Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: BNZ poised to enter KiwiSaver game

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The BNZ is about to launch its own KiwiSaver scheme. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
The BNZ is about to launch its own KiwiSaver scheme. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

The last of the big banks is about to enter the KiwiSaver game with BNZ in the final stages of preparing its scheme for market.

Something of a KiwiSaver anomaly, the National Australia Bank-owned BNZ has to date taken the path less-travelled, flogging the products of rival institutions rather than launching its own scheme.

That's an approach KiwiBank first tried in its doomed relationship with Mercer, handing - by my reckoning - about 8,000 KiwiSaver members to the default provider. Clearly, figuring the deal was a one-way street, KiwiBank launched its own scheme last year, outsourcing funds management to AMP Capital, that attracted 15,000 members in a matter of months.

Now, after its buyout of the Gareth Morgan investment business, KiwiBank will have over 70,000 KiwiSaver members (albeit managed in two separate schemes for the time-being) - not quite up there with the major banks but snapping at the heels of default providers Tower and Mercer.

Bank distribution has proven to be the most powerful guarantor of success in building KiwiSaver membership. The big Australians dominate: the Commonwealth Bank-owned ASB is the largest single scheme claiming over 313,000 members as at the end of last September, followed by ANZ/National with a joint 290,000 and Westpac just above 230,000 members.

BNZ's abstention from the KiwiSaver market was even more curious considering its National Australia Bank (NAB) parent is a top player in the Australian superannuation business.

Instead, BNZ has been selling the Axa KiwiSaver scheme to personal clients while promoting the AMP product to business clients. Given that NAB lost out to AMP in a bitter battle for control of Axa last year, the current BNZ KiwiSaver relationships look decidedly shaky.

There are plenty of clues backing up that assertion.

Last year BNZ appointed Tracey Berry, the architect of KiwiBank's KiwiSaver scheme, to head its wealth division. Late in 2011 Berry also snared a former Westpac colleague, Sharon Mackay, to "establish BNZ's product manufacturing capabilities". Mackay performed a similar role at the Westpac-owned BT Funds Management, including responsibility for the bank's KiwiSaver scheme.

Finally, market sources have confirmed BNZ has put out a request for proposals (RFP in acronym form), seeking an 'investment solution' for its imminent KiwiSaver scheme.

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