Kiwibank grabs back top award
After a year off the top podium, Kiwibank chief executive Paul Brock is "really pleased" to be back as Sunday Star-Times' Bank of the Year in 2012.
Kiwibank had been a perennial winner in these awards until 2011 when we changed our methodology and cemented a closer relationship with analyst firm Canstar to deliver in-depth assessments of banking products in addition to our own reader survey.
That change shifted the awards from being almost purely price and return based to encompassing broader aspects of value such as service, overall satisfaction and product range.
The result: in 2011 ANZ knocked Kiwibank off its perch for the first time and the awards suddenly became a lot more competitive.
"The awards keep the banks on their toes and help keep everyone honest," Brock said after being informed of Kiwibank's dual wins as Bank of the Year and Most Price Competitive Bank awards last week.
"It shows we have not lost sight of our core values," he said. "After 10 years of operations it is important we don't sacrifice delivering value to customers for profit."
Brock said the Sunday Star-Times Bank of the Year awards provided valuable feedback on where and how banks could improve.
Brock said Kiwibank took on board all feedback and strived to keep one step ahead of competition and abreast of market changes.
"It's also important to provide great customer service," he said.
Kiwibank was constantly improving the range of its offerings, he said, as well as delivering value and service.
One part of that improved range was to deliver services to business - and that is an area where Kiwibank came in for a small amount of criticism in our survey. One reader said he had changed away from Kiwibank because its online banking service did not cater well to business customers.
Brock said that was a focus for Kiwibank now and a significant amount of work and investment was going into improving the bank's business offerings. A suite of transactional service offerings had recently been launched aimed specifically at business, he said, to make it easier for customers to manage their payments and cashflows.
Canstar's NZ national manager, Derek Bonnar, said a Bank of the Year winner needed to be a full service bank catering for customers' general financial needs.
"Their products need to be of a high value across both lending and deposits but not only that, the incorporation of the People's Choice award means they also need to be delivering high-quality service to their customers."
It's a hard award to win with a high the level of competition, so it's also about being able to differentiate from competitors, be it on price or on product features.
Bonnar said Canstar was seeing a trend of banks differentiating themselves in the deposit market.
"Looking at the numbers you can see which institutions are really targeting retail deposits with higher interest rates to assist with funding."
At the start of August there was a 1 per cent variance between the minimum and maximum interest rate on a one-year term deposit, he said.
"To put that in dollar terms on a $25,000 deposit that is an additional $250 of interest a year. This hasn't necessarily translated into higher lending rates with competition in that market ensuring interest rates on home loans are remaining stable."
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