ANZ has confirmed that it is exiting some areas of Asian trade finance “where we can’t deliver appropriate value and return”, after reporting its lowest profit growth since the financial crisis.

Speaking exclusively to GTR, head of global transaction banking at the bank Carole Berndt clarified comments made by CEO Mike Smith and CFO Shayne Elliott last week, which stated the bank would refocus its Asian operations around higher-value propositions.

Berndt says the bank will focus more on supply chain finance, both receivables and payments, following demand from clients in these areas. “We looked at our trade book and clients and the blend of those where we can’t continue to deliver the product with requisite return, we have chosen to exit and capital redeployed to clients in other areas.”

The move is somewhat surprising, given the bank’s recent expansion into markets such as Thailand and Myanmar, but somewhat reflective of a wider trend, in which multinational banks are consolidating their business around key markets and pulling out of those which deliver lower margins.

Berndt says that Asia is “heavily banked, with very experienced and very new competitors” and that ANZ has never been a “price taker”. It is commonly heard that international banks struggle to gain footholds in certain Asian markets due to aggressive pricing by local and regional banks.

Last week, Elliott, who takes over as CEO on January 1, said: “We’ve taken some hard decisions around the trade business in particular, which is a really competitive business in Asia. From time to time, it’s a great business, and when we have excess liquidity, we can participate. In the second half, the returns were a little too low and we’ve deployed our capital elsewhere.”

Net loans fell by 1% in the six months to September, the first time they had fallen since 2012.

Berndt said the bank will continue to be active in commodity trade finance despite “massive price competition” and that there are “no specific areas or geographies” which it expects to be impacted more than others.