ASB asking business owners to put homes on line for loans

Some hard questions are being asked over the actions of banks during these tough times.

The Government is throwing billions at the economy to keep it afloat, with policies including a mortgage repayment holiday, a wage subsidy scheme and a finance guarantee scheme offering businesses loans of up to half a million dollars.

But a business owner has told Newshub banks are acting like 'wolves in sheep's clothing' when administering those loans - with one even asking business owners to put their own homes on the line.

The business owner, who Newshub has agreed not to name, applied for a government-backed loan from ASB to help his company survive the next few months.

"They're asking for everything under the sun. I got asked for more personal guarantees and unlimited guarantees and if I had any property to secure the loan against," he told Newshub.

That means if he didn't pay back the loan, the bank could take ownership of his home. He says that's a big ask, given these loans are 80 percent backed by the government.

"The lending criteria is the same, if not worse, than what it was before COVID and before this Government package came out," he says.

"So it's actually - what I'm calling it - wolf in sheep clothing."

Correspondence obtained by Newshub shows ASB saying: "In the event your business cannot make its payment obligations, the bank will seek to recover its money from you and any property held as security. In that respect it is no different from any other loan."

"What's really important is that there is so many different forms of relief that customers can access. So ASB has helped over 8000 of its business customers," says ASB CEO Vittoria Shortt.

An expert says that's not unreasonable.

"The business owner remains fully on the hook for the amount that they have borrowed, to the extent of the security they have provided," says Massey University economics and finance Associate Professor Claire Matthews.

"This is not purely free money just to say 'hey have whatever you like', there are normal lending criteria."

"I think the important thing to understand is this is the Government scheme, and ASB needs to comply with the terms of the Government scheme," Shortt says.

The Bank of New Zealand and Westpac say they too will require security like property.

Meanwhile the country's biggest bank, ANZ, is only offering the scheme to existing customers, meaning it probably already has security from them.

Newshub understands the loan scheme isn't live yet and banks are only taking expressions of interest at the moment.

The Finance Minister Grant Robertson wouldn't do an interview on Sunday with his office saying this was an issue for the banks.

But after being pushed to front for this story, he sent a statement saying: "I encourage all banks to be flexible and pragmatic, taking into account the individual situation faced by each business applying for the scheme, and the unprecedented nature of the current situation."