This story has been clarified - see note below

Shane Jones has taken another swing at the banks - suggesting they should be required to keep rural branches open.

But whatever you think of their obligation to maintain branches there is one mistake that Jones (and almost everyone) else keeps making about the ownership of the big four banks.

While Westpac, ANZ, ASB and BNZ all have parent companies that are domiciled and regulated in Australia they are actually all majority American owned.


So the notion, which plays on our sense of trans-Tasman rivalry, that big banks profits head out of New Zealand and into the pockets of Australians just isn't right.

According to latest filings on Bloomberg our largest bank ANZ is 61 per cent owned by US shareholders with just 17 per cent of shares held in Australia.

Westpac is 58 per cent US owned with 22 per cent held by Aussie shareholders. CBA and NAB (the parent companies of ASB and BNZ respectively) have similar ownership profiles - all dominated by US shareholders with Australia a distant second.

Shane Jones. Photo / File
Shane Jones. Photo / File

That explains in part why the Aussies themselves get so fired up about being ripped off by the banks. They don't have sense of ownership either.

The Royal Commission inquiry across the Tasman is a reminder that the public there is more likely to sympathise with the hard-line views Shane Jones than we are in New Zealand.

What is clear from the ownership stats is that - even with the growth of KiwiSaver funds investing in the Australian market - New Zealand sees precious little of the dividends flowing back our way.

ANZ's NZ division pulled a $941m profit in the latest half year and is tipped to top $2b for the full year.

But New Zealanders - owning just 0.13 of the company - won't see much of that.


In fact Norway, Luxembourg, Japan, Ireland, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Hong Kong, German, Singapore, the Netherlands and France (in that order) all hold bigger stakes in our largest bank.

So when Jones talks about dividends flowing offshore - he's definitely not wrong.

- Clarification: While it is accurate to say that US funds are majority shareholders of Australia's banks it has been pointed out that this does not accurately reflect the beneficial ownership. The major US funds hold shares as custodians of Australian and New Zealand savers. On this basis the majority of dividends do flow back to Australian citizens and a much higher proportion flows to kiwis.

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