Mental Health Online Courses

#31 Growing through the setbacks – Shayne Elliott, CEO ANZ (s02ep7)

Apr 29, 2022

Shayne Elliott had only been in the role of CEO of ANZ for a year when the Royal Commission into banking was announced, and he was called to respond to complaints from many years before. Looking back now, he can recognise that although it was a very stressful time, he decided to turn it into a brilliant learning opportunity. Not only was Shayne able to learn from what had gone wrong in the past, but he was also able to use these mistakes to build a very strong case for a purpose-led organisation which is something that he is passionate about. This is a wide-ranging discussion including great advice for leaders who want to build a culture of care and high performance, Shayne's upbringing in Auckland, the books that Shayne gifts to colleagues, and his favourite musicians. You might find some surprises in this episode.
"An important part of caring is thinking about not what's good for you. It's what's good for the people in the team. Is it time for those people to lead the team and be promoted? How are you making sure you're investing in what's good for them, as well."
- Shayne Elliott


  • the reason behind ANZ’s success over the last 185 years.
  • how in times of crisis, people generally revert back to their core values to solve problems
  • how to survive and thrive in the banking world is to be agile as a company
  • re-engineering the bank based on nine principals that a 5 year old can understand to help improve the financial well-being of customers
  • the importance of family in staying grounded during stressful times.


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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Shayne Elliott

Graeme Cowan 0:04 

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Shayne Elliott to the caring CEO. Welcome, Shayne.

Shayne Elliott 0:09 

Thanks for having me.

Graeme Cowan 0:11 

Shayne, what does care in the workplace mean to you?

Shayne Elliott 0:16 

Well, that’s a good question. Um, I think you have to go back to our purpose as a company, and which is to shape a world where people and communities thrive. And therefore, that implies a lot of care actually, both about our own people, our customers, and, and, and in the broader community. And so, I think it sort of means being thoughtful, and considering the implications of decisions that you’re making. And hopefully that, you know, hopefully, that they’re aligned with that greater purpose.

Graeme Cowan 0:45 

Yeah. And I also notice, there’s a second part to your purpose, which is about you want your people to thrive just as much as your customers? What’s the background behind that?

Shayne Elliott 0:55 

Well, we’ve got a lot of people, right? They’re part of the community too. And, you know, at the end of the day, what we do as a bank is relatively commoditized. And so, you know, being sort of utilitarian about it, our customers really only buying a couple of things, right? They buy our, our ability to do what we said we would do, you know, move money, where they wanted or, you know, etc., but they’re really buying our people. And our people actually embody that, that purpose and that culture and the values and therefore, it’s kind of an integral part of our business model, if you will.

Graeme Cowan 1:28 

You’re speaking to your group executive technology, Jared Florian. And he mentioned that the first discussion with you for 30 minutes was about purpose. It wasn’t about technology, it’s obviously very important to you is a critical part of the how you operate.

Shayne Elliott 1:44 

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. You know, at the end of the day, you know, we’re an old company, we’re 185 years old, or there abouts. And we did some work some time ago, you know, what sustains companies? What, why, how do we get to be 180 years old, and hopefully, continue to thrive it. The end of the day, you know, you come to that simplistic idea that you’re only sustainable point of difference, or you’re only sustainable competitive advantage, culture. And that culture really comes down and outpace that sense of purpose. And then what are all the things that you do to make that purpose a reality? So, I do think that’s an a, you know, no, I’ve been working for 30 years, I think, you know, when you look back on achievements, or things that you’re proud of, in my mind, very rarely is it about the P&L or a dividend or something like that. It’s usually about embodying that, you know, that purpose and culture, you know, the people that you looked after the customers that you made succeed, the, you know, all of those things, the impact you had on the community. So, I think that’s really true. But the true measure of success for a large company, particularly for large company is–

Graeme Cowan 2:45 

And how do you I understand you started with at the other in 2017? How do you go about embedding it? How, how do you get it to live and breathe inside a company?

Shayne Elliott 2:56 

Well, actually, the interesting story about the purpose for us was, it was a bit of a grounds up movement, actually. And it actually came out a lot of prior to that when I was CFO, I just happened to be the sponsor of this executive development program. And, you know, we sent these, you know, smart people away, it was with a university, and they studied what makes companies great, and, you know, competitive advantage, and all those sorts of things. And when they came back, they said, well, we met all these companies being small, private companies, public companies, family, businesses, listed businesses, and the really great ones all had the strong sense of purpose and why they exist. And gee, we struggled a little bit I indeed to describe what it was. So, because it was grassroots, not imposed by me, I think that had a much greater chance of success. And we just involved all of our people right from the very beginning. And the whole thing, you know, focus groups, it was a, it was a coalition of the willing, if you will, within the organization to say, hey, this is important. And we took a couple of years to craft it. It wasn’t something we did in the weekend, or three months or unless you took a couple of years of one of our customers who worked with Unilever who was possibly the poster child a little bit for early adoption of this idea of purpose. And they, for me, anyway, they encapsulated that really well they said look, it’s not something you make up. It’s you’re actually doing an archeological dig; you’re going back and finding out through the history of annual what is what has been that purpose that has sustained it for so long. Clearly, it’s survived. There must be something doing that and thrive so it must be doing something right. So, it’s you’re looking back into history to articulate what’s there rather than, hey, let’s whiteboard, what a nice idea would sound like and so that’s really, I think, why it survived. While in the ground it was the grounds up and two, it was actually finding reality as opposed to imposing some new idea on the company.

Graeme Cowan 4:47 

You may be familiar with Victor Frankel’s work Man’s Search for Meaning, you know, what are the rules, seminal books about personal meeting and how it can make such a difference for you going through tough times? And he said that you don’t create your purpose, you uncover it. And I think that’s what you’re just saying there that, you know, really comes from the grassroots up to make a real difference.

