Axing National Bank brand 'risky'

ROELAND VAN DEN BERGH
Last updated 05:00 27/09/2012

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ANZ National Bank is taking a huge risk ditching its highly rated National brand in favour of ANZ, bank ratings company Roy Morgan says.

The country's biggest bank yesterday confirmed a The Dominion Post report that it would merge the two brands, nearly 10 years after ANZ bought National Bank.

ANZ National Bank chief executive David Hisco said the National Bank brand would be phased out over the next two years when the rights to the black horse and green background expired.

ANZ bought the National Bank from British bank Lloyds TSB in 2003 for $6.9 billion in the biggest deal in New Zealand's corporate history at the time.

About 20 branches would be closed because of the merger, reducing the network to about 280, but still the biggest in the country.

The remaining National Bank branches would be rebranded at a cost of $100 million.

ANZ customers would be moved to the National Bank computer system and no front-line staff would lose their jobs.

Roy Morgan managing director Michelle Levene said a brand merger was “always an incredibly risky time” for banks.

“We have looked at lots of these situations and I would say more go wrong than go right. Customers have chosen to go with a particular bank for a reason.”

Some National Bank customers would be unsure about the changes and communication during the next few weeks with customers and staff would be “incredibly important”.

“But the stars are sort of aligned at the moment, with the ANZ doing well, having gained lots of customer satisfaction . . . but I'm sure there will be quite a few people holding their breath,” Levene said.

National Bank's customer satisfaction rating has remained relatively stable near the top of the table since being bought by ANZ.

But it had taken a charm offensive by ANZ, including high-profile sponsorships of the Rugby World Cup and the New Zealand Olympic team, which created a “feel good factor”, to lift its rating, Levene said.

ANZ remained the bottom-ranked bank.

While both banks had a market share of about 20 per cent each of the population, National Bank customers were worth slightly more on average than ANZ in terms of the value of business they had with their bank, Levene said.

Hisco said that after nearly 10 years of reducing duplication between the two brands "the next logical step is to combine them into one".

“In recent years we've made things simpler for customers by creating one management structure across both banks, one customer approvals process and, very soon, we'll be moving to one set of products.

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"For most National Bank customers, it will be business as usual - they will see the same people, just wearing a different uniform," he said.

ANZ and National Bank branches located near each other would in most cases either merge into the larger branch, or move to a new area nearby, Hisco said.

The secretary of the bank workers' union First Union Finance, Andrew Casidy, said ANZ must make good on its assurances that jobs and services would not be cut because of the merger decision.

But teller Elise Buttenshaw said the news was "all positive".

"I think it's a step forward, I think it's great."

Teller Gina Setefano agreed: "We're taking all their systems and adopting the National Bank and staying in our blue uniforms. Everyone's turning blue but really we're turning green."

- The Dominion Post

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