Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

National Bank's demise offers rich pickings

National and ANZ will be merged under the ANZ banner. Photo / Greg Bowker
National and ANZ will be merged under the ANZ banner. Photo / Greg Bowker

Rival banks could "very well" use financial incentives to attract customers upset by the closure of the National brand, a banking expert says.

Australian-owned ANZ National yesterday announced the chains would be merged under the ANZ banner with the loss of about 200 contract jobs and some frontline staff who may be able to apply for other roles.

Despite ANZ chief executive David Hisco's assurance that customers would be unaffected, competitors were quick to capitalise, with New Zealand-owned Kiwibank and TSB booking newspaper advertisements following the announcement.

David Tripe, senior lecturer in banking studies at Massey University, said it was an excellent opportunity for rivals to try to lure disgruntled customers. "The sort of thing you would do is ... make it less expensive for people to switch, like knocking off joining fees."

Dr Tripe said customers were likely to switch if there were problems with banking systems when the brands were combined.

ANZ National has about two million customers, 9000 staff and almost 300 branches.

Mr Hisco would not say how many were customers of National.

He said the only difference they would notice in their internet banking would be the change of colour scheme, from green to blue.

Bank cards would be changed when they expired and security pins and other details would stay the same.

He said the company had spent two years ensuring systems from both banks were the same. Although 15 branches of the combined bank would close, there would be new branches in 15 extra communities.

When National and ANZ branches were very close, they would combine in the larger branch, or one would move to a nearby area with demand.

The bank workers' union said ANZ must make good on its assurances that jobs and services would not be cut as a result of the decision. FIRST Union said ANZ's "worst-kept secret" came as both brands were doing well.

Professor David Lont, from Otago University's accountancy and finance department, said the merger signalled the end of an "iconic" New Zealand firm.

The changes
* 15 branches will be closed, leaving about 280
* Branches will open in 15 extra communities - the banks will be in 217 towns and cities
* 9000 staff employed in both banks
* 2m customers in both banks
* The deal to use National's black horse logo, leased from Lloyd's in Britain, ends in 2014
* National Bank to be phased out over next two years

- APNZ

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