Shayne Elliott 5:09 

Yeah, it does. And I know COVID is a really great example actually, of it. And he’s you asked about embedding it, and we’re still in that process, right? We have to make a call it everything we do, we have to show people that it really that, you know, we, the leaders of the company, the board, the executives, whoever, take it seriously and are willing to, you know, in our language, do the right thing, even when it comes to the cost, because it’s always our views, it’s easy to do the right thing, when it’s free. It’s when it comes at a cost or, or a trade-off. That’s really when people know that, hey, that’s some that’s important to you. COVID was a good example, because, you know, and I’ve been in banking for a long period of time, and banking and finance is characterized by particularly global organizations, which, you know, agencies in 30 odd countries, and my predecessor was in 100, my predecessor company, there’s always something going on. There’s always a crisis of some sort, whether it’s a natural disaster, or financial crisis, or whatever, political crisis, there’s something happening. And in those times of crisis, people, I think, generally revert back to their core values to solve problems. You, you are overwhelmed with information, you’re overwhelmed with decisions, it’s really difficult. There’s no right or wrong answers. And so really, you go back to it a little bit like religion, you sort of go back to the core, what do I fundamentally believe? And then a company like us, it was a, you know, it was about, well, what does our purpose guide us to do, as opposed to the need to produce a quarterly financial result or, or hit some, you know, target, we see it six months ago, when the world was different. So, I think that was a really good example of inaction. And we saw that and reality.

Graeme Cowan 6:48 

I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you follow Satya Nadella, from Microsoft, the Global CEO of Microsoft, why, why did you choose to follow him?

Shayne Elliott 6:59 

Um, it actually came out of some work. Again, it’s a bit of a long story, I’ll try and keep it short. When we were thinking about, you know, we live in this world of constant change, like I just mentioned, some of them we call crises, which are just extreme change, but we our industry is going through constant change. And our view was that that would continue. And we’re not, it’s not going to stop. So, you sort of have two choices in the world, to how to deal with it, you either try to predict the future, which is pretty futile. But some do, you know, or you stand back and say, look, in the world, when in a world of fast change, the only way to survive and thrive is to be nimble. And so, when you think about how to be nimble or agile as a company, we said there were three ingredients. And so that one was the software, I’m using a computer. By me was the software was our people, and our might have helped the intake to our people. Are they– Do they have a growth mindset? Are they you know, are they resilient? Are they curious? And all those things? Yeah? The second was the hardware, our processes and systems, can they be changed? Can we respond to new regulatory need? Can we respond to new customer needs in our technology and the processes? And the third was the operating system? How do we knit the people on the systems together? Either way of working. The reason we got in touch, in Microsoft, the customer, and we’re a customer of theirs, and we’ve known them? Well, not at the CEO level historically. It was actually the work in that first part of our growth mindset. So, I’ve done work with Carol Dweck, I read the book. I spoke to Carol on a number of times, invited her down, she came down, she’s presented to our people, and it was Carol who said, oh, you know, you should meet with such an– Nadella at Microsoft, you know, your companies are at a very similar way of thinking about this. And so, I did, and I not only follow him on the I reached out and you know, we discussed what we were doing and growth mindset. And then we’ve actually connected our organizations around sharing, you know, sort of best practice. So that’s sort of a long-winded answer, but I thought it came about

Graeme Cowan 8:57 

I remember I was I found on YouTube set into Nadella’s opening speech when he became CEO. And one of the interesting things that he did there was to talk about, you know, he had children with learning difficulties and the Microsoft resources, were able to help them to learn much better. And he put the challenge out to all the other employees, you know, what problems do you want to solve? How can you use Microsoft, our technology and what have you to solve problems you do? And then that was really the launch into, you know, this, this real purpose and which is captured in his book refresh. And I’ve spoken to a couple of people who were at Microsoft one is Steve Worrell and also my physio who’ve been there for a number of years and they said that there was remarkable how quickly the culture changed like my physio is here in Australia, and he said, within six months, there was just a substantial difference in the way that the company operated. That’s priorities. And it is amazing, isn’t it? How it can happen relatively quickly if there’s the right mindset, and it’s done carefully as well.

Shayne Elliott 10:08 

I totally agree. And I think, you know, maybe it hasn’t happened within six months here. But it’s had the same impact here. And again, I think it’s important, this wasn’t imposed by me, right? So, what an imposition from the leadership, hey, we’ve got this new whiz bang thing called purpose, we’d like you to do that. It was already there, it possibly wasn’t very well articulated or coherent, and it wasn’t sort of tight so that people could actually understand what they’re supposed to do and how to make decisions. If we didn’t give them all the scaffolding around it to say, actually, this is how we’re going to run the company. Right? We’re gonna measure. So, I think that actually helped. I mean, I think our analogy, analogy, sorry, but our similar story on that one is to do with, you know, financial well-being, which is again, part about how to communities and people thrive as a role of the bankers being understanding money, understanding the importance of financial health, having the tools to be able to do that are really, really important. And we sort of used a similar analogy for our own children. So, we sat down and said, hey, you were giving advice to a five-year-old and we used a five-year-old deliberately giving advice to a five-year-old about it, what would you tell them? And so, you tell them things like, hey, you should spend less than you earn, you should save for a rainy day, you should protect the things you love, you know, that sort of thing, right? So, we came up with these nine financial principles that we said that a five-year-old can understand. We went and tested those with people, what we found is a great large population didn’t understand that sense at all and haven’t revolutionary. Simple idea of spending less than you earns. And then what we said is okay, if that’s how you should lead your life to be financially healthy? Do our products and services enable that? Or do they get in the way? And what we found is that banks get in the way, they make that hard. We said, what if you redesign the bank and around actually making those things natural? Yeah? And that’s the process we’re undertaking at the moment with our sort of reengineering of the bank, say, hey, how do we make those things natural outcomes of I’ve working with ANZ because we want to be able to say to her, hey, if you bent with us, we can show you, we will help you improve your financial well-being and we can prove it. And so that’s, that’s sort of our manifestation of that same idea. In terms of making the company truly sort of purpose driven.

Graeme Cowan 12:33 

I really love you know, making it accessible to five-year-old’s, because, you know, it’s often the simple language that really cuts through and you know, when we launched value, okay, and the tagline a conversation could change your life. You know, some people thought it was too simplistic, but, you know, everyone can relate to that conversation to change your life, whether it’s, you know, five-year-old, 10-year-old to slight change in language, but simple messages, when don’t they when such change.

