RIP Kiwibank

By now most Kiwibank customers will have had their email from CEO Paul Brock telling them he wanted them “to be the first to hear the big news”. Though most would have already read about it in their daily newspaper.

The big news is that the ACC investment fund and the National Superannuation Fund have bought a 47% stake in Kiwibank. Evidently Kiwibank customers are expected to be over the moon with this deal.

Sorry Mr Brock, don’t expect us to join the celebrations. Kiwibank as we know it has gone.

Kiwibank was an initiative of the Alliance Party to provide accessible banking to the people of New Zealand with reasonable banking fees and decent interest rates. The only way to make sure that this happened was for Kiwibank to be fully government owned and operated.

The deregulation of the banking sector had seen New Zealand’s largest banks taken over by overseas operators and become merely profit-making enterprises for their shareholders. Kiwibank was supposed to give New Zealanders an alternative.

Sadly, the sale of shares to the ACC investment fund and the National Superannuation Fund makes Kiwibank just like every other bank. Its main obligation will be to make the maximum profit for the investment funds rather than provide affordable and accessible banking for its customers. And both funds can sell their shares to whoever they like after five years. Who knows who will own a significant part of Kiwibank in the future?

A bank dedicated to accessible and affordable banking is sorely needed now. Other major banks are cutting services, especially to small rural areas. Instead of selling off Kiwibank, the government should have been looking at how it could provide banking services in areas other banks have abandoned.

Kiwibank was about public service, the common good. It was the people’s bank. Not any more. Now it is just like every other bank. And New Zealand is the poorer for it.

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