ONLINE bank ING Direct is readying for a push into Australia's $360 billion retail superannuation market, with plans to launch its first retirement savings product within months.
The move by Dutch-backed ING Group marks a re-entry into superannuation here. For years the European financial giant operated a wealth management joint venture with ANZ. This was dissolved three years ago when ANZ paid $1.8 billion to move to full ownership, and renamed the business OnePath.
It is believed that a non-compete clause between ING and ANZ that was part of the transaction expired earlier this year. This means ING will again be able to use its own branding to sell wealth management products.
Much of the motivation for ING returning to the super market is the development of a MySuper-style product. This low-cost default account aimed at delivering basic retirement savings needs was the centrepiece of the Cooper review of the nation's super system.
A spokesman for ING Direct declined to comment on the bank's plans for superannuation but said the online specialist was planning to take a major step towards becoming a full-service retail bank.
Since launching in Australia early last decade, ING Direct has become the country's sixth-biggest bank in retail deposits. It has more than $18.7 billion household deposits, slightly behind Bendigo and Adelaide Bank on $18.8 billion.
Even without a branch network, ING Direct has built up a $38 billion mortgage book.
The ING push comes as banks place renewed hope on wealth management as profit growth slows in other areas such as lending.
Australia's superannuation savings are expected to increase from about $1.2 trillion today to more than $6 trillion by 2030. About a third of the savings are held in the hotly contested retail superannuation market.
For banks, wealth management has long been the holy grail as a source of potential earnings power, but the businesses have often delivered disappointing returns for shareholders.