Shayne Elliott 13:01 

Well, people, you know, and again, we shouldn’t we’re not speaking down to our customers or anything, the reality is that people are busy and giving them a lot of things going on in their life, right. And people, you know, from our people don’t wake up in the morning thinking about or generally about their financial situation, they might have been under stress, but generally, they don’t think about banking or saving, you know, those, they’ve got things to do. And so, we need to make those things easy, and natural outcomes of the way they interact with us. You know, and I think there’s a there’s a massive gap here. And we’re not there yet. I mean, we’re not there yet. But that is the those are the sorts of tools we’re trying to put in the hands about. What’s been interesting, is that the response of customers, I think, has been much stronger than we would have thought, you know, because we get told by, you know, smart people, that you know, what people care about as price. We get our largest thing about banking and Lord services that people hailed as care about the price of something. That doesn’t actually hold water. I mean, price is important. And I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be competitive. But actually, people do value services, and products and things on a much broader base system that people are not silly, they understand the value of relationship, they understand that certain counterparties or banks can help them get it, get to him. And some, but yeah, I think it’s been, it’s been a good again, good, good articulation of purpose and, and react. The other one, of course, was if you sit back and you say, well, hang on, and because we’re big institutional banks, we a lot of our you know, about, I don’t know, call it about 40% of our customers or big end of town, multinationals, etc. So, what’s the equivalent there was really about what how do we shape where were people in communities thrive? In that space was where we need to make sure that our customers are aligned with those values. Are there activities, shaping a world where people and communities thrive or are they, or they’re doing the wrong thing? Yeah. And so that was led to things, for example, around our environmental policies to say, hey, clearly, a thriving community needs a healthy physical environment. I mean, the healthy and thriving people that should go without saying, do therefore that sort of shapes our, our policy around things like climate change, and transition. So now we don’t have a big footprint ourselves, but our customers do. So, we have to talk to our customers say, do you get it? Are you aligned with the transition? Are you doing the right thing? And then are we as a bank, providing services help, nudges, whatever, to enable that to be faster and better?

Graeme Cowan 15:39 

Yeah. So, you set off on this noble path to really embed the, the purpose and make it part of the DNA. But then in 2018, along came the Royal Commission, and what was it like for you personally? How did you feel being part of that?

Shayne Elliott 15:56 

It was, it was extraordinarily difficult. I mean, I was new, like, I been two years. And actually, the documents got announced in 2017. So, I’d only been a year in the job in this as CEO. And so, and again, I’m not making excuses, but a lot of the stuff that the what was in the rocket was not like what I was even here in the company, right? So, and I wasn’t, he wasn’t CEO. Actually, so it’s quite stressful. Obviously. I would say two things that came out of it, though, one, it was a brilliant learning opportunity. Didn’t feel like it at the time. But in order for me, because I was going to be a witness, I had to be on top of all of that history. I what had happened over that last 10 years in the banking industry, where I would be a witness and you know, to, in a court case, essentially, like Royal Commission, so I had to go and do my homework. So, it was actually a massive learning. So, I went back and looked at all these things, and had to uncover them all and be confident in the details. So, it was a massive learning opportunity for me, and I sort of learned, well, how did these things happen? Why did, how did those things go wrong, etc., which we can talk about. And then the second thing that came out of it, actually, in a funny way, it was extraordinarily enabling for us in terms of our purpose, because it was actually a way to say to people see what happens when you don’t do what’s right. Actually, in a funny way, well, it was a positive experience, and that we were able to use a lot of those case studies and the ones that are own but looking at others, to talk to our people and make it real, because otherwise these things, you know, the risk is always they sound well, they sound nice, don’t they, so you know, the posters on a wall or things people wear around their neck, and you know, and then people go about their normal lives at work. And so, this was a way to actually make it all quite real.

Graeme Cowan 15:58 

As you say, I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been how do you? How do you prepare for that? How do you keep your stress under control? When you’re facing as something as traumatic as that? How do you do it?

Shayne Elliott 18:00 

So good– Well, you have to, you know, put everybody’s different for me, you know, I know what works for me. So I go to the gym, and I know I need to keep my weekends to my weekends. And not I, you know I can’t work seven days a week and all that I you know, I don’t handle it very well. I have you know, a family, but emotionally, emotionally [18:19]. So, spending time with family, you know, those things that distress me by keeping grounded. And I think the way we approached the Royal Commission was really important. So right at the beginning, we got the team, as we saw it at the time in a room and said, look, we’re gonna go into this with a really, we’re gonna get back to our purpose here. Where will I pick my communities thrive? So, we’re going to go into this to be helpful, we’re not going to be, we’re not going to defend the indefensible. Right? So, we’re going to be honest, and we’re going to contribute and appalled with a positive mindset to achieve the outcomes here, which is, how do we make our industry better for the community? And so, I think I mean, I didn’t probably appreciate it at the time, but after the fact, many of the people, you know, my co-witnesses and other people in the bank would refer back and said, well, that gave me comfort because it I understood what my role was. Yeah. Because otherwise without those things, you know, what happens? People, you know, people are good people, and they feel this need to protect the defend the company, defend things that were wrong. Yeah? To rationalize, and by giving them the freedom to say no, no, when that’s not what we’re doing here. This is not about ANZ versus the world. We’re here to help. And we’re there to contribute to the dialogue and to, you know, enable the commission to make thoughtful, balanced decisions.

Graeme Cowan 19:43 

And do you think having that approach, that mindset was responsible for you and the Chairman David Gonski, being the only CEO and chairman to survive?

Shayne Elliott 19:55 

I think it helped. I mean, look, we had our, say we had no I don’t know if you in Brixton Academy, we had a similar series of bad things that had happened under ANZ as opposed to others. So it wasn’t that we were immune from criticism or mistakes or bad, bad outcomes. I don’t know. But I don’t know what the others did, I don’t know what their, what their, what their mindset was going on. I just know that it gave us a sense of grounding, and actually in a funny way to de stress the whole thing, because, you know, before going on to say, look, I’m not here, I’m just here to tell the truth to say, give my opinion on things when asked, my view, and to be helpful. And I get it, I’m not going to defend the indefensible, I’m just going to, you know, give my perspective as an experienced person in my field. And, you know, based on the work that I’ve done, to uncover what happened, I think it probably did mean that I would speak every– I mean, you know, just during that period, we spoke, sometimes every day. Just to make sure, we keep going back to those sorts of basics of the battle, when it does feel like that it does feel like a battle, it feels like you’re in a massive stress, right? should revert to some sort of defensive mindset, mode or to be completely overwhelmed, as well. And so being able to just sort of say, Hey, that’s not what we’re here about. Okay.

