Banking and financial institutions rating agency Canstar
New Zealand will continue to increase its services this year,
although general manager Derek Bonnar admits that 18 categories
could be close to saturation point.
The Canstar Gold division looks specifically at what products
and services are offered by banks and financial institutions
and rates them according to criteria provided by those
When Mr Bonnar (44) joined Canstar about three years ago, he
was told the company asked 250 questions on credit cards
''I said 'no way can you ask that many questions'. But we do.
I have the motto that we want to do the hard work for the
Ratings on things like credit cards did not only take into
account which were cheapest. Canstar looked for value and
there was a trade-off between costs and features.
When consumers were looking at the published credit card
ratings, they were encouraged to examine their own spending
behaviour. If they did not pay off their balance each month,
they should not chase cards with rewards as, in the end, it
could cost them more through interest payments. People who
paid off their cards on a monthly basis were free to go for
the rewards, he said.
Canstar had been in New Zealand for 10 years, concentrating
on the banking and financial sectors. Three years ago, the
Australian-based board met to decide how best to develop the
New Zealand operation, which had been serviced out of
Brisbane, Mr Bonnar said.
''Their light-bulb moment was coming and talking to clients
in New Zealand. They were told if they wanted to grow, they
needed to stop flying in from Brisbane every two months to
tell New Zealanders what they were doing right and wrong.''
The message was clearly that Canstar needed to appoint
someone in New Zealand, he said.
Mr Bonnar was given the brief to expand the market, which he
set about doing by adding categories to the financial ratings
undertaken by Canstar.
This year, travel insurance, youth banking and everyday
banking categories would be rated and awarded rating stars.
Last year, small business and agribusiness banking and
KiwiSaver categories were added.
Financial institutions provided Canstar with data, which was
then analysed by the 55 staff in Brisbane, who provided
support in data collection, Mr Bonnar said.
Their role was not to ''cut and paste'' but to look at data
from a New Zealand perspective.
''Giving credit to my Australian colleagues, they recognise
that. It's about the New Zealandification of the data, and
they understand that.''
Canstar had developed a close relationship with Credit Union
South, in Dunedin, the credit union last year winning an
In 2001, Canstar launched its Blue division, which focused on
customer satisfaction. Each month, 2500 consumers were polled
about their satisfaction with various products and the
results were released publicly.
Before joining Canstar, Mr Bonnar spent two years as a senior
fraud investigator with the Commerce Commission. Before the
commission, he came from a background in banking.