Nadine Tereora comes with a wealth of senior experience and is recognised as a people-oriented leader who is extremely passionate about all things New Zealand.
What attracted you to the job of CEO at the AA?
The AA brand is iconic in New Zealand and has played a critical role in everyday New Zealanders’ lives for many years. A key attraction for me was that the AA is a Member-centric organisation, demonstrated over many years. In addition, the values the AA stands for resonate with my own values, in particular integrity. The opportunity to lead the Association is extremely exciting, especially given the focus on building a sustainable future here – all the while ensuring Member feedback continues to drive innovation.
Do you have a particular interest in motoring or road safety?
Road safety is important to me; of particular concern is the state of our roads. Their poor condition, lack of signage and the general need for upgrades have contributed to the number of accidents recorded every year. I’ve seen evidence of this in my insurance industry experience. I also believe supporting and educating our young drivers is very important, to ensure they have the best possible chance to be safe on their motoring journeys.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
When I was at university I started my first customer-facing role in travel insurance, which gave me a passion for serving customers and showed me the difference you can make when someone needs you most.
From there, I grew up – if you like – in the financial services sector. Quite early on in my career I stepped into leadership roles and discovered the importance an organisation's culture has in delivering great outcomes for customers. Customers know if an organisation has a strong culture by virtue of who they deal with and how they behave.
Sovereign was a big part of my career. I was there for 14 years and held various leadership roles. Also during that time I worked on a start-up in Australia, which gave me really valuable experience and fuelled my enthusiasm for innovation. I returned to New Zealand and left Sovereign to join an international-based life insurer, where I worked throughout Asia. This helped me understand different aspects of the market and various models in different parts of the world.
Working for a global organisation reinforced my desire to work for a New Zealand-based insurer, which led to my first Chief Executive role, with Asteron Life, which was part of the Suncorp group. When I was at Asteron, I sat on the board of AA Life, met Brian Gibbons and started to understand the AA. Following my role at Asteron, I was approached to lead Fidelity Life as Chief Executive. Fidelity Life was founded by a New Zealander, was family-owned and demonstrated a truly Kiwi set of values, and that was something I was really interested in contributing to.
During my time at Fidelity, the team and I led a significant transformation, not only recapitalising the business with New Zealand-based investors but, more importantly, ensuring the primary focus for the organisation was the customer.
My career has been influenced by my belief that culture drives strategy. Over the years, I have ensured that any organisation I've contributed to has, at its core, a strong culture of thriving, engaged people.
Have you had a clear career plan to get to this point?
I have always been goal-oriented but I am not one of those people who sets out to ladder climb. Whatever challenge is set out for me, I’ll work really hard to achieve it. My mantra is: work hard in silence and let success be your noise. It’s important to love what you do and I am fortunate to have had the opportunities to truly celebrate what I love to do.
Did you have mentors in your work life, especially when you were starting out?
Yes. One person in particular, early in my CEO experience, epitomised for me what a strong leader is, reinforcing that leadership is a privilege not a right. That really resonated with me. I’ve also had great coaches along the way, and various sounding boards, and I’ve realised the importance of that network, particularly as a woman in a typically male-dominated industry.
Who inspires you?
New Zealanders are achieving extraordinary things! It never ceases to amaze me how many success stories our little country produces. This really inspires me to step up and challenge myself and others to do the same. It's difficult to single out two or three people who have inspired me, however one of the standout individuals would have to be (Zimbabwean-American) Dr Tererai Trent. She has an extraordinary story that demonstrates anything is possible. She is a most incredible woman, who has influenced so much positive change despite the odds against her.
Ritchie McCaw is another; his relentless pursuit to achieve his goal of being the greatest All Black of all time is incredibly inspiring. Successful teams are not down to one individual’s performance; it's about everyone playing their respective roles to achieve a common goal.
What was your first car?
A gold Ford Laser; I called it the ‘gold bullet.’ I absolutely loved that car and had it for a number of years.
How did you learn to drive?
My mother taught me to drive. I had to save for my own car and it was up to me to pay for everything, apart from my AA Membership and insurance! This indicates you were taught well about money… I learnt how to budget very early on; my mother was a master in budgeting. I still have no idea how she managed to raise three kids, own her own home, and keep up with all our sporting interests on a hairdresser’s wage.
Did you grow up in Auckland?
I grew up on the north shore of Auckland, in the East Coast Bays.
How about holidaying?
While heading overseas is great, I love camping! I was fortunate to go camping every year to Ōakura Bay, north of Whangārei, from the age of six months to well into my teenage years. The long-drop toilet wasn't a highlight… but the holidays were always fantastic! As a result, it’s not surprising we go camping every year, and any chance we get we head away to experience a different part of our wonderful country.
And your family?
I'm married to Sei – he is a teacher and we’ve been married for 20 years. We have three wonderful girls aged 21, 16 and 14. They keep us busy with all the sports they play.
What do you do to relax? Do you have any hobbies or sports?
I’m an active relaxer! I generally have a project on the go that involves some form of creative design. I play touch rugby in a social team once a week and I also ride horses as much as I can. When you have a busy job and family you need something that is going to completely change your mindset. Horse riding does that for me. I often get my best ideas when I’m out for a ride. I find a clear mind allows creative thoughts to flow.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
The AA has a wonderful history and an extremely exciting future – despite the ‘new normal’ we are all learning to adapt to. We have an excellent team dedicated to delivering the best possible products and service to our Members. I am hugely grateful and excited to lead such an iconic Association.
Reported for our Autumn 2022 issue