Westpac sets sights on agribusiness

ALI TOCKER
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2012

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Westpac is wooing Waikato farmers as part of a bid to increase its market share in the relatively prosperous agribusiness sector, particularly the dairy sector.

Not traditionally known as a farmer-focused bank, Westpac is looking to change all that, its new chief executive, Peter Clare, said at National Fieldays.

Westpac had about 22 per cent market share in most of the business areas it operated in, but in agribusiness it had only about 12 per cent, he said.

The agribusiness component was up about 2 per cent on the previous year, but he wanted to increase that.

He is passionate about agribusiness, with farming family members and a clear awareness that agribusiness dominates the national economy.

The key to the bank's fresh focus on farming was putting local people on the ground in local areas, he said.

Twenty specialist Westpac agri-bankers had been employed throughout New Zealand over the past three years, with plans for a further 10 this year. Six of those were expected to go into the Waikato, a key focus as the largest part of the national dairy herd is here.

The bank wanted to help existing farmers to increase their business, farm managers to become sharemilkers and sharemilkers to own their own farms.

Clare said Westpac intended to be with farmers through good and bad times. Asked if farmers could expect lower interest rates, given the increasing competition in agribusiness banking, he said it was not all about price.

"The most important thing for a farmer is to have an enduring relationship with a locally represented bank."

Locally-based agri-bankers would have a better understanding of the position facing local farmers and agribusiness owners than would a banker in a head office far away, he said.

Agri-bankers would have some discretion in banking decisions, but within national parameters.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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