Recently appointed Crown Resorts Managing Director and CEO Steve McCann gave a brief glimpse into the monumental task ahead after choking up during Tuesday’s Royal Commission hearings in Melbourne when describing his plans for cultural reform at the embattled casino giant.
Royal Commissioner Ray Finkelstein QC eventually took a 10-minute break to allow McCann to compose himself as the former Lendlease boss described the impact Crown’s damaged reputation was having on staff.
The Royal Commission, which was recently granted more time and funding by the Victorian state government, is examining whether Crown is fit to retain a Victorian casino licence for its flagship business, Crown Melbourne.
Providing some details around conversations he had already held with a number of Crown Melbourne employees, McCann, who only stepped into the role on 1 June, said his early assessment “is that there is a very significant population of Crown [employees] who are crying out for the ability to speak up, the ability to be involved, to restore the pride in the organisation that they used to feel but that is currently a challenge because their family and friends are struggling with what’s going on.”
Explaining the need to implement strong corporate values and purposes amid concerns around the company’s gambling addiction measures, including a revelation that one patron had gambled for 96 hours straight without being checked upon, McCann said, “The phrase that I have used and which does seem to resonate with the employees is, ‘What you walk past is what you condone,’ so if you see behavior that is inappropriate you should speak up.
“I’ve told staff they should not do what I asked them to do if they feel uncomfortable … they should not feel that they must do, irrespective of whether it’s me or Helen (Coonan) or anyone else in the organization asking, something that is inconsistent with their values.”
It was at this point, with McCann’s voice cracking, that Royal Commissioner Finkelstein opted to take a break.
Upon his return, McCann revealed Crown will hold a senior leadership forum on 15 July where around 60 members of senior management alongside some “up and coming performers” will discuss the direction the company is headed.
The forum relates to a draft report due to be submitted by Deloitte in the coming days outlining issues around Crown’s corporate culture, among various regulatory concerns. The report, once finalized, is set to form part of what McCann calls Crown’s “roadmap to its future state.”
Asked about his previous experiences with Lendlease, McCann said he had been appointed CEO of the global construction giant in 2008 in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and with the company’s corporate culture a shambles due to “a lack of accountability, a siloed mentality across the businesses and a lack of purpose.”
By the time he departed earlier this year, McCann said significant improvement had been achieved across the board but most notably in regards to Lendlease’s safety culture, where he said global fatalities had fallen from an average of nine per year to just 11 in total over the past decade.
“How I achieved that, I intend to apply the same way at Crown,” he said.
“The only way you can do that is, you can’t throw more resources at the same problem. You have to have a combination of people whose job is leading in safety and you have to have an entire organization that buys into it and thinks about it every day.
“When I say I liken it to Crown, it is a regulated environment where we have a social license and a regulatory license to essentially make money out of people gambling. That does clearly come with a significant amount of responsibility.
“When I look at Crown’s challenges, there is a lot of discussion around responsible gambling. Crown in Melbourne is a very significant asset. At peak it can accommodate 5,000 to 6,000 people gambling at any one time with about 700 staff walking the floor but only a small number of those, maybe too small, are engaged full-time in responsible gambling. The balance [of staff] is not.
“In my opinion they need to all be trained to be very conscious of that issue. They need to be trained not to walk past something that they don’t condone. They need to live and breathe values that align with the social responsibility and I see that as a very strong parallel to the safety journey at Lendlease.”
McCann noted that it took two years to implement cultural change at Lendlease but said his experience since arriving at Crown had been “a culture of openness and transparency” with “a lot of people who are concerned about their future and are looking for strong leadership.”
Tuesday’s proceedings also saw Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission grill the Crown boss over the company’s underpayment of tax since 2012, with McCann insisting any money owed would be repaid but admitting there was still confusion over exactly what that amount should be.
The Royal Commission continues Wednesday.