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Suncorp eyes bank future, dismisses hawking concerns

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Suncorp has dismissed concerns about hawking reform impacts on its Marketplace strategy, amid speculation the company may be considering a bank spin-off.

The group says it does not make unsolicited calls and a digital focus positions it well to respond to anti-hawking proposals in the Hayne royal commission final report.

“In digital interactions, customers are essentially self-serving through a digital channel and they decide which products and services they choose to access,” a spokeswoman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Our distribution through stores is supported by strong processes, and we intend to work with industry and government on ensuring any emerging legislation protects the interests of all customers.”

According to the Australian Financial Review last week, the company has undertaken some preliminary work looking at a possible banking spin-off, with investment bank UBS taking an informal role. Suncorp declined to comment on the report.

JP Morgan analyst Siddharth Parameswaran says tougher anti-hawking rules should not be a big issue for the company, while incentives for divesting might include pressures on regional banks and valuation issues.

“There might be benefits from a potential merger of equals with another regional bank, but we think the dis-synergies minimise the upside,” he says in a research report.

Royal commission recommendations say hawking of insurance products should be prohibited and clearer rules are needed around unsolicited cross-selling of different types of products.

Suncorp’s Marketplace strategy facilitates consumers having more of their financial and insurance needs met from products provided through the company.

The group’s banking and wealth business contributed a net profit of $183 million in the most recent half-year results, while Australian insurance reported earnings of $133 million and New Zealand contributed $111 million.

A separation of the businesses has aroused speculation in the past, with Suncorp the only major Australian underwriter to combine banking and insurance operations.

Bell Potter Securities Head of Research TS Lim told insuranceNEWS.com.au it would make sense for Suncorp to consider becoming purely an insurance company.

“If you look at other statements by the banks in the past week or two, the operating conditions continue to be tough, and regional banks don’t have scale,” he said.

A research report by Mr Lim last year examined the potential for a regional sector merger between Suncorp and the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, while analysts have also suggested Bank of Queensland could be a partner.