Sat. Feb 4th, 2023


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Summer questions: Kiwibank CEO Steve Jurkovich says the next phase of recovery may be even more challenging than 2021’s lockdown

4 min read

How would you describe 2021 for your business?

A really fascinating/interesting balance of challenges, volatility and trying to not get too distracted by factors we couldn’t really influence. Previous turbulent times has led me to believe that the best thing to do is to “try and control the controllable”.

How is your business planning to tackle 2022?

I’m hopeful that 2022 will see us adjust and adapt to a return to our workplaces while retaining the benefits that we have developed from being more flexible around working from home.Kiwibank is really focused on delivering on our purpose of Kiwis making Kiwis better off.We want to balance purpose and performance and I’m sure 2022 will bring lots of opportunity for us to do that, and to reinforce the unique role Kiwibank has to play in Aotearoa.

What will be the major challenges and/or opportunities for your industry?

The banking industry will need to continue to support businesses and individuals recover. That means staying close to customers as the next phase of the recovery may be even more challenging than navigating the extended lockdown period of 2021.I think the challenge and the opportunity is for banks to demonstrate their continued support for customers and the broader economy.Banks will need to take a medium-term view on the recovery and offer a stable approach to the risks and the recovery.

How do you think the Government has handled the Covid-19 crisis?

There is no perfect plan and no country delivered a perfect playbook.It’s such a wicked problem to deal with that regardless of your political and social views, and I think you have to acknowledge that. I’m a big believer that there is always more than one “right way” and the right way heavily depends on your view of the world and your context.I guess that there were also plenty of times where the Government and businesses had to choose the least worst option.

What are two key things the Government should do for economic recovery?

The revitalisation of immigration by opening our borders in a timely, effective and safe way is the single biggest enabler from my point of view.New Zealand is a much more vibrant and richer place when it welcomes visitors, migrants and Kiwis returning and departing in a safe and open way.

There is also a lot of opportunity to leverage business and government working to deliver meaningful policy, social impact and innovation to life by working together.It feels likethere has been an increasingly separate approach between government and business in relation to testing, borders, MIQ, tourism and hospitality.At Kiwibank we have a mindset that we try to focus on which is tapatahi.That’s a mindset that seeks to focus on the fact that we are better together.

What was the most interesting non-Covid story of 2021?

Interesting isn’t the right word but the most inspiring story for me was of the late Jemima Gazley who, when battling the disease which took her life, worked selflessly to raise money to go towards research for a cure to benefit others. The courage, humour, strength and generosity from her was incredible. For her and her family to face that challenge with such grace and compassion was simply incredible.

What are your predictions for 2022?

That 2022 will see us adjust and adapt to a different normal. I’m really hopeful that New Zealand can be a more cohesive place where we can disagree without being disagreeable.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in business?

There are so many it’s pretty hard to pick.The ones I regret the most are where I feel like I haven’t invested the proper time to really listen, be really present and understand how people are really feeling about the things that are most important to them.I find it’s pretty easy to fall into a mode where it’s about the jobs to be done rather than a shared understanding of our why and a sense of progress and growth.

What would you rate as your greatest success in business?

Finding, attracting and retaining the best people you can and getting out of their way so that they can leverage their superpowers.

Where are you holidaying this summer?

North of Auckland in the Matakana area.It’s 100 per cent my happy place, my mother’s family have deep roots in Mangawhai going back many generations so that broader area feels like a place I can belong.

How has the media reported Covid and what’s your view of the Fourth Estate?

In a world where algorithms dominate our feeds and create a world where we see news that is heavily curated, then a strong and independent Fourth Estate has probably never been more critical.I’ll also admit to a frustration with click bait, I’m looking forward to a break from that for a few weeks.

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