Times are tough for borrowers, but not as bad as the GFC

More than half ASB's home loan customers are sitting on rates below 6% will need to refinance at higher rates.

The bank reported a 6% increase in net profit to $1.56 billion in the June year, but chief executive Vittoria Shortt said it was a year of two halves with the second half being hit hard by rising inflation, higher interest rates, weather events and falling house prices.

She said in the second half of the financial year the bank saw an 11% decline in profit and a 16 basis point drop in margins.

Shortt says around half of the bank's home loan customers are still on rates below 6% because there is a big lag in the transmission of monetary policy.

"It takes a longer time for customers to go onto higher rates."

Around 30% of customers had sub 5% home loan rates.

Shortt says the bank has found it needs to focus on customers based on the quantum of increases they face. Customers who have had an absolute dollar increase of $1000 or more a month are the ones it is focused on.

ASB has been active in contacting customers and says it 70,000 financial wellbeing checks have been done, which take account of customers' "over arching financial circumstances."

It has proactively contacted 12,000 customers to help them through refixing their loans.

She says people have had "time to prepare."

"We've been preparing for higher interest rates ever since we had record low interest rates."

Often she is asked how does this period of time compare to other economic downturns? The current environment, she says, is not as tough as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

ASB estimates debt servicing costs are around 8% of disposable income at the moment, compared to 16% during the GFC.

"It's not as bad (as the GFC), but every cycle is different."

ASB refuses to disclose how much business it gets via mortgage advisers, although the other three big banks disclose these numbers.

Shortt says 50% adviser origination is the waterline and "sometimes it's above and sometimes it's below."

She says "share of flows shift around but not on purpose from our end."

When asked what the shifts had been she responded "minor not even worth talking about." 

"We always want to a great job for brokers. They are important to us."

One of the changes made during the year was to bring its business and personal banking teams together into one unit, under new leadership.

"We think that has been quite successful," Shortt said.

Currently, ASB has work underway to make top ups easier.

The bank reported a 6% increase in net profit to $1.56 billion in the June year, with wider margins underpinning that growth. Its residential mortgage lending grew 2.8% to $75.65 billion. She said there is stiff competiton in the market with 16 licensed banks and growing unlicensed rivals in the credit space.

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