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BNZ Launches New Initiative To Rebuild Reputation

22 April 2005

Media release – for immediate release

BNZ Launches New Initiative To Rebuild Reputation In Transaction-Based Small And Medium-Sized Business Market

Bank of New Zealand has today announced a range of new products and services as part of a major revamp of the Bank’s approach to the small to medium-sized business sector. The package is the first step in Bank of New Zealand’s long-term drive to rebuild its reputation in part of the small and medium-sized business market.

The Business First package that Bank of New Zealand launches today comprises new products and services specifically tailored to the needs of New Zealand’s growing small to medium-sized business market.

The package is the result of more than 18 months of work by Bank of New Zealand in researching the market and in researching customers’ expectations.

Further initiatives will follow this year, including a Business First Visa credit card in May.

Overall, Bank of New Zealand is aiming to reduce fees and other costs for small and medium-sized enterprises, make banking simpler, and boost the specialist service available to business customers through Bank of New Zealand’s branch network.

Mike Skilling, Bank of New Zealand’s General Manager, Business Financial Services, says the the number of small to medium-sized businesses has been growing at the rate of about 6% per annum. There are about 300,000 businesses in the market that Bank of New Zealand is focussing on initially, which is businesses with five or fewer employees.

Mr Skilling says while the number of small to medium-sized businesses has been growing, Bank of New Zealand’s share of the segment has been contracting overall.

Mr Skilling says Bank of New Zealand is highly-regarded by owners of small and medium-sized businesses that borrow. “Indeed, we are one of the best banks in the country for these customers,” he says.

“The area where we are performing below par is with small and medium-sized businesses that are largely transactors, that’s customers who use our accounts for managing their funds but who don’t borrow and who don’t need substantial credit facilities. For those customers, we have to bring improvements in price and service.

“Hence, the new package today, which is the first step. There will be further initiatives, in products and services, from Bank of New Zealand in this market over the next year.

“I recognise that it will take time to grow our reputation again with owners, of small to medium-sized businesses, who are transaction-based clients, but we are committed to it right from our frontline staff through to the highest levels of the Bank. This market is one of our strategic priorities,” Mr Skilling says.

“Bank of New Zealand has a reputation as one of the best banks for large corporations and businesses and for business customer who need credit and borrowing services. In three years’ time we expect to have the same reputation right across the small and medium-sized business market.”

Mr Skilling says the business customers are looking for three fundamental things from a bank: good prices, products closely engineered to their specific business requirements, and high-quality service when they need it.

A Business First Transact account and Business First OnCall account are the first components of the package, available from today.

The Business First Transact account gives customers the ability to choose one of three fee structures best suited to their needs. These are a “pay as you go” plan with pricing set at:

- $3.50 per month, and then
- 15c per internet transaction
- 35c per electronic transaction
- 65c per manual transaction or ATM transaction
- or two other plan options: $10 per month (which includes up to 40 transactions for that month) or $20 per month (which includes up to 80 transactions for that month). (Additional transactions above the plan are charged at the above rates)

Mr Skilling says the simple and cost-effective fee structure will mean existing customers may pay less than they have previously, depending on the option they choose.

The Business First OnCall account is tailored to small to medium-sized businesses. It offers good interest rate returns for balances of $5,000 or more and is aimed at businesses with temporary balances set aside for purposes such as GST payments or provisional tax payments.

“We recognise that lump sum cash balances, like tax payments that are waiting to go through, are a potential short-term asset for small and medium-sized businesses. Our aim is to pay good interest on those cash balances of $5,000 or more,” says Mr Skilling.

Bank of New Zealand is also stepping up the service it provides to small and medium-sized enterprises through the Bank’s branch network.

“Our research shows that business operators, especially those who are transaction-based clients, are big users of our branches. Many of them prefer over-the-counter service and they prefer staff who can respond to the specific banking requirements of business customers,” says Mr Skilling.

In response, Bank of New Zealand has established a network of 105 specialists – in the small and medium-sized business market - in 55 branches. The staff, who are existing Bank of New Zealand staff who are undergoing specialist training in the small business banking market, are there to respond to business customers. The 105 people are additional to Bank of New Zealand’s existing team of 120 business bankers who are already working in the small to medium-sized enterprise market.

Initially, Bank of New Zealand will focus on promoting the new products and services to existing customers, extending to new customers later this year.

Ends

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