Kiwibank has 'nothing to hide' over profits, chief executive Steve Jurkovich says

The head of one of New Zealand's biggest banks says the company has "nothing to hide" when it comes to its profits, adding it's up to the Finance Minister to investigate any perceived issues. 

Despite tough economic times for many, banks are returning near-record profits and there is increasing pressure for the Government to order a market study into the industry. It comes as continual Official Cash Rate (OCR) rises mean people with mortgages are being forced to shell out more and more. 

On Wednesday the Reserve Bank of New Zealand lifted the OCR again to 5.5 percent, up 25 basis points, in its ongoing attempt to dampen inflation.

Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich told AM on Thursday he understands why Kiwis are questioning banks' profits. But he said Kiwibank is simply trying to operate prudently. 

"We really recognise how hard that is for customers and we get thousands of calls a month from people saying, 'I've moved from 2.5 percent to… say 6.3, or something like that," Jurkovich said of the interest rate hike. 

"We've got to try and run a business that's sustainable and so we're always trying to balance how we're going on purpose, how we're going on performance, have we got enough money set aside for tougher times like we're coming into? So I don't think it's about 'good' or 'bad' - we're just trying to be prudent."

Jurkovich said it's "fair" for people to question whether the industry is making "too much money" but the decision to investigate sits with Minister of Finance Grant Robertson.  

Steve Jurkovich.
Steve Jurkovich. Photo credit: AM

"The power to investigate that and look into it sits with the [Finance] Minister so you're better to ask him," he said. "If we're asked [to support an investigation], we've got nothing to hide - as an industry, you've got to embrace that scrutiny. In particular, if you're an industry that makes $7.5 billion a year.

"If I'm sitting in a household that's paying $450 more a fortnight… I get it that people are concerned about that," Jurkovich told AM host Ryan Bridge.

Robertson said earlier this month he trusted banks but acknowledged there was a debate to be had about their profits.

Those comments came on the back of Consumer NZ research showing nearly 40 percent of Kiwis didn't trust banks - the highest level of distrust since tracking began two years ago. 

Robertson said Cabinet would soon consider what its next study would look at. 

Kiwibank posted a massive first-half profit of $98 million in the six months to December, up 53 percent.