Australian non-bank Pepper eyes NZ

Aussie non-bank giant Pepper is plotting a move into the New Zealand market, joining a growing list of alternative lenders.

Pepper, one of Australia's biggest non-bank lenders, is quietly ramping up preparations to launch in New Zealand, according to industry sources. The Aussie company has a book of 200,000 customers across the Tasman, and is making plans to build on that number in the NZ market. 

Industry sources say Pepper executives have travelled to New Zealand in recent weeks, and the lender is expected to begin hiring for a New Zealand launch soon. Pepper would not comment on the details, but said in a statement: "New Zealand is a market that Pepper is actively considering."

Pepper, led by CEO Mike Culhane, (pictured), is expected to launch in New Zealand this year. It is understood the company is working on documentation and regulatory approvals. Pepper has been registered as a Financial Services Provider in New Zealand since 2011 and has a presence in the country, having acquired a A$5 billion book of loans from GE. 

Like most of its non-bank rivals, Pepper's customer base includes the self-employed, customers with changing personal circumstances, those with an impaired credit history, and investors. Aside from home loans, Pepper offers personal finance, car loans in the Australian market. The firm is expected to support the broker channel as it does in Australia. 

Pepper has no shortage of firepower for expansion into New Zealand. Since 2017 the finance company has been owned by private equity giant KKR, one of America's most powerful investors.

Pepper's presence as a major player in the non-bank space would add to a growing list of alternative lenders in New Zealand. This week, Australian firm Prospa, led in NZ by former Resimac NZ boss Adrienne Church, signalled its intention to grow a mortgage book in this country.

Over the past few years, a host of other non-banks have made a play for the New Zealand market, including Bluestone, whose Asia-Pacific division is owned by US private equity firm Cerberus. Bluestone returned to New Zealand in February after a 10 year absense. Other notable recent developments include Australian group Resimac's continued growth. 

The interest in the non-bank lending space comes as traditional lenders tighten credit conditions due to regulatory pressure on both sides of the Tasman. Non-banks posted a 22% increase in net profit last year, according to advisory firm KPMG.


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