Since joining the Board 13 years ago, it is clear every sector of society and the economy has experienced extraordinary change. The pace and impact of technology and the seismic shift in customer expectations are reshaping industries, companies and how we interact with each other.
We know this will continue, often in bewildering ways given the complex ecosystem in which we operate. Intense public and political scrutiny is also driving regulatory and industry reform. However, alert companies will seize the opportunity to be proactive and advance the way they work, interact with communities and importantly, deliver valuable solutions to customers.
Delivering for customers
While Suncorp has a proud history in being there for our customers, whether it’s supporting communities to rebuild after natural disasters or helping people buy their first home, we know we can always improve. Even with the anticipated changes that will flow from the Royal Commission, our people are committed to keeping pace with growing community expectations and doing the right thing.
Over the past financial year, we have made significant investments in technology platforms, as well as in digital and data capabilities. This is making it easier for our customers while providing greater choice, transparency and recognising their loyalty.
With the Suncorp marketplace now integrated across the organisation and the new Suncorp App now live, customers have greater flexibility to choose how and when they access our brands, products and services, either through our App, online, or in person through contact centres, stores and our network of intermediaries.
It has been a big year of achievements and we have laid strong foundations for the future.
Delivering for shareholders
Beyond a year of intense activity which saw the reshaping of our organisation and improvements in customer experience, Suncorp people also delivered major pieces of infrastructure and technology. This produced strong financial returns with a net profit after tax of $1,059 million after making important forward-looking investments.
The Board has declared a final ordinary dividend of 40 cents per share and a special dividend of eight cents per share, bringing the total dividend for 2017–18 to 81 cents per share, fully franked. This outcome has delivered a cash return on average shareholders’ equity of eight per cent for the financial year.
Importantly, momentum has been steadily growing across our businesses such that, given a largely benign economic environment, expectations are for a good 2018-19 operating year.
Our corporate responsibility
Responsible investment has become increasingly relevant over the time I have been on the Board, and Suncorp has responded with a range of initiatives, most notably the introduction of our Responsible Investment Policy and Climate Change Action Plan this financial year.
Addressing climate change not only makes good environmental sense but our Action Plan also supports the business to protect and enhance shareholder value under various climate scenarios. We have also continued to reduce our environmental footprint, with greenhouse gas emissions down seven per cent over the year.
This year Suncorp has also refreshed our Financial Inclusion Action Plan, which reflects our commitment to providing responsible financial services and meeting the needs of our most vulnerable customers. We also launched our Reconciliation Action Plan, which reflects our commitment to supporting the social and economic prosperity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Bringing new skills and experience
Following my retirement at the Annual General Meeting which will be held in September, I will be succeeded by Christine McLoughlin, subject to shareholder approval of her re-election. Christine, who has served on the Suncorp Board since February 2015, has a depth of experience from an executive career in financial services and board positions with other listed companies. Having worked with Christine since she joined the Board, I am confident, with the support of her Board colleagues, she will guide Suncorp to the next level of performance. I wish Christine well for her tenure.
Governance and Board renewal has been a continued focus, with two new appointments during the year. Lindsay Tanner joined the Board in January and Sylvia Falzon will join in September. Both add to the skill sets of our existing directors, bringing highly relevant experience and deep insights into the changes that are shaping our industry.
Farewell and thank you
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have served as Chairman of the Suncorp Board for the past seven years. I look forward to the Group continuing to generate attractive returns for its shareholders and growing in the esteem of its peers and the communities we serve. Suncorp today is a different organisation to the one I joined as a director in 2005. It has grown and evolved to become a customer-centric financial services organisation with operations across Australia and New Zealand.
There are several achievements of which I am particularly proud and which reflect the effective functioning of the Board and Executive in pressured situations. These include shepherding the organisation through the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and thereafter; the simplification and transformation of the business in 2010; our response to the natural disasters of the summer of 2010–2011; consolidating the Group’s five general insurance licences under one issuer in 2013; and the delivery of consistent shareholder returns with strong dividends.
Beyond all of this, what I’m most proud of is how Suncorp and its people continue to be there for our customers in the moments that matter, whether that’s floods, cyclones, storms and bushfires across Australia, or earthquakes in New Zealand.
I would like to thank my fellow and former Board members for their support over the years, as well as the two chief executives who have helped define my tenure – Michael Cameron and Patrick Snowball. Ultimately Suncorp is a high-quality institution and resilient business that has thrived in the face of considerable industry change, disruption and innovation. I leave the Company in good health, with confidence in the strategy and management’s ability to successfully execute that strategy.
Finally, I am grateful to you, our loyal Suncorp customers, our people and our shareholders for your ongoing support.
I look forward to seeing Suncorp continue to prosper as a fellow shareholder.