Wednesday, 10 April 2024 10:55

50 years a banker and still learning

Written by  Staff Reporters
After working in banking for half a century ANZ Rural Bank Manager Roger Fannin shares his thoughts on the events that have shaped his career. After working in banking for half a century ANZ Rural Bank Manager Roger Fannin shares his thoughts on the events that have shaped his career.

ANZ Rural Bank Manager Roger Fannin has been working in banking for half a century all over Hawke's Bay - all the way back to the post office days. He shares his thoughts on the good times and bad times and reflects on the events that shaped his career.

When Roger Fannin started his career in 1973, things were a bit different.

The average house cost $15,500, family meals around the dinner table were sacred, and newly introduced colour televisions were a novelty.

"I was geared up to go to university to become a teacher, but I was a bit sick of the mundane nature of studying, so I flagged that," he laughs.

"I worked with my brother putting roofs on houses until my Dad said, 'son, you're going nowhere - I want you to make a change'."

His father had a friend at the post office, and there was a position available, starting the following week.

"I had no idea what a post office did," Fannin recalls.

He began working as a clerk at the New Zealand Post Office branch on the corner of Jervois Street and Karamu Road in Hastings, on a salary of $2,114 per annum.

"It was a one stop shop; we handled savings accounts, postal notes, money orders, foreign currency orders, toll calls from the in-branch booths, and even births, deaths and marriages," Fannin says.

"I remember marrying a couple of people in the Ōtāne Post office: a woman came in, quite heavily pregnant, and said 'would you marry us?'

"I just about did a double flip. I had to look up the rule book and find out what I had to do - that was a quite an interesting experience."

He was promoted to a senior clerk in 1978, and a couple of years later was promoted to postmaster and working in several Post Offices around Hawke's Bay.

Around 1987, a process Fannin describes as "corporatisation" began to take place.

"The post office was split into three state-owned enterprises: New Zealand Post, Telecom, and Post Office Savings Bank, which later became Post Bank," he explains.

Although it was a time of great change, Fannin says he enjoyed the period.

"At 34, with a young family and a mortgage, it was exciting - it was great," he says.

"To go into that PostBank environment, you became entrenched, and it encompassed what was good about banking."

PostBank didn't offer lending, but that changed in 1989 when PostBank was acquired by ANZ.

"That was really exciting, because we learned so much about the finer points of banking," Fannin adds.

By 1990, he was the area assistant manager of PostBank in the Hawke's Bay.

"It involved a lot of travelling around, meeting people, obviously talking with customers and helping to develop the skills of the people that were under us."

He then had the opportunity to go into business banking in 1994 and moved to the Hastings branch on Heretaunga Street.

"That was the beginning of my close involvement with the rural community - around 30 years ago now," he says.

"I grew up surrounded by orchards and was an orchard owner for a period, so I did have some experience, but not in pastoral farming.

"So, I felt I needed to get a diploma in agribusiness management, in order to gain some acceptance and to know what I was talking about - it was a really good learning curve."

Fannin says banking has gone through many periods of change and will likely continue to.

"I've generally welcomed change and I've seen lots of it.

"Moving from paper and pen to computerisation, that must be the biggest change I've seen. I've had to learn as I've gone along," he explains.

"It's a bit like being on a train, roaring down the tracks, and if you don't want to accept the changes you need to get off - but generally, I think I've managed to stay onboard."

In 1996, the bank's business and agri customers were split into separate centres, and Fannin was fortunate to be chosen as the agri manager for all of Hawke's Bay.

1998's 'Horrendous' Drought

Only a couple of years into Fannin's new role, there was a dramatic downturn for the entire Hawke's Bay agri community.

The unusually warm and dry El Nino weather conditions of 1998 led to a "horrendous" drought.

"Some commentators said it was the worst they had seen in 40 years. It didn't rain from about December until about May the next year," he says. "And here I was, relatively new in this position, and caught smack bang in the middle of it, as I had just taken on quite a large portfolio of agri clients."

He adds that animals were dying, water was scarce, feed was almost non-existant, and farming folk were heavily depressed.

"The demands on my time were huge and there were many sad stories, and requests for capital to get businesses back on track," Fannin explains.

"There were also some really difficult decisions - where I wasn't able to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff."

Sooner or later, all things change, and as soon as the first propr rain came, the land sprang back to life.

"Hawke's Bay is such a fertile place, and it just bounced back. You never would hvae known it was a drought, apar from the fact that it cost a lot of money."

Fannin says that being able to help people through that difficult period brought him immense satisfaction.

"There have been droughts since then. One of the messages we try to get out to our clients has been that preparedness and diversification can help you through and protect you when events like this happen."

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