Your Quarterly E-Zine
Edition 11 • December 2019

This website contains the latest edition of Forsyth Barr Focus, a quarterly on-line magazine written by senior members of Forsyth Barr's investment team.

If you experience any difficulty in accessing Forsyth Barr Focus,
please call 0800 367 227, or e-Mail editor@forsythbarrfocus.co.nz for assistance.

 

DAVID KIRK

The captain of the 1987 world cup-winning All Blacks side, non-executive director of Forsyth Barr, co-founder and Managing Partner of Bailador Investment Management answers some questions about success, on and off the field.

What lessons did you take from the rugby field into your successful business life?

At a high level and talking general parallels rather than specific cross-overs: ambition, reliance, and perseverance are crucial in both sport and business. As is planning, talent selection, team building and understanding sources of competitiveness. It’s important to understand the differences as well. I always tell successful sports people that are pursuing a business career that they need to put as much energy into learning what it takes to succeed in business as they put into sport if they are to succeed. 

What key leadership skills did you learn as an All Black captain?

Don’t get in the way of talented individuals who know how to do their job. Be totally uncompromising on team values and expectations.  Always try to stay ahead of team self-realisation: find new ways to play back to the team what it can be and what’s required to get there. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

You work in Australia and New Zealand, how do you see the Trans-Tasman business relationship?

Australians as a rule have a lot of affection and admiration for New Zealanders. New Zealanders, by and large, respect Australians too. Unfortunately, momentum in Closer Economic Relations and other Trans-Tasman trade and business harmonisation initiatives has more or less stalled. Good people go along to meetings and nothing happens. Right now, Australia is in a period of some political dysfunction, which is making good decision-making hard.  

You worked in the newspaper industry with Fairfax Group. What are the challenges for newspapers and magazines in the digital era?

The challenges are very big. Both the relevance of the product - newspaper content ages quickly and is limited by number of pages - and the cost of producing and delivering the product has rendered many newspapers and magazines uncompetitive in a digital world. The answer is to become a multi-channel news and information platform: a creator of unique content distributed online in various forms, including a printed product and even through other channels such as radio.  Seek to engage audiences through distribution on multiple platforms and leverage the fixed cost of news gathering and editing. For companies owning major print assets, diversification is essential.

What attracted you to join Forsyth Barr?

Forsyth Barr’s New Zealand roots and focus, the growth strategy of the company and the capability and willingness of the management team and board to execute. In many of my previous roles I have worked extensively with financial services companies as a client but never from the financial services provider's perspective. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with New Zealand’s leading domestic financial services firm. I have been a director of Forsyth Barr for 8 years now.

Back to the All Blacks, how do the All Blacks of today rate against those of 30 years ago?

Today’s All Blacks are the best there has ever been. They are fitter, faster and more skilful than even their predecessors of 2 or 3 years ago. It doesn’t mean they will always play better than their predecessors or that the opposition isn’t better or worse than in the past.  The raw talent in New Zealand rugby tends to be about the same over time, but the training and preparation improves all the time, so the players improve. The key always is to develop a cohesive team with complementary skills, mental toughness and leadership to win the big matches.

What advice would you give a young person considering a sporting career?

Go for it. You have a limited time to be the best you can be at whatever sport you have chosen. Focus on skills, fitness and your understanding of tactics and innovation. Be a leader. It doesn’t matter what position you play or if you are in an individual sport, think of yourself as a leader.  Be prepared to make decisions, take risks, inspire other people and take responsibility for team performance. Keep part of your head outside the sport that is consuming most of your waking hours. Have other interests and in particular begin to educate yourself for a career outside your sport. Finally, never be defined by your sport. Know yourself as a person with lots of interests, loves, frustrations, hopes, fears and aspirations outside the game. 

You’re Founder and Director of Bailador, a company which invests in businesses in the information technology and sectors. What type of transformational changes are you seeing?

Bailador invests in private internet and IT companies at a later stage of their development. Companies typically have more than $5m of revenue when we invest. We provide access to private fast growth IT companies that investors would otherwise not be able to access. The fund is listed on the ASX so investors can easily enter an exit.  We have 9 companies in our portfolio and we see big opportunities in software-as-a-service in particular and also in new forms of marketplace, data and machine learning.

A decade from now, how will technology have changed our lives?

In all sorts of ways. A few thoughts: electric and driverless cars will be common. Large long life batteries will be used to provide electricity in many parts of the world. Speech recognition technology will be standard. Augmented and virtual reality entertainment will be the most popular form of digital entertainment. Many more things - devices, appliances, household goods etc - will be connected to the internet and talking to each other without human intervention. Kim Jong Un will have died after being hit by a supersonic electromagnetic pulse bounced off the moon originating from humanity’s collective gasp of surprise when it is announced a company run by Elon Musk has made a profit.

As in rugby, New Zealand is a global leader in other areas, such as business innovation. Why?

We grow up in New Zealand expecting to do things for ourselves rather than out-source to a specialist. Partly we want to save the money, and partly we find it satisfying to fix or make things or simply solve a problem ourselves. We are a country of doers and having a go and thinking of a different way to do something is a part of this mentality. Our competitive streak probably helps too.