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The McFarlane Exit Interview - Part 3 

By Ian Rogers 
The Sheet - Better Business Journalism -
 September 12, 2007 - 6:55 am

This is the third and last instalment from an exit interview with John McFarlane, managing director of ANZ who retires from the bank at the end of September after 10 years at the helm of the company.

McFarlane gave the interview last Thursday, September 6.

Ian Rogers:
Someone in their 20s and 30s with talent and ambition, who works here, what chance do they stand of becoming CEO at ANZ? What’s
your advice to this group, and how many people would fit into this group at the bank?

John McFarlane: It’s interesting, I get that question from our grads when they first join, and I get it a lot. It comes in two forms. It comes in a constructive form like that, what are the important things, and how do I get on. For reasons which I cannot explain, how much bigger we’ve got in Bangalore, and the increasing sort of South Asian population in Australia in the bank, they express it as, how can I be the CEO of ANZ? Not the others, just that group.

So 99 per cent of the time, if that question comes up, it’s come from somebody, somewhere, from either India, or from the Indian subcontinent. What I usually say to them is, the first thing is to be good at what you’re doing now, because opportunities come to those who deserve them, and you deserve them not by being … having great potential, but having some confidence that you know what you’re doing now and you’re successful at it. Success breeds opportunity.

In order to be successful in what you do now, you’re more likely to do that if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, so don’t do something that isn’t going to lead you somewhere, and don’t do something that you’re just not so excited about that it’s the one thing you want to do in life. And then the third part of that is that it’s got to lead you somewhere, and therefore it’d be better if you decided where that somewhere is, before you decide it, rather than just accepting what you’re doing now, and hopefully that’s going to lead somewhere else. And so I think if you do those things, then you’ll be in a position to do greater and greater things.

The other point is, you need to prepare yourself for the next step. It’s all very well being good at what you’re doing, but people are considering you for something bigger, and they’ve got to be sure you’ll be able to do the bigger thing, as well as the thing that you’re doing now, and just being good at what you’re doing now isn’t … necessary, but not sufficient.

So the bigger things, so you need to prepare yourself for the thing there. And then finally, people appoint people, not organisations. It’s a boss that appoints the subordinate in companies like this, and so there isn’t this committee somewhere who all meets and discusses and should agree and things. One person makes that decision, who might be me at the very top, or it might be somebody else. If you want a particular role, make sure you get to know the person who can make that decision, and get them to like you.

You need a bit of longer-term planning. I had a coach once who talked to me about this, and they said look, where do you want to be when you’re 60? I mean what do you … what do you want to do when you’re 60? And what does that mean for you when you’re 45, and where would you have to be then? And then what does that mean for you when you’re 35? And what are you going to do about that next week?

Ian Rogers: How many people are there in their late 20s and early 30s that you and your senior team might think well, they are looking at it?

John McFarlane: I think we recruited about 500 graduates. We’re creating hundreds of graduates ourselves this year, because we’ve said that ideally you can’t be appointed to a managing position, that’s 8000 positions, unless you have a degree, or currently studying for one.

So having the intellect, or the ability to actually use your brain to tertiary capacity, is actually quite important as a foundation. So there are quite a substantive number of graduates who have got great potential. They fall into a normal distribution, and also, that changes with time, where somebody who’s very good at one point in their career, they’re not always good later on, where there are early starters that are you know, that are late finishers, and early finishers, and you know. So what you need to do, is you need to have a sense at any stage, as to who are the really good people, and you need to ventilate the organisation; either grow or ventilate the organisation to greater capacity, so that people get sucked up. <

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