BNZ opens private banking network

Bank of New Zealand has opened what it considers to be the first "true" private banking network in New Zealand.

Thursday, August 26th 1999, 12:00AM

by Philip Macalister

Bank of New Zealand has opened what it considers to be the first "true" private banking network in New Zealand.

The network, which has 12 specialist private bankers, is targeted at the one percent of the bank's customers who either earn $250,000 a year or do $500,000 worth of annual business with the bank.

These customers are offered personalised, 24 hour a day service from anywhere in the world, plus they will have access to suites (the equivalent of an airline's frequent flyer lounges) in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. The first of these suites was opened in Christchurch on Monday.

Bank of New Zealand appointed Alan Strang as its new general manager of Private Banking earlier this year.

Strang says while other banks offer so-called private banking services, they are not full-scale operations. Instead they tend to be focussed mainly on the investment needs of clients.

He says the BNZ Private Banking network deals with the whole gambit of personal finance products - investment, risk, transaction accounts, mortgages and estate planning.

While banks are competitors, BNZ's main competitors - he contends - will be the international firms such as Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse First Boston and Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

BNZ's parent company National Australia Bank has, for several years, being rearranging its business along global lines, as opposed to regional ones. As part of this evolution New Zealand was chosen as the test-bed for establishing a private banking network.

BNZ managing director Mike Pratt says the introduction of private banking is the start of a global initiative by NAB to compete in one of the fastest-growing segments of the financial industry.

The service will begin across the Tasman for NAB customers in October to cater for Australia's expanding market of high net worth individuals. In January, 1999, for example, there were 206,000 millionaires in Australia, up nearly 22 per cent on the previous year.

While BNZ is actively promoting its private banking network, other firms including banks and fund managers, have an eye on this small but lucrative market.

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