ANZ stand turns off customers

ANZ's decision to break ranks with rivals in terms of pushing through out-of-cycle interest rate rises is turning off customers, with the banking major taking a hit in satisfaction rankings.

ANZ's decision to break ranks with rivals in terms of pushing through out-of-cycle interest rate rises is turning off customers, with the banking major taking a hit in satisfaction rankings.

But the bank's Australian boss, Phil Chronican, has pledged to regain ANZ's lead as well as increasing market share. After being top-ranked in customer satisfaction for more than seven years, the lender has slipped back to third place, overtaken by Commonwealth Bank. It now risks becoming the laggard among the big four banks.

The latest figures from Roy Morgan Research show the bank sector as a whole took a negative turn in satisfaction over the past three months, mostly as customers reacted to a series of out-of-cycle interest rate rises. The latest satisfaction figures are to the end of April, so the sector is likely to suffer further losses after holding back some of this month's hefty 50-basis-point cut in the cash rate.

But ANZ has an additional battle, with the retirement of Louis Hawke, the well-regarded products and marketing executive who oversaw the rejuvenation of its retail brand last decade.

"I want to emphasise that, while Louis may be leaving ANZ, maintaining our lead on customer satisfaction and increasing our share of wallet remain priorities for us," Mr Chronican said in a staff note.

The Roy Morgan figures show how the battle for customers has been turned on its head, with one-time perennial underperformers National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank now fighting it out for top spot.

NAB, better known for its aggressive pricing on mortgages, has held its lead among the big four, increasing satisfaction by 0.2 percentage points during April to 77.7 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank, overtook ANZ to be ranked second as it increased satisfaction during April by 0.2 percentage points. This gave it a rating of 77.2 per cent. ANZ was down 1.9 points during April to 75.5 per cent while Westpac fell 0.5 points to 75 per cent.

Over the past three months, ANZ's satisfaction rankings fell by more than 3 points more than twice the pace of any other big bank. Much of the loss resulted from a decision to stick to its policy of pricing mortgage rates on the second Friday of each month and so distance its pricing from the Reserve Bank.

Since February, this has seen ANZ push through two separate interest rate rises of 6 basis points. "The main reason for the large drop in satisfaction by the ANZ . . . was the out-of-cycle home-loan increase in February, which it initiated and was followed by the other major banks," said Norman Morris, a director with Roy Morgan Research.

Over the past year, Commonwealth has been the biggest gainer in satisfaction, adding 5.7 points. This marks a substantial rebound after it took a hit in the wake of its hefty rate rise on Melbourne Cup day in 2010, a move that sparked savage backlash.

Westpac is up 1.1 percentage points on the year, and despite recent losses, ANZ is up 0.3 percentage points over the year.

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