Competition from new, non-traditional financial services providers - such as online peer-to-peer lenders - is one of the biggest challenges facing major banks, says BNZ chief executive Anthony Healy.

New Zealand's first peer-to-peer lending platform, HarMoney, launched last month. It charges fees for the use of its website, which matches lenders with borrowers, promising the investors who make the loans average returns of around 12 per cent.

Healy, who previously headed BNZ's business banking division and stepped up to the chief executive role in May, said competition between banks - particularly over the home loan market - was as fierce as ever.

"But I think the non-traditional competitors we're starting to see come into the market are going to have even more impact in the long-term," he said.


Healy said BNZ was keeping a close eye on peer-to-peer lending.

"We've been the traditional owners of that space [lending] and that's changing so we have to adapt and be agile and think about partnerships," he said.

"In the end the most important thing is to work out what our customers want and make sure we can deliver it."

NZX-listed bank Heartland announced last month that it had purchased a roughly 10 per cent stake in HarMoney.

At that time Heartland chief executive Jeff Greenslade said the bank did not view peer-to-peer lending as a threat, but wanted to support it.

"If you look overseas - in the UK and the US - it has certainly gained traction so we're confident there's a place for peer-to-peer lending in New Zealand," he said.
In addition to its investment, Heartland will also provide a "funding line" through which it will use the platform to lend to HarMoney's borrowers.

"We see this as an opportunity to get to borrowers that we would like to lend to," Greenslade said.
Healy said BNZ could potentially partner with an existing peer-to-peer lending player or create its own platform.

"It's a pretty lightly regulated sector at this point so we're just watching, seeing what the uptake is," he said. "There will be more and more players coming into the space and overtime we'll work out how relevant it is to our customers and whether we need to partner with someone."


Healy said digital technology was a major focus for the bank.
"We've developed really strong digital capability in the company and you've seen a lot of the results of that in things like YouMoney, our digital banking app, which has been hugely successful."

BNZ is also moving into mobile wallet technology.

The bank, as well as rival lender ASB, will use technology developed by Semble - a joint venture owned by New Zealand's major telecommunications operators and eftpos provider Paymark, which is owned by the big four banks - to launch a system that will allow customers to use their smartphones to make purchases at retail outlets.

A pilot testing programme will take place next month and the full system is expected to go live next year.

Westpac is developing its own mobile payments system, while ANZ has said it is "assessing developments" in the mobile wallet space.

Meanwhile, BNZ's parent company National Australia Bank announced on Thursday that full-year cash profit could drop by up to 14 per cent, largely as a result of almost A$1 billion worth of "conduct charges" in its troubled operations in Britain, where it owns the Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks.

NAB, Australia's fourth biggest bank by market capitalisation, said annual cash earnings would be between A$5.1 billion to A$5.2 billion for the 12 months to the end of September 2014, compared with the record A$5.9 billion it reported for the previous year.

Healy said BNZ would be unaffected by NAB's woes.
"It's a big number for our parent but the market's received it well."
However, new NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn, Healy's predecessor at BNZ, warned on Thursday that executive bonuses will be cut.

Healy said BNZ's executive team would be impacted by the bonus cuts "to some extent".
"But for our [other] people here it's not material," he said.

Healy announced a reshuffle of BNZ's senior leadership team last week, which included two departures and the restructuring of some roles.

In May BNZ reported a 3.4 per cent rise in half-year cash earnings to $400 million.