Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Zealand's banking merry-go-round

When I came to New Zealand in 1972, I opened check and savings accounts at the ANZ Bank in Palmerston North. But the late 1970s were the era of high inflation, which peaked in New Zealand at 18.4 percent per annum in 1980, and I soon found that I could get higher interest rates on my savings at Broadlands - a finance company whose office was conveniently located across the road from the ANZ.

As time passed, I put more and more of my money into Broadlands, and continued to do so until the deregulation of the banking sector (from 1984) saw Broadlands become Broadbank on July 22, 1987. This proved to be an ephemeral institution: one of several "banks" that flowered and died during the period. In fact, I still hadn't got used to the change of name when Broadbank was acquired by National Australia Bank on December 3, 1987.

Since National Australia Bank maintained the slightly higher interest rates, and seemed much more secure than Broadbank, I finally closed my accounts at the ANZ. "From now on, I thought, I will do all my banking at NAB." I was therefore a little disappointed when, in 1992, National Australia Bank bought the Bank of New Zealand, closed its Palmerston North branch, and delivered me into the arms of the BNZ.

I didn't particularly want to bank with the BNZ, because my wife was maintaining accounts there and I saw the possibility of confusion arising. (I had noticed, by this stage, that banks had started to make mistakes.) I therefore closed the accounts that had been set up for me at the BNZ, and looked around for another bank.

I decided on PostBank, which had been created in 1987, when the New Zealand Post Office was split up. (With privatisation, the Post Office's three components became PostBank, NZ Post, and NZ Telecom.) Again, I thought I had found a bank I would stay with for a long time, if not for the rest of my life.

I completely overlooked the fact that PostBank had been bought by the ANZ in 1989. What happened next? Yes, you guessed it! The ANZ closed the local branch of PostBank and transferred all its accounts to the ANZ's main branch in Palmerston North - the bank I had turned my back on so many years earlier, when I had gone across the road to Broadlands.

As I waited in the queue at the ANZ to conduct my first transaction, I sheepishly reflected on the curious way in which I had gone full circle.


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