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BNZ’s new CEO Healy expects benefit from expanding economy

BNZ’s new CEO Healy expects benefit from expanding economy, targeted investment

By Tina Morrison

April 17 (BusinessDesk) - Bank of New Zealand’s incoming chief executive Anthony Healy expects the lender to benefit from the nation’s burgeoning economy as he targets investment in higher growth areas such as agri-business.

New Zealand’s economy is expected to grow between 2 percent and 4 percent a year out to 2018, Finance Minister Bill English said this week, citing Treasury forecasts.

“I’m very optimistic because the economy is picking up, it’s not a narrow base, it’s a very broad-based economic lift,” said Healy, who will take over as head of the New Zealand unit of National Australia Bank next month. “I’m very optimistic that we are going to see continued growth from the economy but also from banks and institutions as we continue to fund that growth.”

“You will probably see general growth in the banking sector because of the economy strengthening but we have also tailored our strategy to focus on where we see growth opportunities in the economy,” Healy said. “That should give us some outperformance in those sectors relative to our competitors.”

Bank of New Zealand is investing in the productive sector and estimates its share of the agribusiness market has grown from the “high teens” to “20s” in the past five years.

“Historically we had smaller market share but we have seen significant and steady growth in our market share over the last five years, it has been a real success story for us, and I think that will continue,” Healy said. “Agriculture is clearly growing because of the demand for food, particularly in Asia. That I think will continue to grow and be a real source of strength for the economy and for us as a bank.”

Still, system growth has slowed as farmers use higher income to pay down debt, he said.

The bank is also investing in its KiwiSaver and wealth products to benefit from a demographic change which is seeing more investment in retirement products, and in digital services to counter increased competition from non-traditional rivals such as Google, he said.

“If anything, competition is rising so that will always be a challenge,” he said.

Healy, previously head of BNZ's business bank BNZ Partners, has worked in banking since 1991 and takes over the top job from May 12, replacing Andrew Thorburn, who is to be group chief executive of BNZ's Melbourne-based parent, National Australia Bank starting in August. Thorburn's appointment was announced two weeks ago.

Healy's appointment as chief executive and managing director of BNZ is subject to regulatory approval. He will also join NAB's group executive management committee, the bank said.

Shares in ASX-listed NAB last traded at A$35.18 yesterday and have gained 1 percent so far this year.


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