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David Hargreaves examines the problems at ANZ NZ and explains why he's been opening new bank accounts

David Hargreaves examines the problems at ANZ NZ and explains why he's been opening new bank accounts

Indulge me for a moment while I tell you a story.

A long time ago there was a young(ish) man who decided with his partner – his future wife – to buy a house.

Realising that his bank at the time would never lend him the money (because they then didn’t do high loan to value ratio loans), he went to another bank that duly did.

This then required him to swap his weekly salary payments into his new bank. Fair enough.

In the meantime, somehow, he got a bit overdrawn (a few dollars) on his old bank account. The bank – without any reference to him, and presumably panicked by the fact they were no longer the recipients of his salary – moved money from one account to another. But they chose the wrong account to take money from. Bank error. And overdrew a savings account that should not have been overdrawn. Then they whacked the customer a big fee for the pleasure.

All of this without any reference to, or even an attempted phone call, to the customer.

When the customer eventually (and he claims to have been distracted by a lot going on at the time) realised what had happened, he hit the roof, went into the nearest bank branch and had the account promptly closed by a disinterested bank officer who exuded an attitude of someone who had simply got rid of a problem.

End of a relationship. Out stormed a customer who had once even worked for the bank as a trainee teller – before entertaining a fanciful notion of retraining as a journalist.

So, after that, I (for yes, you must have guessed it was ME, I was that customer and former staffer) swore I would never darken the doors of an ANZ branch again (for yes, you must have guessed that was the bank). And boy, was I not thrilled when the National Bank – a bank I thought was absolutely wonderful and of which I was delighted to be a customer of – was taken over by the ANZ.

Since that time it has been a watching and waiting brief for me.

And when the ANZ did eventually do the inevitable and killed the National Bank brand, I was just waiting for them to do something wrong so I had, if you will, an excuse to leave.

Lessons were learnt

But hey, you know what? I think ANZ did learn some things from National. At least on the front line. And the reality is, I’ve been given no excuse to leave.

The customer service I have received has been very good. I’ve got no complaints at all. From my experience, the frontline staff are a credit to the ANZ brand.

What about higher up though?

I don’t cover banking matters extensively for But I did get reasonably closely involved with the ANZ’s attempts to sell the venerable UDC Finance business.

And as I did, I became more and more concerned about what might be going on in the upper levels of the ANZ.

The decision in early 2017 to sell UDC to the opaque, if-it’s-moving-buy-it, Chinese conglomerate HNA, seemed from the get-go to be extraordinarily ill-conceived.

Look, I can see why they did it. The $660 million price HNA laid on the table presumably blew everybody else out of the water.

But price should not be the only factor. ANZ was selling a very long-established, well-known, New Zealand business to a company with no previous history in New Zealand and a reputation only for an ability to apparently produce money from nowhere. What consideration was given to UDC’s future prosperity?

There should have been enough warning signs for the ANZ’s senior management.

It’s not hard to reach the conclusion that the thinking could have been along the lines of: Take the money and never mind what happens to UDC.

I feared for UDC’s future.

In the event, I needn’t have, because as we know, the deal was ultimately torpedoed by the Overseas Investment Office on the grounds that it couldn’t even satisfy itself who actually owned HNA.

Should have seen it coming

Such a disastrous and hugely embarrassing outcome for ANZ could have been foreseen by a management looking beyond dollar signs.

Of course, it wasn’t a disaster for UDC. It was an escape. And UDC and everybody else have been able to watch dispassionately as HNA’s bold charge into seemingly owning the whole world has gone into complete reverse. What of UDC though - if that deal had gone ahead? Fortunately we will never need to know. For now UDC remains an ANZ subsidiary.

That whole episode was a really bad sign for me.

My thoughts on that subject were and are: If management can so badly misjudge one decision, what other misjudgements are they making?

Well, we are finding out, aren’t we?

Moving forward, there was the again I think extraordinarily ill-conceived and drawn-out attempt to legally block the FMA from passing on information it had obtained about ANZ’s management of the accounts of infamous Wellington Ponzi scheme Ross Asset Management (RAM) to RAM’s investors.

