17 Sep 2020

Heartland profits down marginally as it sets funds aside for Covid fallout

12:01 pm on 17 September 2020

Heartland Group has reported a net profit of $72 million dollars, down a touch on last year's $73.6m.

Various denominations of coins

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However, excluding funds put aside as a buffer for the Covid-19 fallout, profit was up at $78.9m.

The financial services company said the overlay of $9.6m (before tax) was mostly to cover consumer - primarily personal loans - and small business portfolios.

Chief executive Jeff Greenslade said that provision would be monitored as conditions changed.

He said during the pandemic support was given to a number of customers, many of whom were now back on their feet.

"Consumer customers, representing $143 million of loans, took up the various offers of support, as did SME and business customers, representing $510 million of loans. Support options included payment holidays of one-three months, reduced principal and interest only payments.

"Most of Heartland's customers have returned to pre-Covid-19 payment schedules. At [end of August] 96 percent of consumer loans and 98 percent of SME and business loans were on pre-Covid-19 repayment schedules or had taken up Heartland Extend."

Heartland Extend was launched in May to help customers manage their loans to ease cashflow pressures.

He said the Group had largely been sheltered from the industries hardest hit such as tourism, hospitality and retail, and from the demographic most impacted by rising unemployment - that was those aged 15-24.

Operating expenses were up about a quarter this year, to $106.8m, due to changes in accounting standards, as well as an increase in staff expenses - 23 people were employed to help customers during the lockdown period.

"Higher operating expenses were also due to a $3.3 million increase in marketing investment across both New Zealand and Australian markets to drive product and brand awareness," Greenslade said.

Reverse mortgages in both New Zealand and Australia proved popular during the year.

Reverse mortgages release equity in a home, which could then be paid back once the house was sold. Interest rates are typically higher for such loans.

Income from the product in New Zealand was up 9.7 percent to $559.9m driven by increased marketing.

Greenslade also said a trial of its digital home loan platform, launched in March, had proved successful with $50m in lending processed.

"Heartland Bank expects to relaunch its Home Loans product during the financial year ending 30 June 2021 with a rate as market leading as that offered during the trial."

Heartland currently expects its net profit for the year ending 30 June 2021 to be in the range of $83 million to $85 million.