Henry Lynch on the foreign buyer data debacle, how chatbots are channelling customers, the Australian banking sector, the FIFA’s World Cup strange connection to toilets, and the meaning of life

Today’s Top 10 is a guest post by Henry Lynch, former Co-Op Money NZ CEO.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to david.chaston@interest.co.nz.

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact gareth.vaughan@interest.co.nz.

See all previous Top 10s here.

1. Chatbots set to take over the world.

First there was the internet, then smartphones, driverless cars, and now Cove Insurance has sold its first car insurance policy via a chatbot, believed to be an industry first in New Zealand.

What’s great about this approach is the chatbot technology uses an existing social media platform as the sales tool. The entire sign up process is conducted within Facebook Messenger and the whole process takes just over three minutes to complete.

With the Australian Royal Commission into financial services dominating news headlines, you’d hope that over time this technology could be implemented on a large scale – sales commissions and compliance costs would reduce, and in a world where the customer comes first, premiums would no doubt be lower!

2. Banks set to stick to their knitting… on one side of the Tasman for now?

Australian banks are divesting their insurance arms (and all other bodily parts!) so they can to stick to their core business. Motley Fool Australia has reported that QBE Insurance Group “does not have a good track record of making successful acquisitions,” but noted that the insurance giant may just be the right buyer for CBA’s insurance business given its on home turf. Will New Zealand banks do the same?

3. And, they’re a gone burger! Customer service trumps sales targets in insurance sector.

While we’re on insurance, New Zealand’s largest general insurance company, IAG, will stop incentivising its staff with sales targets. IAG group brands are AMI, State, Lantern, NZI and Lumley. Instead of sales commissions staff will be rewarded for the service they provide customers, and the way they support IAG’s partners who are banks and brokers. The article states that “IAG will however continue paying the brokers and advisers who sell its products (but it doesn't employ) commissions.”

4. Government supports customer first approach.

IAG’s change in tack has come at a time when Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi announced the Government plans to tighten up consumer lending regulation. Options might be capping interest rates and fees. There is talk of increasing licensing or registration for lenders. In the Non-Bank Deposit Taker sector, compliance and regulatory requirements are tough indeed. So this again is hitting the regulated players more than the bad guys.

Increasing penalties for irresponsible lending is good and the discussion paper detailing Government findings from a review of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) has been issued and makes for interesting reading.

5. Waterworks for the wrong reason…

Turning to football - because you can’t have a Top 10 at the moment without mentioning the FIFA Football World Cup in Russia. There has obviously been a lot of talk (and rightly so) about the on field performance of the teams which in a lot of cases just need to hold on… so feel some sympathy for the Japanese supporters who waited at least 45 minutes to get any relief.

The real question is: does this sort of behaviour happen during an All Black game?

Let’s hope they have sorted out the plumbing for the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan!

6. Winnie’s calling the housing shots…

Houses need good plumbing too and with KiwiBuild back in the headlines it is no surprise that young people’s ability to buy their first home should again come to the fore. Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters states that after the coalition’s third term first home buyers should be able to purchase homes for the equivalent of 5x their annual income. It’s the Governments long-term objective, but not in the first term and probably not the second term …  

7. ...but let’s get the housing data right.

To make good decisions we need the right data – and define what we are talking about.

ASB Bank states the actual number of homes sold to foreign buyers in the year to March 2018 could be around 11%.

Statistics New Zealand says it is 3.3% - the lowest number in the (short) history of the series.

We have a situation where we don’t have consistency on how we are defining our data – and this is not a margin of error discussion either! To have educated discussions about our economy it is really important that we have consistency in the terms and information available, particularly when we are taking about New Zealand’s first love - property.

This article caught my attention because it came out at the same time as the discussion around KiwiBuild pre-fab homes, and the 30,0000 people we are bringing to New Zealand to build them. I suppose they have to live somewhere while they are getting built. Read on here.

In addition, other RBNZ statistics state that the first-home-buyer borrowing as a cohort topped the $1 billion mark for the first time!

8. The rate debate continues.

Across the Tasman Australia's largest banks may be forced to impose "out of cycle" mortgage rate hikes as global interest rates push higher. There is speculation they cannot afford the political fallout of raising interest rates while the banking royal commission is underway …

9. Is your sector one of six?

Which probably leads to one of the most talked about concepts in New Zealand business community – but it can be hard to get your head around in real practical terms – that actually make a difference for businesses and New Zealand Inc – yes it is the P word PRODUCTIVITY.

This research paper by McKinsey is very good. One of the key outtakes of this research is not all of us will take advantage of the productivity gains in our sector. In fact, during the last productivity boom only six sectors accounted for 99% of productivity growth. The paper goes on to give you five areas to think about to increase your business productivity.

10. Finally, let’s get philosophical (or not …)

Below is Rodin's sculpture: The Thinker

Warning: if you majored in philosophy or are keen on it - don’t read this.

As the author states history is clearly focused on understanding our past, and biology is devoted to explaining living organisms, so there’s some confusion as to philosophy’s purpose. There are clear themes of course, such as the meaning of life, and what constitutes reality.

I’m paraphrasing but as the author states the subject of philosophy is enormous encompassing questions about metaphysics, epistemology, language ethics etc.

