Cockies get new number-crunching tool

Bank of New Zealand has developed a financial performance measurement tool for farmers which it claims goes beyond existing offerings in that market.

Bank of New Zealand has developed a financial performance measurement tool for farmers which it claims goes beyond existing offerings in that market.

Ag-Benchmark analyses farmers' most recent three years of accounts and compares them with other farms nationwide or in their local district, under criteria such as return on capital, return on equity, cost of production and farm operating expenses.

The product is the culmination of 15 months' work with Microsoft tools by the bank's internal IT staff, says Tim Deane, head of business development for agribusiness.

"It was more expensive and took longer than we thought -- there were 60,000 sets of accounts that had to be loaded manually," says Deane. He won't disclose the development cost.

The Ag-Benchmark service is to be free to existing BNZ customers for six months from the launch date, March 22, and after that "a modest processing fee" will be charged, Deane says.

The bank hopes in the future to be able to provide the service, for a higher fee, to non-BNZ customers, he says. They'll need to provide three years of accounts.

Deane says existing farm financial performance measurement tools are farming sector-specific -- that is, dairying or sheep and beef -- and have fewer indicators than Ag-Benchmark.

The market for Ag-Benchmark is real, he says, as farmers and agriculture industry bodies are striving for productivity increases. "The dairy industry has a goal of a 4% increase in productivity, for example."

The bank expects to re-coup the development costs of Ag-Benchmark via increased customer loyalty and new customers, Deane says.

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