Does NAB need the Big Four relationship?

If you haven’t heard, apparently banking’s ‘Big 4’ is now the ‘Big 3’. Through a carefully planned and executed integrated campaign rooted in social media, NAB have decided to ‘break-up’ with ‘former’ cohorts Commonwealth, Westpac and ANZ.

On face value, it seems like a smart decision from NAB. Attempting to shed the image shared by the ‘Big Four’ could only help it’s stuttering financial performance and doing so by shedding fees and lowering rates is also a great step. However, could this move backfire in the long term?

By breaking up with their illustrious rivals, NAB’s losing its one key positive attributes – being better than the rest of the Big Four. Amongst their former brethren, over the past 18 months NAB had managed to position itself as the cheaper alternative with lower rates and less fees. Now having ‘broken up’, it opens them up to greater comparison with challenger brands, the likes of ING Direct, Aussie and RaboDirect, who have been doing this for a long time anyway. And this comparison isn’t pretty reading, particularly when looking along at the home loan battleground where the bulk of this banking war is being fought.

For example, NAB may have the lowest rate standard variable home loan out of the Big Four, but compare it to the rest of the market and they rank a lowly 36th out of the 58 different providers’ standard variable loans we have on our site. If you go on to take upfront and ongoing fees into account by sorting by comparison rate, they sink even further, plunging to 43rd on our list – though still above Commonwealth, Westpac and ANZ I might add.

Which leads to the wider problem with NAB’s strategy. I applaud its moves to cut fees and interest costs and I enjoy the fact that it’s trying to reignite competition in the consumer banking marketplace. The problem is, if everyone starts surveying their options and voting with their feet, will NAB be the winner? Who says an irate Commonwealth Bank customer is going to land up on NAB’s door when they can go a bit further down the road and get an even cheaper home loan? Moreover, what’s to stop NAB’s customers doing the same? Mutuals and Non-bank lenders on average still have far lower rates and fees.

If everyone starts looking for the best deal, NAB’s got a battle it can’t win. Not yet anyway. Breaking up may be hard to do, but only time will tell if it was the right thing to do.

Compare home loans at Mozo.

Does NAB need the Big Four relationship? was last modified: June 29, 2015 by Yash Murthy

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