The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is formalising its procedures with a phone line and dedicated email inbox for whistleblowers.

The move comes as the regulator beefs up its prudential function and as it continues with its review alongside the Financial Markets Authority on the conduct of banks and major insurers.

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The work so far has found weak governance within financial institutions and regulators have been critical of the pace of change within them.

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RBNZ general counsel Nick McBride said the bank typically heard from two to three whistleblowers each year, but since the conduct review began there have been more. In the past, emails had often come through the central bank's general enquiry system and so the RBNZ wanted to streamline this.

"It's been triggered by the conduct and culture review and we've been behind the times honestly, and want to remedy that," he said.

Phone calls and emails will be dealt with by the bank's compliance team. The central bank stressed it does not take complaints from customers but is looking for employees or former bank employees with information.

The move surprised the NZ Bankers' Association, which has been working on its own industry-wide scheme to provide an independent alternative to the banks' current whistleblowing services.

A spokesman said its initiative was a response to the regulators' reviews but was still in progress.

McBride said its offering was "complementary" to what the banks provide and it was natural for a regulator to have something that employees would trust.

The RBNZ encouraged employees to look at their own internal policy first. If they did not feel that was appropriate, either because they thought their employer may cover up the issue, or had not resolved the matter despite the disclosure, they should get in touch with the regulator.

"The banks' internal whistleblower schemes are actually quite good and we have had some people take issues through to their head office and we've been impressed by the extent to which complaints have been taken seriously. There's no evidence to say they are not taken seriously but we should have something external," McBride added.

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The lawyer said the move was part of a wider beefing up of the central bank's enforcement and investigations function.

Victoria University of Wellington professor of public administration Michael Macaulay said it was always good to have independent avenues but whether more whistleblowers would now come forward was unknown.

"In the vast majority of cases the reason why people don't blow the whistle isn't because they are scared of the consequences, it is because they don't even realise what they are in," the whistleblowing expert said.

The Commerce Commission already has a whistleblowing tool which allows users to submit information through an anonymous mailbox.

- BusinessDesk