Kiwibank says few customers stresseed by higher mortgage rates

Only about 50 of Kiwibank's home loan customers were financially stressed enough to have needed intensive help to work through the impact of rising mortgage interest rates, chief executive Steve Jurkovich told an NZX webinar.

Kiwibank has two series of bonds and perpetual preference shares listed on NZX.

Jurkovich said the rise in interest rates has been “unprecedented” and his bank has recently phoned 5,000 home loan customers to discuss how they were coping.

The Reserve Bank has raised its official cash rate from 0.25% to 5.5% between October 2021 and July this year.

Kiwibank's one-year mortgage rate, the most popular term at the moment, for those with at least 20% equity has risen from 2.5% to 7.25%.

Of those called, about 500 had wanted to talk about their options for reducing payment requirements.

That resulted in about 300 moving to interest-only payments or extending the term of their loans and only about 50 needed more intensive help, he said.

That exercise showed “New Zealanders have been pretty resilient,” Jurkovich said, adding that when surveyed, customers number one concern relating to financial security was having “a roof over their heads.”

About 20% of Kiwibank's customers had maintained payments while interest rates were falling and so are now well ahead of repayment requirements, he said.

Jurkovich said that one reason customers have coped so well is that when mortgage rates were down at 3%, his bank had been using test rates of 7% or 8% to assess customers' ability to repay loans.

While that might have seemed “pretty academic” at the time, it has stood Kiwibank and its customers in good stead, he said. Kiwibank is now using 8.75% to test customers' ability to repay loans.

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