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.

 

TINA SYMMANS

Tina Symmans is a leader, communicator, successful businessperson, Forsyth Barr board member and even played a role in bringing the America’s Cup back to New Zealand. It’s time we floated a few questions by her.

 

What attracted you to join Forsyth Barr?
I've been an independent director for several years. I had worked with Neil Paviour-Smith (Forsyth Barr Managing Director) and some of the Forsyth Barr team and was really impressed with the culture and great people. The firm’s true independence really sets it apart, and it’s one of the key things that underpins the culture.

You were appointed to the Board of Emirates Team New Zealand in 2014 and were part of the team responsible for the famous victory in 2017. What do you consider were the key factors behind that success?
Having the right people and enormous courage supporting determination. Courage to make big calls and determination to keep making those calls in the face of relenting and ever-increasing obstacles. Essentially, we hunkered down in our own "bubble" for three years and kept driving towards our goal.

There are many parallels between achieving success in business and success in sport. What are the greatest similarities, based on your experience?
It's always about people. The right people in the right jobs with a shared purpose and strong leadership. Having the right people isn't just about having the right skill sets and experience but having personalities and values that compliment others in the team. Ego of the individual or the whole is the greatest threat to a high performing team. When it rears its head, it needs to be dealt with… and fast.

As a member of the Takeovers Panel, one of your goals is to increase confidence and participation in New Zealand’s capital markets. What are some of the main challenges?
We need to be vigilant about striking the right balance with regulation. The question that always needs to be asked is: "What problem are we trying to solve and is the problem real or imagined"? Certainly, the Takeovers Panel is very conscious of this along with being approachable, open and fast to respond.

Only 18 percent of all directors on the boards of New Zealand listed companies are female, compared to a quarter of all directors in Australia. Why have New Zealand companies been slower to adopt a more diverse approach to Board recruitment?
This is directly correlated to the experience that people have had in their careers. If you spend most of your career in organisations that don't have diversity, that's what you know and you are comfortable with. As diversity in all businesses becomes the norm I expect we will see that also become the norm in our boardrooms. There are many senior directors and business leaders actively promoting diversity and with this, combined with the expectations of shareholders, I'm confident that the situation will improve.

One of your former corporate roles was in the telecommunications sector. What are some of the opportunities and threats that technology innovation will bring to New Zealand businesses in the future?
As a nation, we are great early adopters of technology. It's hugely exciting to see so many innovative technology-based businesses emerging, creating new sectors and shaking up established ones. The competitive landscape is constantly shifting so businesses are truly being forced to get really agile or be left behind. Technology innovation is really enabling our "can do" attitude to be unleashed on the world. The tyranny of distance we used to talk about doesn't feature much anymore.

With your home in Te Awanga, Hawkes Bay you enjoy country life as much as the corporate hustle of Auckland and Wellington. How important is technology as an enabler for businesses based in provincial New Zealand to achieve success on a national or global scale?
Technology allows for people to be anywhere and it's given me the ability to finally get a balanced life. It takes the drag out of a huge amount of stuff that has to be done as part of running a business, as well as delivering and organising information in amazing new ways. But there is no substitute for personal relationships and face to face meetings. It's just that you've now got more time, and perhaps a clearer head space, for those.

Good governance is an important hallmark of a successful enterprise in the corporate or community not-for-profit sector. Should more people become involved in governance roles if the opportunity arose?
I encourage people to get involved in governance. It can be fulfilling and very challenging. But I urge people to understand fully their personal motivations. It can be really challenging to move from management to governance. Talking to people, who have had strong involvement in governance, about their experience, good and bad, is really valuable.

In your career, you’ve established a reputation as a strong communicator. What are some of the more common communication pitfalls that you’ve seen New Zealand businesses make?
The biggest pitfall is staying stuck in the old world where controlling messages was reasonably straightforward. News and information has been democratised and any one group or person can control information about you or your business and on any issue, at any time. Today we have to engage with all our communities of interest and 24/7. The other major mistake is to believe you can keep your mistakes or bad news under wraps. Bad news will always come out, usually at the worst time for your business!

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