Graeme Cowan 21:20 

Yeah. For our listeners, Shayne, could you give us a brief overview of your career and how you can become CEO?

Shayne Elliott 21:29 

Well, it was a series of strange events, really, I never set out to be CEO of a bank, I didn’t even start, I didn’t even set up start working in event, I started work, I did a commerce degree, purely on the advice of an English teacher of mine, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was good at school, you know, I was kind of good at English and those sorts of things. My English teacher, I thought I’d be a school teacher, whatever. And she convinced me very strong, which was very influential in my life to do commerce. And so, I did, and I didn’t want to be an accountant. So I did all the other stuff, you know, and look at when I ended up, my very first job was as a stockbroker, actually, and I hated it was horrible. I was a floor trader, one of those people goes down, and I really disliked it. Now I can reflect back and realize that I worked for a really bad person, I worked for a bully, I didn’t know that I thought that was normal to be yelled at and sort of have things thrown at you. So, I became kind of really stressful, and I literally couldn’t cope with it anymore. It was only after six or nine months, whatever. So, I left. I couldn’t do it anymore. And I ended up a friend of mine saw a job ad for a bank called Citi Bank. This is an Auckland in New Zealand; I grew up looking for trainees and so I applied and I got a job and I loved it. I went from one extreme to the other I work; I just fell in love with this company. You know, they were thoughtful about people caring, they coached people that gave people opportunity, really, I loved it. I mean, I worked really hard, but I gave everything because I liked the play so much. So, I sort of did that. And I they kept giving me more and more opportunity. And long story short, I got to the age of 27. And all my friends are going to London. And so, I thought I would do the same thing. When I went to Sydney and said, look, I’m going to leave, I’m going to go to London, and they were very much No, you know, you can we’ll give you a job, you know, so I, they gave me a job. I went to London and then my father, obviously, I thought I was going for a year. And I ended up being five years. And then I got that dreadful phone call my father had, was diagnosed with cancer and not given much time to live. So again, I went back to today, I said, look, I’ve got to leave, I’ve got to go home to New Zealand, my father’s dying and they were like, no, you take as much time as you like, you come back when you’re ready. I was like, wow, I you know, like to me to care for like as an employee to– And I wasn’t very senior, but for my team to be able to do that. I was forever grateful for that. So, I went back, I stayed with my father until he passed and then thinking, well, my life, I didn’t know what to do. And the bank rang and he has a job in New York, we’d really like you to do it. And in group strategy, working in head office with a team of three people. So, I did, I went over there. And then again, a series of events got offered a job to government of Egypt and Egypt to be the country head, et cetera. And then I ended up in Australia and Hong Kong, I say, look, it just sorts of evolved. And I left Citi after 20 years, it wasn’t the company I joined anymore. The culture changed, actually, you know, to go back to that change boss. It wasn’t the place that I reckon this is after they’ve done a big merger and everything. Just wasn’t right, so that I recognize. I still remember this, there was this trigger point, I can say. I’m in Hong Kong, I’m running this rather large business. We’re doing a business review with the with the CEO and the team in New York. And you know, it’s late, we’re fair enough, we had to get up late– It’s late at night because the time zones we did during the report. And the team on the other side on the video, like you’re sitting there, sitting there reading the newspaper while we were doing this presentation and I just went that said I can’t, I can’t stay here anymore. It’s not what I joined. It’s not the place that I’d love. So, I did like so I thought I’ve got to get out. So, we went back, we quit and I didn’t go back to the Middle Eastern Region, private company for a while. And then the job at ANZ came up. And I sort of again, ANZ did come here, I came from an institutional got this opportunity to run been CFO. Six years ago, David Gonski asked me if I’d like to CEO. So wasn’t a plan, other than my plan was to keep having new experiences, and to sort of broaden my experiences and the things that I was doing.

Graeme Cowan 25:30 

Yeah. Your dad was a builder in Auckland, what did you learn from your dad, which applies to your role as CEO now?

Shayne Elliott 25:39 

Well, Dad was a very disciplined person. So, like, my father would get up early in the morning, go to work, and he loved his job, like, he loved it. And, you know, I, I learned that sense of sort of discipline, but he was like me, like he, you know, he would put in the hours, but he also was very protective of his, you know, family life, you know, holidays, weekends, all those things, spending time with us. So, I learned those sorts of things. But I also learned that you have to, and I try to teach this to my own daughter, who’s now thinking about what she’s gonna do. She’s 17 It’s way too early to be thinking about this thing. But you know, kids get pressured, what are you going to do? To make sure that people you know, that you’d do something that you actually enjoy and love, because that is it. And then the other thing is, you know, Dad was, he was a building foreman, so he was kind of a boss on the building sites. And, you know, I used to do some work for them when I was at uni as a laborer. And I just saw that coaching role. You know, he saw his job, as, you know, because I was an apprenticeship role, you know, you had these apprentices that you had to train and build, I saw the pride that he would have, knowing that those and in those days was all men, that these young men would go on to do good things, whether it was with their firm, or somebody else, that that sense of, hey, I, I enabled that a little part in that career, or I nudge that person to take that chance. Those are the things that I learned. And that’s what I apply here as well.

Graeme Cowan 27:03 

I also read that, you know, when you’re growing up, you’re living in a garage while your dad a new, presumably, we’re helping to build a house and–

Shayne Elliott 27:15 

Not me, not when I was a baby, I was born in the garage. Father, my grand– My father’s parents grew up in the Depression, and they lost the house in the Depression. And so, my father was the youngest of five children. He grew up with this morbid fear of debt, but he was terrified of having a loan or a mortgage. And so, when mum and dad got married, they bought this piece of land. And they’d built that this little this was garage, it was going to be the garage. But he had a there’s a little house that we you know, that I was born in, and every– Dad would go off to work. And every weekend, he was building the house, and that took a number of years. And then when the house was, I don’t know how I can’t remember how old I was. When we moved in the house, he turned that back in the garage. So that’s that was my end, you know, as I said, my father, mum and dad only got, and he had a loan or a mortgage, I think when he was, well, not much younger than I am now probably in his mid-50s. And that was to buy a boat. You know, he got over this fear of debt, and I borrowed a small amount of money to buy a little boat, you know.

Graeme Cowan 28:23 

It’s sort of ironical that you went on to be a banker really, isn’t it?

