Dec. 17 (BusinessDesk) - The Reserve Bank has approved Heartland New Zealand's application to be a licensed bank, ending a long wait for the lender.
The central bank said Heartland has become New Zealand's 22nd registered bank in a brief statement.
Securing a banking licence has been a key plank of Heartland's strategy in a shift away from a new regulatory regime that imposed stricter conditions on non-bank financial institutions.
"Heartland, as a bank, needs to retain the advantages of being small: local and accessible, at all times seeking to be innovative," chief executive Jeff Greenslade said in a statement.
Last month Heartland had its investment grade BBB- credit rating affirmed with a stable outlook by Standard & Poor's, which cited the lender's strength as very strong capital and earnings assessment, good geographic and business diversity, and sticking to its timeline for its post-merger plan.
Heartland had been hoping to update shareholders on its strategy as a fully-fledged bank at the annual meeting on Nov. 30, and give them "greater comfort that the outcome on bank registration can be meaningfully addressed at the meeting."
Its expectation of a November decision was based on the customary pace for New Zealand incorporated applicants.
The shares fell 1.5 percent to 67 cents on Friday, and have rallied 37 percent this year.