Then there was the Reserve Bank decision to revoke ANZ NZ’s accreditation to model its own capital requirements for operational risk, citing a persistent failure in controls and the director attestation process at the country’s biggest bank that dates back five years.

And then there was David Hisco.

The reasons given at the time for his leaving as CEO of ANZ NZ didn’t appear to stack up as an entire explanation. To say the least.

The revelations keep coming

The subsequent revelations about ANZ selling a house to Hisco’s wife at apparently below market prices appear to offer more valid reasons perhaps.

But clearly the ANZ did not intend us to know about that. Clearly also, it would seem that someone within the ANZ itself DID want us to know – otherwise I very much doubt news of that sale would have ever seen daylight. That suggests all is not harmonious behind the scenes at the bank.

ANZ might argue it front-footed the Hisco departure. I might argue that it put out the press release of his departure, followed immediately by a press conference, in such a manner that the ‘right’ questions and most pertinent questions were not asked by the media at that press conference – given that they were still trying to digest what was happening.

If a press conference were to be held today the questions asked just might be a bit more well-researched and probing.

Then there’s ANZ’s statement that it disagrees with the FMA’s finding that the house sale should have been disclosed in the annual accounts “as it considers the transaction not to be material information on the basis that this disclosure could not influence the economic decisions of the users of financial statements”.


As others have said in the past few days that ANZ could even make such a statement indicates it doesn’t ‘get it’.

A bank that wants to be trusted handling my money says I don’t need to know about it selling a house to the wife of a senior executive.

We will have to disagree on this one, ANZ. Trust. Trust. Trust.

Out of touch

This is a bank that’s looking – certainly at senior management level – totally out of touch with how it is perceived and how it should be conducting itself.

It has got to the point now where ANZ NZ needs to open up – as much as it can – about everything that has gone on. And what it proposes to do. It needs to do that pretty darn quickly.

Admit mistakes and tell us what you propose to do.

Trouble is, ANZ is looking like an organisation that doesn’t know what to do.

What am I doing while all this is going on?

Well, for the past couple of months I’ve been ‘auditioning’ a new bank, with which I have opened a couple of new accounts. So far so good, I have to say.

At this point I can see a day in the not distant future when I no longer count as an ANZ customer.

I won’t hit the roof. I won’t argue with a bank officer – because as I said before I think the frontline staff have been a credit to the organisation. But I will walk. And I will do that because I don’t have to be a customer of an organisation I have no faith in.

I am just one person, so, no big deal for the ANZ. But how many others might think like me?

Do you get that at all, ANZ?

*This article was first published in our email for paying subscribers early on Tuesday morning. See here for more details and how to subscribe.

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If it helps you David , " anz " is urban slang for a bearded redhead who vomits alot ...

... reckon that'd be a good billboard , advertising their services !

Do you think I should close my account with ANZ or transfer most of the funds out ?

Do you think that some one may say that you are using your position as a journalist to make a public case for people to desert ANZ ? Is there any legal or ethical issue involved in writing this article ? I hope not, but just wondering whether the bank may take umbrage and try something against you or


. . freedom of speech rules here . .

Particularly as David is stating verifiable facts . .. so its no more defamable than someone giving their opinion of a cafe or bookabach experience. .

We arrived at the ANZ courtesy of NBNZ. Before that we were at both WPac & BNZ. Quite honestly we have found ANZ to be OK, certainly no worse than any of the others, in terms of frontline & counter staff at least. Wish though they wouldn’t persist in changing your TD instructions to auto renewal when you are not looking! But the other banks do that too.

I think the ANZ Bank has far more ethical questions to answer than the journalist.

It is a serious fraud to sell an asset to a related party at mates rates for one.

I suggest you take more time and read the article again.

Hisco was a banker
. . was a good man in his time .
I never understood a deal that he made ..
.. but he always had a bottle of wine
And I helped him drink his mighty fine wine

... joy to the world !

Smokey, our accountant told us years ago when we wanted to change banks, stay away from ANZ. Probably best advice we had. Happy banking with Rabo now. Do not think it is a secret.

Crazy that Aussie banks make more than a K profit per person in NZ. That is 4K for my family, me my partner and 2 kids. Just a question. Why can we leave banks not out of system? And borrow straight from reserve bank.