So, is the point of philosophy to answer these questions? Or some other? If not,

What’s the point? I’ll leave you to ponder …

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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13 Comments

Number 1 is kind of amusing. Years ago I used to like breaking the early chatbots. Then with the social side of multiplayer games we started replacing unpopular or broken people with an AI. Sometimes the AI doubled as a useful tool, but was there mostly for entertainment when the AI seemed to be more useful than the human they replaced, or the occasional person who would have a discussion with the AI without realising.

People shouldn't worry about losing jobs to AI but instead being replaced socially.

Maybe WINSTON PETERS should stop behaving like a stand-up comedian , making such wild and entertaining statements , without explaining exactly how he intends to bring down house prices by half , a mammoth undertaking , which involves :-

1) Reducing land prices when there are supply constraints
2) Reducing land prices when a simple subdivision can cost $250,000 to just create and register
3) Reducing wage rates for ALL the trades so the cost of building comes down
4) Breaking the cartel of 3 who rig the prices of building materials and have even secured import tarriffs so we pay 40% more for GIB

lets be brutally honest and recognize there is neither the capacity nor the political -will to do what needs to be done .

And as a passing shot , we are still unable to import a German -kit-form 100m2 house from Germany at which price , it could be landed here , and upset the local market completely

#1 - there is no physical supply constraint. Few countries are as blessed with land as NZ
#2 - as far as possible remove council from interaction with house building - certainly replace their consents with a system based on insurance and personal responsibily (ref great comment on Interest recently) - just force council to provide roads and connections to sewers
#3.- this is minor when an average Auckland house is near to $1m.
#4 - this is minor too. Plenty of websites for large reputable companies promise a well designed well built 3 bedroom house for about $300k. Get them to build 80sm 2 bedroom houses as in the past and do so with factory manufacure and prices would go down below $200k.
So Mr Peters could deliver cheap housing but it is home owners like myself who do not want to see the value of their land reduce and council bureaucrats with empires to defend who will stop him ~ the only serious obstacle is politics.

".....but it is home owners like myself who do not want to see the value of their land reduce...." This statement shows the degree of brainwashing that has occurred in our society. I would suggest these perspectives; the value of a property means nothing until you need to borrow to pay for it, or choose to borrow against it to provide some other aspect of your life(style). Thus you should have considered the investment aspect of your decision to buy the property. Everyone, I repeat, EVERYONE is much better off with cheaper properties. They cost less to buy (no shit!), they cost less to move up, and they cost less to move on.

I am a home owner, and the value of my property means nothing to me at the moment because I am not looking to sell it, or borrow against it. Thus it is irrelevant. If it halves due to market fluctuations and not neglect, then I will actually be better off, not worse off, because it'll be easier (cost less) to move on or up. I get no pleasure from looking at my house and telling myself I am a millionaire, or what ever. I still have to work to make ends meet, pay my weekly bills and so on. Thus the value of my house means nothing and irrelevant.

Generally agree with you. I bought the house next door a decade ago just to stop a potential development that would reduce the privacy of my own house. Tha investment property has more than paid mortgage cost and expenses with rent but it also has a land value that has tripled. I have the possibility of selling both houses and moving out of Auckland now I am retired. I feel guilt about excessive unearned income. You and I might like to see sane property prices but no political party was willing to commit to a policy that bring prices down - except TOP and they got few votes. It will end eventually and there will be many who suffer when it does;.

Older people might like the option of selling their house and buying something cheaper in another town when they retire.

There is the option to sell and then rent a place. Or sell and move to a retirement village.

Many people own more than one property also which entirely changes the game.

Murray86 is just looking at this from his own limited perspective.

What other way of looking at it is there. Be Reall

Who watched some of the Royal Commission hearing yesterday when an insurance broking CEO tried to duke it out with Rowena Orr? (His broking company paid their staff on a commission basis re the above story).
It was like watching a tigress tear apart a threat to her cubs!
(For those that haven't watched her work, here's a previous encounter!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLuPlFZ7coI

I have often wondered how long the housing market would stand up if China asked for the names of all Chinese who had bought a property in New Zealand, Australia and Canada etcetc. A bit like what America did with Americans who lived overseas and had not disclosed their investments in those overseas countries.

how long before they start a proper register of who owns what in NZ, or are there some very influential people holding this back.

#1 re:"in a world where the customer comes first", Fail. First, and above all is profit. No business which has ever existed has ever done anything without it. But I understand your confusion as most others are similarly confused. The simple reality is that, in order to achieve this profit, bait is offered to the victims in the form of products and services. This bait must be attractive. They will smile and open their arms to distract from the pit full of stakes, works more often than you would think......

#3, let's see how the engineer the workaround. Perhaps renaming, or maybe third party agencies like the way political donation receiving companies work for our fearless leaders.

#4, I would be more sympathetic if the victims were less, well..., stupid and lazy, not to mention a bit entitled.

#7, simple maths, count the number where all beneficial owners can present a NZ passport. Subtract that from the total of all properties in the country.

When you hear someone ask "What's the point?", ask instead "What's next?".

#10

Did the writer just run out of points to make so waffled off some shallow drivel? There is absolutely no shortage of informed, considered, persuasive and witty justifications for the philosophical discipline. This garbled shite cannot be counted amongst them.