Massey University is teaming with Czech researchers to determine the costs and benefits of foreign ownership of domestic banks.
The research, to be undertaken by Dr David Tripe of Massey's Centre for Banking Studies and Charles University in the Czech Republic, will compare New Zealand bank ownership with eastern and central Europe.
Dr Tripe says New Zealand has a long history of foreign ownership of its banks, dating back to the 1840s.
Whether that has served New Zealand as well as has been the case in other countries has been difficult to judge till recently.
He says at one time New Zealand was almost alone in having a banking system that was foreign owned to such a large extent. Now there are other countries with relatively high degrees of foreign ownership.
Dr Tripe says some of the supposed benefits of foreign ownership of banks are often not backed by evidence.
"If you are coming in and doing one off loans to large corporates - what might be called transaction-based lending rather than relationship-based lending - you're going to do those loans at relatively low prices.
"So if you simply look at the lending rates offered by the foreign banks and the lending rates by the locally-owned long-standing banks, the lending rates of the foreign banks will be lower because they're lending to the large corporates who would be commanding lower rates anyway."
Dr Tripe says the same lack of evidence bedevils claims of gouging by foreign owned banks.
The project, he says, is still to secure research funding and he has as yet no fixed completion date.