Shayne Elliott 28:26 

Ironic, but yes, but it also– I think, again, it goes back to that sense of purpose. I mean, I understand not personally, but I’ve grown up to understand the harm that debt can do. And know– I see that, you know, I worry about things that I see in the marketplace today, you know, certain products and things that look very exciting. And, you know, may have me, you know, if used well, maybe okay, but I see a lot of financial services, you know, abused in that real harm, or that does to people.

Graeme Cowan 29:00 

Yeah. And he was rapidly showing to spend less than you receive, wasn’t he? That was a wonderful listener that which, you know, is now part of the DNA of ANZ.

Shayne Elliott 29:12 

Yes, exactly.

Graeme Cowan 29:14 

What did you learn from your time in, in Egypt?

Shayne Elliott 29:17 

Well, first of all, I loved that I lived there twice. So, the first time I lived there for three years off the country, head of city, I was 34, I think or I was quite young, and I went off to this place. I’ve been on holiday. I’ve done a backpacking trip around seeing the sights, but I’d never– Well, I mean, it’s just that I come from Auckland, in New Zealand, when I grew up with a population of you know, 2.8 million people, then I go to Cairo. Now I’d lived in London in New York in there, but there was Cairo in a city of 20 million or something even then, you know, in all the chaos and the color and all the that that’s it. I mean, I loved it. I just thought it was amazing. It was great experience. And what I learned with the team that I go in, and I’m reasonably young I’d never done it before. And the job description I remember, we got one of the guys was the vice chairman of the banks guy, Bill Rhodes. Bill was sort of a bit of a legend in banking. And he would write you this letter, and his little one pager only had about that long. Basically, what it says was don’t screw up. It’s like, you know, like, you’re in charge, he has lots of people to ask advice from, you know, your job is to build and you know, protecting very this sort of franchise and don’t screw up. Which was a pretty good message, actually. And so, I just learnt a lot I learned because I had to, I didn’t have a manual, I’d never done it before, to sit down with a piece of paper and figure out with the team, meet the team, and I teach later strategy. So that’s what it taught me. It taught me that was the first job I think I’d had probably where I had to figure out things for myself rather than executing somebody else’s plan. Yeah, I loved it.

Graeme Cowan 30:54 

And it’s also where you met your wife, right?

 Shayne Elliott 30:57 

Yes. Actually, I should say something they used to have a saying in Citi and I heard someone here is that the saying was that the best job you’ll ever have in your life, your career as your first country hit job. And it’s true. And the reason is, it’s the first when you’re a country, it doesn’t matter big, small in different country. You’re in charge of everything. You know, you’re dealing with regulators, with customers, with staff with premises issues with health and safety problems with you know, I like the variety is immense. And that’s why people really love it. Yes, I did meet my wife there. I, my wife is 100% Egyptian. But born in Saudi, her father was a doctor, born in Saudi Arabia, and grew up most of her went to school boarding school since she was 12 in the US, so American accent and a bit since she’d gone back to live in Egypt, sort of rediscover her roots, if you will. And she worked for US AID though. Aid agency. She’s a development economist. So yeah, I met her there. And then we move to Australia and other places.

Graeme Cowan 32:01 

And in Egypt, you just can’t escape the history there. Can you? Were just so profound. What did you look into that? Because I know you’re a bit of a buffer in history. What? How did you, how did you try to understand what went on there?

Shayne Elliott 32:19 

Well, that’s what I did with my weekends, I would just, I was– I had a bicycle and I ride around, I was probably that was probably irresponsible, but I used to ride around and I, you really got to know the city extraordinarily well. And what’s amazing about Egypt, like a lot of those great cities in the world, it’s this, this this layer cake of history, I mean, you know, depending on it’s just layer upon layer, you know, you’ve got obviously all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, but the whole Islamic history, and you’ve got the Mamelukes through the Ottoman Empire, and then even more recently, with NASA and all these others, so there’s, there’s just layers and layers of history. And I found all that really fascinating. I mean, it’s a good lesson, in some senses of that things don’t change. I mean, what’s really remarkable about all that history is that things don’t change. Like the basics, the way that these great civilizations organize themselves, you know, making sure they were, you know, people had work to do and things to get done. And there was a sense of having, you know, time off, you know, whatever that might be. The importance of social gatherings, festivals, sports, even though that change, that whole idea of community, you know, whole idea of getting something to the greater good. So, all those things haven’t really changed, just the way we go about them has changed. Quite grounding in a funny way that, you know, as I say, the fundamental needs of life have been not dissimilar, or haven’t really changed over that time. And it’s, you know, for shelter and family and connection and community and, and advancement, the sense that, you know, you want people want better for their children. It’s our question of, you know, what’s our role and, and how do we, how do we enable those things to people?

Graeme Cowan 34:04 

I saw a graphic illustration of that, you know, we’ve been through this pandemic, and we think, you know, poor us never happened before, or we tend to think but I went to a conference a couple of weeks ago, at the key station in, in Sydney, it’s near manly, but that actually was the quarantine station, where all the ships from they came in. All the passengers had to go there. And there was this big sandstone wall where people had written what time they arrived. There was one there 1918 I think was a remembrance boat, and they were there for the flu, the Spanish flu. So yeah, there’s many examples aren’t how history repeats itself.

Shayne Elliott 34:47 

Absolutely. And, you know, the good lesson particularly is the bank, you know, like, as we mentioned before, there’s always change, there’s always a crisis. There’s always something happening. We’ve gone through an extraordinary lead a period of time. And should you really stand back and think about greater history. You know, over the last, you know, I don’t know, 20, 30 years, on a relative basis, we’ve had this period of great peace around the world, right, and stability and economic growth and globalization and connection and all that good stuff. I mean, there’s been bad things happen. But it’s been on a historical basis, extremely calm. The reality is, we all then started to think that was normal. And actually, in reality, it was abnormal. I’m not saying it will go back to chaos. But history is littered with war, disease, famine, flood, earthquake, pandemic. And so, you know, I think and the lesson here is always you know, it’s a bit of a Boy Scout thing, like be prepared. And, you know, like, how do you make sure that you’re never it goes my point, you’re never gonna predict the future. All you can do is be prepared. And you have to be prepared as a company, but you have to be prepared as an individual as well, about this whole idea of resilience and what happens when, when the world, when the sort of world falls apart for you, whatever that might be, either as an individual or family or community or country or whatever. What do you do? And how do you cope with those things? Because it will happen. I think that’s the point. I think you have to have access to Nevitt ability about these crises, individual ones and national ones. They happen and they happen with remarkable regularity. So, you’ve got to figure a way to manage it.