SmoKey, Is that you ANZ chair John Key?

Ha ha, I wish. On second thoughts I don't wish.

Your experience with ANZ doing the transfer thing into an old forgotten account from a sold property, and causing a cascade of OD's happened to me too.

They never called, emailed, texted or used their online secure bank mail feature (which they inherited from NB), they just kept transferring money to pay the penalties. And of course they refused to waive the penalties.

ANZ, Westpac, ASB, BNZ.... they are all the same. As a young New Zealander if feel Kiwi bank should be marketing themselves more via Youtube, Twitch and other social media platforms preaching that their New Zealand owned and the benefits that brings to the country vs. foreign investment.

I do bank with ANZ though so I am a hypocrite. Maybe if the government made it easier for you to switch to Kiwi bank if you're a NZ citizen then it might be worthwhile switching.

I agree. A Twitch campaign is a great idea. And no FHB couple gleefully finding out they just won a house in their advert. Such a trope!

I dont understand all you hypocrites who moan about the Australin banks but have all your money with them. I switched from National Bank to Kiwibank as soon as they opened (they do all the work)..very easy. I never have to go to a branch its all done online - service is good. So keep on moaning and paying those offshore shareholders all you like..

It's a pretty easy switch, I did it very recently.

I enjoy ANZs brash approach to dealing with government, regulators, media, the reserve bank, customers, general public etc. as it has a certain entertainment value. It's probably more of a reflection of what's going on inside the company. The joys of sitting in an oligopoly.

Personally I get annoyed by things that most of the other banks have done to me. eg Not matching a better term deposit rate of another big bank. Just one small example. But you have to take the long term view. If overall they haven't been too bad then stick with them, albeit until you ditch them at some later date. eg If you want to spread your term deposits around: if/when insurance comes in with a low deminimus.

The Hayne report probably deserves a mentions as well.

Where to go?
As the RBNZ Governor stated yesterday:

" Adrian Orr aimed another shot at the big four Australian-owned banks, warning that none of them were too big to fail. "There's always been a concept: too big to close," Orr said."[But] Nothing's too big to fail".
Orr also warned that if one of the big four banks were to close, it would bring the other three down with it. "

It would be a shame if the failure of one bank would lead to all four of them being nationalised to save the financial system. I would reasonably expect prosecution of all those involved in the banking failures.

It may be a good time for the big four to minimise their counter party risk.

The counter parties may already be scrambling to reduce their exposure to N Z banks and financial entities ? These things have a tendency to cascade to a disaster.

The capabilities at the top of the big four may be no better than many Government bureaucrats, which is to say they may have no idea what they are doing.

Even though our financial system may be significantly less complex that the US financial system it's likely that they have no idea how complex their interconnection really is. Let's hope for no failure because it will be a mess otherwise.

Getting scarier by the day, these developments, the statements, the style of banking, bank management and the supervision that is being exposed in the media. Why are they not sitting down together to ascertain the correct position in each bank, thrash out the issues and come out to reassure the public. What is the PM and Treasury doing to get a handle on this. What is the real possibility of failure of a bank and what is being done ?
Wonder whether NZ will become/is being set up to become a Black Swan ?

Do we have two Governors of the RBNZ both called Mr Orr? Because there is definitely a Mr Orr who is continually cutting rates to get these banks to borrow more. That Mr Orr is confident that the banks pose no risk and today is gifting them cash at 1.25%


Expecting to hear the news any time that John Key has resigned from ANZ....He reads the tea leaves correctly and knows when to quit.

Agree Teflon John will tell us Bronah wants him to spend more time in the garden (Hawaian Garden). The young son will be back soon from his epic OE.

Who was it that allowed Postbank,Countrywide,Bank of NSW,CBA,and Waikato Saving Bank etc to disappear?
Were they Kiwis?

.. Mexicans ! ... we should build a wall ... keep them out , stop this sort of thing ...

A sea wall .... yeah ...

I too am a former National Bank customer, have had the same account number since I was a teenager. The only thing stopping me changing is the hassle of switching, but next time I'm taking a bit of leave I'll be switching, probably to Kiwibank.

Began moving all my savings from ANZ a couple of weeks ago. I suspect I'm one of many.

