Cantabrians 'ready to invest again'
Cantabrians have worked through the stress of the earthquakes to the point where they are prepared to make significant investment decisions, ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman says.
The bank was now seeing people making new choices about where to put their money, Chapman said on a recent visit to Christchurch.
The bank opened a permanent branch at Barrington Mall in March, and with a new Rangiora branch due to open on July 2, it will have nine branches.
Economic indicators suggested that economic activity in Canterbury was picking up faster than anywhere else in New Zealand, Chapman said.
"My sense is that quite a significant amount of change has gone on, and people are now at the point where they are prepared to reinvest themselves and prepared to do more business.
"So the pipeline of business that the team's got in the property finance area and the commercial banking area in particular is stronger than it was pre-earthquake."
ASB Bank general manager, branch banking Grant Gilbert said there was new investment in residential property despite the disruption caused by the quakes.
"Obviously, Christchurch is suffering a little bit from demand and supply in terms of residential property, but people are starting to re-invest, starting to make some decisions ... It is what it is, is a great saying in Christchurch, and people are starting to realise [that, saying], `Let's move on and do something'."
Chapman said that at the time of the February and June earthquakes, ASB made a conscious decision to "invest in Christchurch and in the rebuild of Christchurch".
In the quake environment, ASB offered $250 million-plus of loan money at no interest or discounted interest rates.
"I think it's about being integrated into the community and being known as a bank that's willing and able to do business in the local community. I think our commitment to our presence here is paying dividends," she said.
The bank had a 10 to 12 per cent share of the retail branch banking market in Canterbury, where it had 140 staff, and similar levels for commercial lending. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia-owned bank had about 13 per cent of rural-based business in Canterbury and New Zealand.
Gilbert said a "significant" refit of new premises at 518 Colombo St had included some engineering work to strengthen the building. Previously, the building had housed an Inland Revenue call centre.
About 76 staff involved in rural, commercial, investment advice and support services roles had been spread around different branches after the February 22 earthquake. They had been evacuated from three levels of an Armagh St building but would now be back in one building.
The bank would probably be on the site, near the South City shopping mall, for four to five years.
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