Graeme Cowan 36:28 

I’ve been reading recently, Ray Dalio principles, and he’s, he’s a real fan of history as well. And just saying, you know, that there’s so much that has happened in the past, which is relevant now. So yeah.

Shayne Elliott 36:43 

Well, I agree. And I’m not I’m certainly no expert, but the sort of the more you read, history, the more contemporary the way it sounds. You read these stories, and like, this is so contemporary that things were living through today.

 Graeme Cowan 37:01 

Yeah. I read that one of your favorite books for to give away is ‘What the All Blacks Can Teach Us, Business and Life’. Why do you– Why do you like that book, so much?

Shayne Elliott 37:12 

The book legacy, look, it’s not you don’t have to be a rugby fan to like it. It’s actually about culture and purpose. And it starts with a great line when the all blacks have gone through this tough period of time. And the, the code for the men or the obits said at the time, you know, we have to remember that good, good men make good all blacks. And so, it’s all about character first, like, and so they went through this sort of cathartic moment of realizing, and it’s all about, we’re not going to tolerate bad behavior, you kind of have to believe in the culture first. And, you know, so good, good men make good all blacks. And I think that was the point. And then the book just sort of goes through how they met, how that manifest, like, the rituals, the belief how they’ve embodied that idea. Over generations within that team, it’s not the same team, like they’ve obviously had multiple players, and captains and all that other stuff. And I think it’s just a good reminder, same thing, we use it, because it’s a good reminder engine of our purpose as well. You know, good people will make good bankers. And if you, if you’re a good person, and you’ve based on that sense of purpose and values, with the rest, we can figure out, you know, unlikely most people can, you know, work at a bank, most people can’t be an autofocus, but you know, we can teach you all the other stuff. I think that’s the other point about this is, let’s not, let’s not get too, ahead of ourselves. It’s not that hard. It’s not rocket science, you know, like, we can teach the banking bits, but what we can’t really teach is character and, and culture. And so increasingly, a little bit like that growth mindset work increasing when we’re looking for people. We’re looking for people really based on their adaptability, their curiosity, their mindset, their values, as opposed to have you done this job before? You have to ask that sometimes you need to know people have to have, you know, some, some time on the tools, if you will. But that sense of character, it’s more fun. And that’s what their books really about.

Graeme Cowan 39:03 

Yeah. And are there any other books that have had big influence to you as a leader?

Shayne Elliott 39:09 

So that yes, well, so one is not a business book. And I use it. One is that book Moneyball by Michael Lewis, who then got made into movie about baseball. That book was quite eye opening for me. And I like all his books, so they’re all well written. That book is actually sort of related, which is, don’t look for the hero players. But for the people to actually get stuff done, and actually break down the like, break down and, and, you know, so it’s really a story about data. And data, don’t be seduced by people, or charming, or the big, big personalities or those that allowed. And so, I think that that was a really good thing. And I use that to really sort of remap a whole bunch of our work that we do in terms of thinking through, how do you know, at the end of the day, and basically you need to get people into the home thinking and there’s a whole bunch of things you need to do to get there and if you break it down and say how do we make sure we get people who are good at those things. I think that was really important to me. The other one is a book by a guy called John Doerr, who’s one of the founders of the VC world and in the valley, who’s you know, as an investor and most of the startups and it’s called Measure what Matters. And that book is, again, sort of some of that measure, what are you really sure about what you’re trying to achieve? Hitting goals that are actually relevant to that, and then breaking it down. You know, are you measuring what actually matters, nothing that has to happen. And I think that’s important. So, for example, in a bank, in a bank, there are so many variables, if we just sit measure revenue, for example, there’s so many factors that go into that, that are out of our control, the level of interest rates, you know, the house prices, blah, blah, blah, all those things influence, why can’t do anything about them? We gotta measure what matters. And again, from our purpose, perspective, but also things that we can control. So those of that book also, and, you know, I’ve literally got, I’ve got about 200 of them sitting out there, because whenever, whenever somebody gets promoted to a senior rank, and I send them that book, with a note talking about, you know, for them to sign up, find out what matters in their role and make sure that they are really focused on those right outcomes.

Graeme Cowan 41:17 

I put up on LinkedIn on Friday that I was going to be interviewing you and asked many people had questions and, and a lady called Stella Eker. She’s in the technology, technology division. And she asked, we all want to come to work and deliver what matters was working with for people who care. What advice would Shayne give us as leaders to build a caring culture?

Shayne Elliott 41:43 

That’s a good question. First of all, it’s got to be authentic, right? It can’t create caring if you’re not, if you actually don’t care. I think it’s the most important thing like, do you as a leader do you actually care like do you– And what do you care about, I think. And then so that’s one and then two, I think it’s about not being shy about showing that care. You know, so for example, a lot of people sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable asking people are they okay? Are you okay? No. We were doing work with Dylan or caught on Dylan was talking about, I did an interview with him. We’re talking about mindset coaching, this is, you know, physical training. And he was saying, it’s interesting, isn’t it? If somebody says, I’m going to the gym this morning. Oh, good on you. That’s great. But if you said I was seeing a psychologist that go, oh, my God, what’s wrong? You know, something dreadful, you know, it’s kind of true. And anyway, the point is, it’s a little bit like that when if you really do care in ethics, as a leader, you can do that. And then I think, you know, if we can get to that what matters as a leader, your job is to coach and develop people in the way that you can do that and show that you really care sometimes, in many times is to let them go. Is to actually push them into something bigger. Even if that’s not it, might be outside the company. That might be okay, that’s okay. But if you really care about him, you should be exhibiting and making sure that they’re advancing and that they’re doing good, and they’re thriving, and that they’re getting opportunities.

Graeme Cowan 43:26 

Yeah. How important is empathy as part of showing that you care?

