New Zealand’s leader of life insurance – Naomi Ballantyne ONZM

4 August 2022

Women in Business, sponsored by Eclipse Recruitment

“Isn’t it fabulous to be out and about again!” Lisa Hill, managing director of Eclipse Recruitment, welcomed guests to 2022’s first Women in Business event. Lisa then paid tribute to Business North Harbour, commending the team for doing a “fantastic job” through Covid Alert Level 4 and 3, and the red traffic light setting, connecting with members, and continuing to create opportunities.

She reported that the shortage of talent is still huge, encouraging business owners to consider the cost of an empty seat and open up their recruitment briefs. At this unprecedented time, Eclipse advises hiring for attitude and training for skills. “You can change what someone knows but not who they are.”

Naomi Ballantyne describes herself as a “life insurance-aholic”. She is probably the only woman in the world to have started and built three of the largest competitor companies in any one market, and is also the longest-serving chief executive in the New Zealand life insurance sector. As she says, her successes and mistakes from an almost 40-year career are out there for all to see.

Naomi is quick to state that she does not regard herself as special. She does, however, acknowledge her bravery – taking risks despite the fear, speaking up with ideas that challenged established norms, standing by her core values and beliefs, and taking responsibility for her actions.

Passion needs to partner with bravery. “I’ve found that passionate people will do anything to make an idea work.” She strongly encouraged attendees to “get passionate about what you’re doing – or get out and find something else to be passionate about.” As plans progress and opportunities arise, Naomi says we need to be willing to take a breath as each door opens and make a conscious decision before stepping through.

Furthermore, as a woman in a male-dominated industry, she has faced more than her fair share of detractors. Still, she reflects that others’ disrespectful attitudes and comments can actually help to achieve your goal. “Prove them wrong!”

To conclude her presentation, Naomi returned to her original thoughts about integrity and bravery. “We all have the choice to behave like the person we want to be. But are we brave enough to make that choice?”

There was an interesting and quite emotional Q+A (especially when discussing expectations for working mums), during which Naomi was asked what she felt were the qualities of a good leader. “You have to walk the talk,” she replied. “A team has to feel that following you will take them somewhere they want to be. So, do what you say. Otherwise, you’re just telling, not leading!”

To view the event photos, please click here.

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Bernadette Robert

Bernadette Robert