1 Mar 2012

Bank CEO confident about prospects for economy

5:52 am on 1 March 2012

The chief executive of New Zealand's largest bank says he's becoming increasingly confident about the economic outlook.

Australian-owned ANZ New Zealand boosted its underlying profit in the final three months of last year, despite customers remaining cautious about borrowing.

In its latest general disclosure statement, the bank reports an underlying profit of $351 million in the last three months of 2011, an increase of 17% on the same period a year earlier.

Lending volumes remained relatively flat at $83.5 billion while deposits grew 1.7% to $69.4 billion.

ANZ New Zealand chief executive David Hisco says businesses are continuing to pay back debt and households are putting their money in the bank rather than taking on new debt.

He is optimistic about the economy's prospects, particularly in terms of the agricultural sector.

He says the demand for New Zealand products overseas is continuing to grow.

He says many dairy farmers have been using the strong dairy cheques coming in to reduce debt, but if high prices are maintained some of the money should end up in the economy.

Meanwhile, David Hisco says the bank is working on merging National and ANZ's IT systems, which he hopes to have finished later this year.

He says it's a very complex project but is on track to be delivered within two years.

Mr Hisco says research the bank has undertaken shows that if there are any major changes the majority of customers still want to continue dealing with the same staff.

He says the bank is focused on improving customer service and its customer satisfaction scores have improved.