been selling down its retail assets in Asia to concentrate on institutional customers. The latest was a 20% stake in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank for $1.838 billion.

The ANZ posted an 18% fall in 2016 full year cash profit to $5.9 billion, dragged down by the cost of reforms. The result included $1.077 billion of after-tax charges, including restructuring and the cost of software.

In the latest move, Elliott says the bank is seeking a partner and exploring models for the wealth business.

Revenue at the ANZ’s wealth business fell 2% in 2016 to $1.156 billion, resulting in a 24% drop in cash profit to $327 million.

But the bank’s wealth unit could be worth as much as $4.5 billion.

Elliott says the bank wants to offer wealth products but is open to the idea of those products being created by another organisation.

“We want to be talking to our customers about wealth solutions, about protecting the things that are important to them, about saving for retirement,” he says.

“We’re still going to be in the business, we‘ll just be doing it with a partner who is going to be world class in terms of manufacturing and supplying product.”

However, he says the bank has no fixed idea about the best alternative and is keeping an open mind about the details and timing.

Elliott, in a video interview at the bank’s BlueNotes site, noted the wealth, financial advice and insurance sectors have been guilty of poor conduct.

“What we’ll be saying is: We want to learn and we want to be open to the best way we can service our customers and we want to be the best at this in Australia,” he says.

“This is going to take time. This is a pretty big decision.”

A decision is unlikely this calendar year.

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