Prominent lawyer’s board appointment

by Hannah Norton22 Apr 2015
BNZ announced yesterday the appointment of one of New Zealand’s most well-known lawyers, Mai Chen, to the bank’s board of directors.

Speaking to NZLawyer, Chen said she was excited about her appointment and relishing the challenge.

“You only get one shot at an amazing opportunity like this and I was very pleased to be given it.
“The BNZ is a great company with great people and a board chair and directors that I admire and respect.”

BNZ chairman John Waller was equally as complimentary.

"Mai Chen is an outstanding New Zealand leader, combining expertise in public law with wide-ranging commercial experience,” he said.

“She will bring fresh and diverse views to board discussions, alongside the formal business of our board.”

With her vast array of roles and responsibilities, from managing partner of public law firm Chen Palmer, adjunct professor at the University of Auckland Law School, textbook author, as wekk as her service on other boards such as the Securities Commission and involvement in non-profit women’s leadership organisations; it certainly begs the question – how does she manage to fit it all in?

“Chen Palmer is also in its 21st year, and I have good partners, and a senior team I enjoy working with,” she told NZLawyer.

“So obviously, I am playing more of a senior counsel role now, and a lot of the day to day work is handled by the partners and senior team.

“I am always available to direct and peer review and counsel. The more difficult, messy and ground-breaking the instruction, the more I will be involved.”

She is also writing and commentating less in order to focus on taking up more governance opportunities.

“I enjoy the strategic challenge leveraging off my 28-and-a-half years as a lawyer and my entrepreneurial and academic and not for profit work.”

One of the challenges specific to the banking industry was the fact that it is seriously “disrupted”, Chen said.

“A lot is changing, all the time, and it is not always clear where the change will come from. It isn’t just technological; it’s also about demographic disruption.

“Auckland is super diverse, and the client base is changing. Almost 50 percent of the population here is Maori, Pacific or Asian. And so the challenge will be to ensure that we are properly catering for customers, and that we have the staff with the right skills to do so.”

While she considered IQ as important, as well as EQ, a new key acronym was CQ – cultural intelligence, the ability “to work with people who are not like you”.

“It is] increasingly important with the increasing number of New Zealanders who were not born here. They may be second generation – but nevertheless, they’ve grown up in households with different culture and values. And so it’s the ability to work across all of those boundaries and barriers to ensure that we are connecting with our customer needs, and attracting the right sort of talent that can do the connecting.”

Chen’s role as a BNZ director was effective from yesterday.

She has served on the Securities Commission and on the advisory board of AMP Life Limited (NZ), on the NZ Board of Trade and Enterprise’s Beachheads programme, on the Asia New Zealand Foundation board, the Royal NZ Ballet board, and on university and polytechnic councils. She was also inaugural chair of NZ Global Women, is the current chair of NZ Asian Leaders and was instrumental in establishing the BEST Pasifika Leadership Programme.
 
 

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