Shayne Elliott 43:32 

It’s enormously important. I don’t know that you can care. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not I’m not an I’m not a psychologist. But I would imagine it’s almost impossible to be caring without some level of empathy. So, I would have thought it was pretty, pretty critical. And that’s why, for me, having a breadth of experience helps, because I personally find it easy to be empathetic of people when I’ve had some personal experience of that, you know, you know, for me, having all those experiences in different cultures and places and different businesses, some are growing, some are shrinking, some are successful, some are failing. That gives me, you know, it enables me to be a bit more thoughtful. I put myself in that other person’s shoes, because I’ve had a little bit more exposure to those things.

 Graeme Cowan 44:21 

I recently interviewed Bob Chapman, he wrote, he wrote a book called Everybody Matters. And it’s been an amazing success story, his business, it’s a manufacturing business in the US, which has grown from 20 million to over $3 billion in turnover. And he’s a real champion of, you know, creating that caring environment. But what he, what he talks about, he used to think that you know, caring was talking with people, but what he finally really understood was it was empathetic listening, and really making sure people feel understood. So yeah, you might get–

Shayne Elliott 44:57 

I lived in Egypt and I know my first real job managing a team many societies, right? I used to run books, even five or six people, whatever. Here I am, I came into Egypt, but you know, hundreds and you know, I had a big team. And this sounds so ridiculous. But I, there was this point where I remember saying something like, I just can’t get my work done because my people are always in my office wanting to talk. Right? And that sounds silly. It was, that was that epiphany moment when I realized that that is my job. And that it was my job, to just listen sometimes. And sometimes, you know, sometimes to give advice, or coaching or whatever, but sometimes actually, to keep my mouth shut, and just not that people weren’t looking for a solution. They just wanted to be able to, you know, articulate and, and talk through an issue with somebody. It was quite a big learning for me.

Graeme Cowan 45:55 

What approach do you take when someone that reports you has really let you down? How do you go about having that discussion?

Shayne Elliott 46:03 

I’m probably not very good at it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t like conflict as a general observation. So, I’m not good at those sorts of things. Look, I– But first of all, so I do it myself. I don’t delegate those difficult conversations, even though personally, I would much prefer to like, it’s my personal would be to avoid those things. So, I know that I’ve got to deal with those. And I’d look, I’d just be as honest and as transparent as I can be. And as calm as I can be and explained to those people. I don’t get– I’m not– Like anybody I get angry at things. I don’t generally, I wouldn’t. And I probably have a temperate some– My time, but not, not really not in those sorts of situations. Like it’s other things that irritate me or I get angry, but when it’s something important like that, because can you look at somebody’s let me down. This is somebody that I chose. So, like, I feel personally invested in this person, I chose them to do something in my team. And if they, do it again, I take that really personally as well. And so, I, as I say, I just try to deal with it as calmly as I can. I also remember is that great story, the– In the right stuff, you know, it’s the guy Chuck Yeager test pilot, flying, you know, he’s flying some sort of supersonic jet. And one of the mechanics and one of the engineers had put the wrong fuel on the plane, the plane nearly crashes, right? And he has to land it in this, you know, very dramatic way he survived. He gets out of pay, walks into the hangar pad, it’s true story, walks in the hands says, I want to know who put that fuel on my plane. Right, and this guy puts his hand on, he said, right from now on, you’re the only person who ever puts fuel my plane. I know you will never make that mistake ever again. What you’re trying to do, as well, as you know, we’re trying to be a learning culture to say when you let me down, it doesn’t mean we throw you out, it means Hey, you, we have to make sure that we’re learning we have to take it as a learning opportunity that hey, how do we understand what’s happened? Like the need to be authentic? Like, oh, yes, I get it take accountability. And then I you know, sort of it’s okay, because we’ve all done that. We’ve all made those sorts of mistakes.

Graeme Cowan 48:24 

Yeah. I read a report last year was a report called Return on Action put together by Atlassian and PwC. And it showed that the number one issue, the subtle issue that employees now care about is mental health. Does that surprise you?

Shayne Elliott 48:45 

Yes, and no. I say no. Because, you know, it does appear to be the sort of zeitgeist of the time, it’s something that we talk about a lot. So now it doesn’t, I think people are under enormous stresses in life. I, you know, I see them with my daughter and I, you know, have friends at school, and they’re 16. And I see the pressures that we put on kids and all those things, so no, it doesn’t. And clearly, it’s become something that’s okay to talk about. And I think there’s been a remarkable shift in my sort of professional life. I don’t think I can’t remember. People wouldn’t have even spoken about it. You would have it would have been a weakness right to say people wouldn’t you can’t cope, you can’t cut it kind of thing, right? So, I’m not surprised by that. But then I sort of, I am surprised a little bit in the sense that I’m sure it’s always been there. Maybe, maybe just we’ve given people permission to talk about it. Maybe. And maybe and things like are you okay day and others and sort of made it okay. It’s always like, yeah, it’s not it goes to that point that all– It’s not it’s not. It’s not seen as a weakness for per se. Hey, I, I’m struggling with this issue. And I think we’ve also born in the definition. I mean, if somebody had said, I’m trying to think it’s 20 years ago, somebody’s got a mental health problem, you probably would have thought, oh, my God, this is, you know, they’ve got some serious psychological issue. You know, they’re bipolar, or they’ve got delusions or something like that. I think we’ve broadened the definition of what we mean as well.

Graeme Cowan 50:20 

Do you have any way of measuring the mental health across hands in mental health employees?

Shayne Elliott 50:25 

Well, we asked, so we asked, we don’t ask, you know, directly. It’s a bit hard for people to self-diagnose. But we asked those patients about people feeling stressed and people feeling resilient, and they feel they are able to get their work done. And do they feel that they’re not supportive colleagues and all those sorts of things. So we, you can sort of get a sense of the general health of an organization, we have one of the great things that ANZ had, and it has nothing to do with me, it’s just part of the culture as we have a number of these grassroots teams, you know, it sort of started with things around sort of the various ethnic or not, if it, well, not ethnic groups, but things its various sort of minorities, if you will, we are tied together, that’s actually developed. So we have all these now groups, and one of them is around mental health and well-being and so people feel that they can talk to each other about those things, but that we measure it more than just through our surveys, which we do quite often. And obviously, we measured the other things. And again, I’m not saying they’re all to do with physical but you measure all the things that you wouldn’t do about, you know, sick leave and turnover rates and all those other bits and pieces, which are indicators about the general health of a company. Yeah.

Graeme Cowan 51:34 

I understand that you’re a bit of a David Bowie fan. What do you like about David Bowie?