Switched from ANZ to Kiwibank today.

It should give everyone peace of mind that Cruella deVille who was in charge of organizing Hiscos nice little $4 mill earner is now acting head of ANZ in NZ and she has the nod and fool confidence of him with the funny memory to become permanent head.

As an aside a CBA bank manager was thrown in the slammer for 2 years after helping himself to half a mill

Will anything happen to our illustrious ANZ management for helping themselves to $4 mill??

Cruella deVille needs Tāne Mahuta's blessing to rule that forest.

TAB have grayed out the odds on that happening for a few weeks now.

The betting market has moved onto the RWC.

Thanks for this article. As far as cash is concerned, since the NZ and Australian housing markets have both looked like bubbles that could well burst, taking a bank down with them (bailout/bailin), I’ve started spreading risk between 4 different banks from just ANZ, and quite a bit converted to USD and sitting outside NZ (mostly before the NZD started tanking 4c). Not many people see what could happen, but we only need to go as far back as the GFC and housing market crashes in the US and Ireland to realise what could happen with a big bank. Diversity and spreading risk can help. Many people would say I’m being overly cautious or paranoid, but these banks are massively exposed in mortgages.

No comment on why ANZ have virtually closed down UDC. Now UDC are paying back, if they get account holders' approvals, to repay all debenture investments as well as not allowing any new funds paid into on-call accounts.
Is all their lending going to be required to settle immediately also?

Details of the property deal between Hisco and Key are out.
A prelude to Key's departure from ANZ ?
What is Antonia's future going to be ?
Will fresh brooms come from the HO across the ditch ?
Hope Orr is reading the developments from Jackson Hole or is he out sight seeing ?

What a laugh. Talk about Key shooting himself in the foot.

Key's concern for the sale of his Omaha house ... must have a code of compliance as wouldn't be right to sell without one. And all his knowledge on Valuations of Omaha South End North End come up with a fair price to Hisco.

All the while becoming part of the ANZ management team on $2 million a year after being NZ Prime Minister and touting how great he has been for NZ.

But now to Key wearing the Board Chair ANZ hat, it seems ok for ANZ (he is the chair) to sell a house at $4 million less than market value to Hiscos wife, a 100% related party transaction.

No concern for the rules here.

I sense "comments for hire ala his Sky City payouts" Wide Boy Mikey has had a recent phone call from his ol mate Johny pleading with him to kill the Hisco House handout story.
Use the Play key

Kiwis so dumb lah.

I was a NB customer, rolled over to ANZ, have had most personal stuff with Kiwibank for a couple of years. In the process of moving business banking to them as well.
From an SME perspective, if you want a different business manager every 3 months, never want phone calls or meetings, struggle to get any response to any question ever - ANZ is your go too. 3 gold stars.

Having spent 5 years fighting ANZ/ING during the frozen funds fiasco , we all found out just how ANZ treated its customers, after have shafted them for $700,000,000 ,called them terrorists for complaining . For several years they refused to even reply to our emails ,we won a moderate victory in at least getting our money back.
In the end John Key advised us to back off in national interest .
There is a book now available "Blunder" By Simon Burnet which tells all,a historical victory for mum and dad investors ,well worth a read ,

How can Key say its in the National Interest to back off a company (ANZ Bank) fleecing the NZ taxpayers, which by the by has $2 Billion profit per year coming from the NZ economy.

What about all the kids in say Starship Hospital waiting on cancer treatment or surgery for lack of money and Govt funding.

Aren't they the National Interest ?

Seems to be OK for Foreign Banks and Foreign Investors and ex Prime Ministers to play the "National Interest" card, but when it comes to looking at the bottom line, they show no interest whatsover in looking at the cost of Foreign Investment at $20 Billion profit a year going offshore.

Wow...I had not heard of this before. Crazy.

Strange to learn that Key is that hands on..Is he a one man show on the Board ?

I recently moved some large TDs away from ANZ and now only have some small working accounts with them.

I will shortly be moving those too.

On top of all the issues mentioned in this article, the way they threatened to leave NZ recently showed me that their decision making is quite volatile.

The fact that they have been fudging their capital requirements only shows that they have an "above the law" type culture and I now think they are too much of a risk to bank with.