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BNZ to fund interest free and low interest loans

BNZ to fund interest free and low interest loans in $10m community finance initiative

BNZ has committed $10m to a community finance initiative offering interest free and low interest loans to people banks don’t normally lend to.

The programme will start with a one-year pilot and will be delivered in partnership with the New Zealand Government, Good Shepherd NZ and The Salvation Army.

BNZ’s director of strategy and business performance Michelle van Gaalen says the pilot will aim to help people become self-sufficient and get away from using pay-day lenders and loan sharks and will build on BNZ’s range of financial literacy initiatives.

“BNZ wants to help all New Zealanders be good with money, including those who currently don’t have access to conventional sources of credit.

“Traditionally, banks haven’t provided loans to customers with minimal income, so those people have been using the only other option they feel they have - borrowing at extortionate rates.
“By committing $10m of funding over the next five years, BNZ is taking the first step to changing this imbalance and empowering those who are vulnerable,” she says.

BNZ will draw on the experience of its parent National Australia Bank (NAB) which has been running a successful community finance programme for more than 10 years.

Ms van Gaalen says, “For some, Community Finance is seen as a way to help people break out of the cycle of poverty, for others, it’s a way to promote economic development, employment and growth. For us; it’s simply the right thing to do.”

The development of the pilot is in early stages but is intended to launch over the coming months initially in areas where the need is most acute.

Unlike a traditional microfinance model, this initial pilot will target people rather than small businesses. BNZ will provide capital, the Government will contribute to NGO operating costs, and Good Shepherd NZ will oversee the initiative. The Salvation Army will be responsible for managing the loan applications.

BNZ has appointed Frances Ronowicz to the role of head of community finance to lead the new initiative. Ms Ronowicz brings ten years experience with Instant Finance where she held senior roles, most recently general manager operations.

As well as providing funding, BNZ will support Community Finance with a financial literacy programme.


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