ANZ bids to capture capital

The bank that has lagged behind other institutions in attracting investors to its financial products is getting busy.

The bank that has lagged behind other institutions in attracting investors to its financial products is getting busy.

Does a big bank deserve (more of) your money?

According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, the big four banks had almost 80 per cent of Australian deposits, 90 per cent of new housing finance commitments and 92 per cent of business loans in March 2012.

But the big banks have yet to fully capture the hearts and minds of customers when it comes to financial advice, superannuation and other investment products.

ANZ Banking Group is now directly targeting Australia's army of cashed-up do-it-yourself investors and women for its global wealth and private banking business.

A long-time laggard in wealth, it is cutting prices on super products, investing in technology and planning to increase financial-planner numbers.

In an investor presentation last week, the bank pointed to research by Boston Consulting Group in 2010 showing that women control 31 per cent of wealth in Australia and New Zealand, which is higher than the global average of 27 per cent.

ANZ also cited research showing 55 per cent of affluent women believed the industry could better meet their wealth-management needs. It noted women's tendency to "take a long-term view of performance", to "value long-lasting relationships based on trust" and to "be more open to financial education".

It's easy to see why wealth is in ANZ's focus. Broker JPMorgan says that during the past decade, wealth has accounted for 11 per cent of the big banks' revenue, compared with 8 per cent at ANZ.

Although it leads the big banks in life insurance, just 14 per cent of ANZ's customers choose its wealth products, the lowest of the big four. Those 14 per cent of customers are "stickier" - less likely to leave - and spend much more at the bank.

JPMorgan analysts Scott Manning, James Nicholias and Bharat Anand say there is "room for improvement [for ANZ] over the medium term given the relatively low starting base".

Bell Potter Securities analyst T.S. Lim says time will tell whether ANZ succeeds in turning around its wealth business, but big banks benefit from consumer perception they are safe places in which to place capital.

But others point to community scepticism that banks offer the most appropriate products rather than just their own, and the banks' difficulty in hanging on to salaried financial planners, who often learn the trade and set up shop elsewhere.

For customers, an eyebrow-raiser is ANZ's Smart Choice Super product, priced at $300. The investment fee is 0.5 per cent, and there is a $50 annual administration fee. JPMorgan says the discounted price signalled to competitors that ANZ is "willing to be a price leader to attract market share".

ANZ's chief executive of global wealth and private banking, Joyce Phillips, says the global financial crisis changed the attitudes and behaviour of most investors.

"The losses they suffered and the blow to their confidence to companies in the wealth-management industry mean they want to be more engaged in the investment process," she says. "They want to know more and they want more control.

"The bottom line is they have become much more focused on advice."

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