Major banks commit to CBD

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 08:56 07/02/2014
ASB bank artists impression
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COMING BACK: ASB Bank is building in Hereford St.

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Major banks are returning to the central city with one recent opening and two committed to rebuilding on new sites.

ASB and Westpac have chosen new sites, with ANZ already in a new branch on Colombo St near Ballantynes and BNZ looking at potential locations.

Also Kiwibank has a presence in the Re:Start mall, with a small container-based outlet as do other banks including ASB, Westpac and BNZ.

ANZ reopened a new Colombo St branch in October, with Fred Ohlsson, ANZ's managing director retail and business banking, saying the bank was ahead of the pack with a permanent site in the rebuild zone.

ANZ, which merged the National bank brand into its own in 2012, has 19 other branches across the city.

This week Rodney King, ANZ's southern general manager, retail and business banking, said it had been great to bring a team back into the city heart.

There were plans afoot to bring a bigger corporate team back into the central city, though no timing could be put on this.

"We're now working on a new branch in Northlands Mall, due to open this autumn, and continuing to look at other locations as opportunities arise," King said. ANZ had also boosted its business and migrant banking teams, helping specific sectors.

Last year Westpac signed up as the first new office tenant in a $100 million nine-building project being built by investor Antony Gough as part of a project labelled The Terrace, just around the corner from Re:Start and looking out onto the Avon River.

Building is already under way.

Westpac plans to shift 450 or more staff into Gough's complex, on Oxford Tce, which has a mid-2016 completion date. The bank will occupy all five floors, with customer facilities on the ground and first floors.

The building will be surrounded by offices, shops, restaurants and bars, to be built under the Gough plan.

Many of Westpac's staff have been working out of buildings in Show Place, Addington.

"I know the intention is to move pretty much everything back into the CBD," Westpac's external relations manager, Chris Mirams, said.

ASB Bank has said a new high profile Cathedral Square site is part of the bank's attempts to further increase market share in Christchurch and the wider region.

ASB was planning to move into the leased property around early to mid 2016, a spokesman for the bank said.

Located on the high-profile corner of Colombo and Hereford Sts and Cathedral Square, "ASB House" will be on a site that ANZ Bank occupied before the earthquakes. ASB would end the lease on a property in Colombo Street to move staff up the road to the Square when the project was completed, ASB external relations manager Christian May said.

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ASB House will be complemented by other retail sites including the City Mall Re-Start and eight others, including two in Lincoln and Rangiora. It will bring together about 100 ASB people from the bank's retail, commercial and rural banking teams along with wealth and insurance specialists.

BNZ has significant Christchurch operations both in Riccarton Road and at Sir William Pickering Drive, where it has a long-term lease with a landlord.

The National Australia Bank-owned BNZ also has plans to move back into the central city with a business banking and retail presence "at the earliest opportunity," a spokeswoman said.

"We're committed and looking forward to being involved in an exciting central business community, and the likely timeframe for BNZ returning to the CBD is 2015. We're actually discussing possible options with a developer."

Kiwibank has a site in the "Container City" Postshop in the CBD, and continues to be strongly associated with PostShop locations throughout the country.

Kiwibank communications manager Bruce Thompson said Kiwibank would continue to run operations in parallel with Postshop, and would tie in with any new New Zealand Post shops in the city.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said other Government and private-sector office tenants would continue to move into the central city, with the upcoming justice and emergency services precinct a pointer to that growth.

The precinct will house about 1100 staff. The legal fraternity would look to position itself around the precinct, Townsend said.

"The accountants are making some clear messages about moving back into the central city, and I expect to see the insurance companies doing the same," he said.

"So those big service industries will definitely be making moves . . . obviously you're going to see about 3000 government employees coming back into the central city including those in the justice precinct, IRD and government departments moving back in."

What the chamber now wanted to see from those in charge of the rebuild was a detailed master plan to reinforce the rebuild timeline. That would give clarity to other potential investors.

- The Press

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