NZ businesses need to reflect the community’s changing face

You don’t need to walk far in Auckland to see the face of the city has changed almost beyond recognition in recent decades.

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

The days when the Queen Street crowds were overwhelmingly of European decent are gone. Auckland is now home to a richer cultural mix than London or Sydney, with no fewer than 200 ethnicities at the last official count.

"We are clearly living in a time of change. As people and as businesses, we should see it as a time of opportunity."
Fred Ohlsson, Managing Director, Retail & Business Banking, ANZ NZ

In keeping with New Zealand’s growing Asia-Pacific ties, the city of Auckland is also becoming more Asian. Communities from Asia – mostly China and India - have doubled since 2001, with one in four Aucklanders now identifying themselves as Asian.

Within ten years, European Aucklanders will be on the verge of becoming a minority. We are clearly living in a time of change. As people and as businesses, we should see it as a time of opportunity.

There are very good reasons to celebrate and embrace diversity. For a start, accepting and welcoming people from a range of backgrounds is simply the right thing to do - particularly given the time-honoured Kiwi values of fair play and equality. Many Kiwis already value the role of different ethnic traditions, cuisines and events in building more vibrant communities.

But the truth is embracing diversity is not just good morally and good for communities - it’s also good for business. 

The leaders of major companies are realising modern New Zealand, and therefore their customers, are increasingly diverse in culture, language and perspectives. It makes good business sense for companies to embrace these people and show they look and think like them, they understand them and are committed to meeting their needs.

In fact this is nothing new; it’s something firms have long tried to achieve in their brand positioning, marketing and general dealings with customers – it’s just the people they are trying to look and think like have changed.

In this context, having a variety of views and perspectives around the table within your business can only mean better and more relevant decisions as a company. That means building a diverse workforce, celebrating diversity and developing it as a strength as you seek to build meaningful relationships with your customers.

This is a responsibility taken very seriously at ANZ. As a bank that counts one in two New Zealanders as our customers, with a presence in 33 markets across Asia-Pacific and beyond, the bank believes it should take a lead. 

Anyone who works with new migrants knows connecting them to the right people, advice and services can make it easier for them to establish themselves in New Zealand. ANZ recently brought together ethnic community groups, government departments, consulates and others to provide expert advice, workshops and seminars at our second Asian Migrant Expo in Auckland.

But the business community’s responsibility towards fostering a diverse society doesn’t stop with their products and services: genuine commitment means walking the talk in the wider community.

Companies have an important role to play in helping to celebrate New Zealand’s many cultures and support social cohesion in the communities they serve. There are some excellent examples where organisations are making a real difference.

At ANZ, we support cultural events including the Chinese New Year Festival Market Day, Japan Day and Korean Day as well as ongoing support for the New Zealand Chinese Association and New Zealand Indian Central Association.

What ANZ is doing in New Zealand is complemented by initiatives which build on the bank’s connections offshore.

ANZ is supporting the Government’s aim to double New Zealand’s $2.6 billion export earnings from education by 2025, by introducing new payment solutions and using ANZ’s presence in global markets to help institutions attract foreign students.

Working with Immigration New Zealand, we help Chinese, Indian, Sri Lankan and Filipino students to prove they have funds to cover their New Zealand living expenses - making it simpler for them to get a visa, pay tuition fees, open accounts and transfer money.

In another collaboration with Malaysian bank AmBank, ANZ helps students on scholarships from the Malaysian government to open New Zealand accounts before they arrive, so their scholarship funding can be sent through and ready to use as soon as they get here.

These are just a couple of examples of how a commitment to fostering a diverse, multicultural community can support export-led growth in the economy, by helping to connect this country to opportunities in overseas markets.

There are many other ways businesses can embrace the opportunities presented by an increasingly multicultural New Zealand. ANZ is just one of this country’s major companies. A number of others are doing great work. We encourage more New Zealand businesses to embrace diversity. Not only because it’s good - but good for communities, good for business and good for our economy.

Fred Ohlsson is ANZ New Zealand’s Managing Director, Retail & Business Banking.

Photo: ChameleonsEye /

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks