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[GRTV] Ballantyne on lows, highs and switching exits

Having announced her retirement next March, Naomi Ballantyne always said she wouldn't be at Partners Life forever.

Friday, June 2nd 2023, 9:00AM 1 Comment

by Andrea Malcolm

She tells GRTV how she had envisaged handing over leadership, post a company IPO.

But as any seller of insurance knows, life doesn’t always go according to plan. In Ballantyne’s case, world events kept pushing any hope of an IPO and retirement further and further over the horizon.

“I was getting older and the company was getting more mature and closer to the ability to IPO,” she says.

“The frustrating thing at that time was the market. With Covid and the economy, the time for an IPO kept pushing out. I had always thought that time, after an IPO, would be the right time to hand it over. It felt like it would never come.”

And then the exit strategy changed 100 per cent. Japanese insurance behemoth Dai-ichi Life appeared on the scene, offering to buy Partners Life for $1 billion.

Ballantyne says it was an exit strategy she’d always hoped for.

“I hadn’t been talking about it or expected it, but who it was, was exactly who I’d always hoped would be on the table for us.”

But there was still that wet blanket of a market to contend with.

“The worry, when they approached us, was that the market was doing all sorts of things. There is a long period of time when they are investigating you, normal due diligence, and this fear that because the markets are all over the place, they might take the opportunity to come in with an undercut price and they never did, which gave me an enormous amount of respect for them.”

On the topic of succession, Ballantyne says Dai-ichi Life and the board will run a full and robust recruitment and search.

“There are some internal candidates who are fantastic but there’s a world of people out there.”

Looking back at her 41 years in the business, she recalls tough times of being a lone woman at the senior executive table, how she dealt with criticism, and the heartbreak of losing the famous Partners Life trips away for financial advisers and their families. She describes the low point of the early days of regulation, the impact of the Australian Royal Commission.

Of course Ballantyne wouldn’t have lasted so long or climbed so high if she didn’t love the job and the industry. From seeing how “desperately grateful” clients are to get a cheque when things go bad, to mentoring and encouraging people who are now in senior roles across the industry, to a love of dealing with people.

Now she feels like the regulatory level is about right and the professionalism of the industry is now visible.

Her message to advisers is to keep at it, New Zealanders need you.

“I hear a lot of advisers say oh, I’m going to leave, it's getting too hard. Well, where else are you going to do that gives you this buzz, that you’re qualified to do, and that suits your personality down to the ground because it’s about people?”

The challenge for the industry is to lift financial literacy so financial advisers don’t need to explain why people need insurance.

Tags: Partners Life

« Life industry grapples with Level 5 stragglers Fidelity waives fees on eligible policies »

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Comments from our readers

On 12 June 2023 at 12:49 pm 37 years too long said:
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE INDIVIDUAL TO ENTER THIS INDUSTRY IN THE LAST 150 YEARS!

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