Shayne Elliott 51:42 

I just like that. It’s probably not just David Bowie that type of music, you know, I, some, perhaps, I mean, my parents didn’t play that sort of music, but that was what I grew up with listening to. And I didn’t know I liked songs that have meaning. Everybody likes a nice tune. But I sort of liked the ones with really interesting lyrics. And I liked the fact and I went to the heat, there was a great exhibition of hits recently, where they put all the you know, it’s costumes and that I found the most interesting was sort of a songwriting technique, which was write all these random ideas and cut up bits of paper and reorganize. I don’t know, I just thought you know, it’s like everything at some point in life. Certain musicians that you feel is that you feel they’re speaking to you. Right? Is it like he’s not the only one I’m big crowded house fan and I like– Crowded House to me? I feel like they wrote every single song for me, I like, I really understand, in my mind what they’re saying. I like those sorts of musicians or Billy Joel is another one. I feel like right now I understand what he’s talking about.

 Graeme Cowan 52:46 

Yeah, I guess all those ones you mentioned that also shatter our capacity to evolve with time, didn’t they? Especially Bowie, like, talk about the reinvention man, but he just got better and better. Amazing.

Shayne Elliott 52:57 

Yeah. And obviously, some huge level of the other thing I love about those stories of people, and I use them for my daughter as well, this level of resilience they have and fate that they’re going to do, you know, meet their dreams, like they don’t give up. And you know, even then adversity, and they get told they’re not good. And they fail and, and your ability to sort of pick themselves up, literally off the floor, and keep going. And then obviously, those that, I mean, I never thought about it before. But perhaps it’s a little bit like that growth mindset, it’s the same thing that you’re talking about the ability to recall here, people are thinking ahead, understanding the trends, the future, and are willing to experiment, you know, we’re not just sort of stuck in a one genre or one kind of thing. That’s really fascinating. Mindset continue to do that. Because it must be so easy to give to sort of give up and say, well, I’ve done it. And I find those are also interesting things. Like I see that in our business life with a lot of our customers who are enormously successful. You do and it’s essentially you understand what motivates them. Sort of level one, if you will, you know, like, whatever level you know, they did whatever they set out to do that, you know, maybe they’ve made a lot of money. Maybe they’ve been the pinnacle of your career, but your ability to want to keep going. I find that really quite remarkable.

Graeme Cowan 54:20 

Yeah. It’s been an absolute pleasure catching up. Shayne. I just got a couple more questions. And we’re, I know we’re gonna finish it at nine. What advice would you give to a new manager that came to you? Their first job was manager and they say I want to have a team culture of the champions both care and high performance. What advice would you give to them?

Shayne Elliott 54:45 

So, I would tell them that teams– Teams bond and perform by doing work together, right? You’re not a team if you just delegate things whole bunch of people you meet every now and again to add the stuff up, right? So you have to create a– See I think that person has to create a common purpose, like what is our purpose is we understand the purpose of the company, what’s our role and our purpose as a team? So that’s, I think it’s really important to sit down with I’ve done it with my team be really clear on who’s doing what, once you’ve got that purpose, what’s our job to do as a team? And then what’s our relationship? What are the things I’m going to do? What are the things you’re going to do? What are the things we’re going to do? So, I think clarity of those things are really important. That’s, I think, I’m making sure we invest a lot of time and my team we didn’t consciously from the beginning of being together, like, you know, because it’s about caring and making sure there is time for the, you know, the morning teas, that dinners, whatever it is, that actually are just we do actually have those social connections, which is ultimately also about caring for those individuals as well. And then finally, I think it is really important, particularly the leader, as I mentioned, I think an important part of caring is thinking about not what’s good for you. Is that what’s good for the people in the team, like is it– Is it time for those people to lead the team and be promoted? Or how are you making sure you’re, you’re investing in what’s good for them, as well.

Graeme Cowan 56:13 

That’s a great, great suggestions there. And the final question is, know what you know, now, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self-back in Auckland? One or two? You just uni, I guess what advice would give that 20-year-old self?

Shayne Elliott 56:33 

Oh, look, I probably, I probably tell myself to be more courageous. But I because I’m quite shy. And I’m a bit of an introvert. And I don’t consider myself a risk taker, I probably would have told myself that. But then I sort of go well, I didn’t take all those risks. So, sort of surprised myself. But I think that I think, taking more chance on myself. You know, yeah, that would have been my advice, then. Now, again, I’m being extraordinary lucky, I don’t sit here and regret anything or something, oh, I’ve only just I could have done better. I look, I you know, this is an amazing life that I’ve had. So, I don’t regret anything. But I probably could have been a little bit more self-confident and being a little bit more willing to take a chance on things. But as I say, it all worked out pretty well. And no complaints from it.

Graeme Cowan 57:23 

That’s a very common message that, you know, Caring CEOs I’ve interviewed as I’ve had just to back yourself up again.

Shayne Elliott 57:32 

But you know, as I said, I get to meet amazing people in this job. And you know, we’ve got customers and really, I love hearing the stories. And I was saying to some people, you know, it’s interesting, when you look at when they are towards the end of their careers, whatever in the reflecting on things. They never tell you. They never say, ah, you know, in hindsight, I was too courageous. Right, they never say that. They always say, you know, in hindsight, it I should have been more courageous. You know, I should have been more decisive on things. Yeah? It’s never the other way around. And so, I think that is a good reminder. And back yourself and your own judgment.

Graeme Cowan 58:16 

It’s been an absolute pleasure, Shayne, thank you so much for your time. And we’ve covered some great areas. And I know there’ll be lots of lessons for people who are part of this, listen to it.

Shayne Elliott 58:28 

Thank you very much, and I enjoyed it. Thanks a lot.

Graeme Cowan 58:30 

All right.

Shayne Elliott 58:31 

All right.

Thanks for joining us today. I hope you’ve learned something new and heard some practical tips you can try with your team. If you enjoyed this interview today. Please rate us on iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. When you rate us It helps other people to find us. We also welcome any comments. If you’re interested in seeing details about our scalable WeCARE Mental Health Training Programs, please visit us at Our goal for these programs is to make them accessible, practical, and ongoing. If you’ve been impressed by a CEO that you would like us to interview please email details to Please subscribe by clicking the button below. We really would love to have you as part of the care movement. Thanks for joining us.

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