Dynamic Business: Air New Zealand, Excellence in Governance (NZ Herald)

Air New Zealand has taken out the MinterEllisonRuddWatts Excellence in Governance award in 2017 in recognition of the company’s world-class track record and its emphasis on broad stakeholder management.

Air NZ has consistently been recognised for its excellence in governance — this is the company’s third appearance in this category at the Deloitte Top 200 awards.

Of particular note, is the seamless way in which the airline has managed board and CEO transitions through its robust succession planning processes.

Since the Government-backed recapitalisation of the national carrier in 2001, it has had just two chairmen: John Palmer (appointed in November 2001) and Tony Carter (appointed in December 2010).

In that time there have been three chief executives: Sir Ralph Norris — who came off the board in February 2002 to pilot Air NZ through a major rebuild following a near bankruptcy; Rob Fyfe — who brought marketing pizzazz to the role when he took up the CEO reins in 2005 following Norris’ move to Australia to become chief executive of Commonwealth Bank; and, Christopher Luxon, who became chief executive in early 2013 introducing a global management style to the airline.

Both Fyfe and Luxon were internal appointments who were thoroughly blooded by their predecessors before stepping up to the top job.

In September, former Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Sir John Key joined Carter and fellow members Jan Dawson (deputy chairman), Rob Jager, Linda Jenkinson, Jonathan Mason and Dame Therese Walsh on the board.

Air New Zealand was recently rated New Zealand’s most reputable company for the second year in a row.

The company has continued to sport outstanding financial results since it was named Company of the Year in the 2014 Deloitte Top 200 awards.

Both Carter (2014) and Luxon (2015) have taken out the top honours, for chairman and chief executive respectively, which is another testament to the company’s overall governance record.

It was recently nominated “Airline of the Year” by leading international aviation website AirlineRatings.com for the fifth consecutive year.

The Deloitte Top 200 judges said New Zealanders’ continued faith in Air NZ was a stellar reflection of the airline’s successful governance and the positive impact it has in the country.

They added: “Air New Zealand does the best job of broad stakeholder management. The company does an excellent job for the shareholders, but beyond that it really thinks about the country.”

Air New Zealand’s concern for its wider stakeholder group is evidenced by the airline’s annual sustainability report.

First published in 2015, this annual report tracks the company’s performance socially, economically and environmentally.

These three pillars are supported by six key focus areas — the airline’s people, the communities it operates within, carbon, nature and science, tourism, and trade and enterprise.

The judges remarked that the sustainability reports were a fantastic resource and said Air New Zealand is considered among the best in the country in this area.

The airline has formed a sustainability advisory panel, which includes British environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt, New Zealand entrepreneur and environmentalist Sir Rob Fenwick and US biofuels expert Suzanne Hunt.

The airline industry contributes around 2 to 4 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of the sustainability framework, Air NZ is committed to working closely with key regional stakeholders, collaborating and helping them to develop attractive tourism propositions.

An example of Air New Zealand’s work is in Northland where, with local tourism operators, the council and other stakeholders it created a “Summer of Safety” inflight safety video, which was complemented by other tourism marketing campaigns both in New Zealand and internationally.

The judges also noted that the airline’s board had applied best practice in a number of important areas — including its commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The airline says its workforce reflects its diverse customer base and helps it to better serve their needs.

The company also acknowledges that its diversity helps it to be more innovative, challenging traditional ways of thinking, and introduces fresh perspectives.

Air New Zealand has made strong progress in delivering on its diversity and inclusion objectives, focusing strongly on gender representation and growing the cultural capability and fluency of leaders.

The airline recently achieved 39 per cent female membership on its senior leadership team, and has committed to reaching 40 per cent by 2020.

It has established a women’s network around the country to coach and mentor women throughout the business.

Air New Zealand has also implemented other employee networks, including Young Professionals, Maori and Pacific Islands, Pride (LGBTQI) and an Asian employee network.

These have helped to promote a sense of community and belonging across different employee groups, and increase the visibility and awareness of its diverse workforce.

The judges commended Air New Zealand’s commitment to Maori language and culture.

The airline has placed an increased focus on making this a core part of its identify — reinforcing the company’s role as the national airline of New Zealand.

Air New Zealand provides executive coaching and intensive residential, marae-based workshops for members of the senior leadership team to help them to develop greater Maori fluency. The company has also established Maori ambassadors to promote Maori culture and language among all its employees.

Finalist: Abano Healthcare

Abano Healthcare received high praise from the judges for its successful business model and steadfast focus on growing shareholder returns while fending off disruptive hostile takeover offers.

The Abano board, led by chairman Trevor Janes is focused on growing its trans-Tasman dental group — which is benefiting from economies of scale and increasing market share.

The Top 200 judges were impressed with how the board and shareholders have backed the company, particularly in light of the hostile partial takeover bid from Healthcare Partners.

Janes is joined on the board by Pip Dunphy (deputy chair), Danny Chan, Murray Boyte, Dr Ginni Mansberg and Ted van Arkel.

“The board’s resistance to attempted takeover offers has resulted in shareholders continuing to receive growing returns,” the judges said.

In particular, they were impressed that the company has not been distracted while dealing with attempted takeovers, instead remaining focused on the business and implementing strategy.

They noted the successful transition of Richard Keys into the role of chief executive. Keys was previously the company’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, and took up the role at the company’s 2015 annual meeting following Alan Clarke’s retirement.

The board undertook a considered process to identify the best and most capable person to fill the role. Under Keys’ leadership, Abano reported a record net profit after tax of $11.1 million for the 2017 financial year, enabling an increase in its full year dividend by 20 per cent on last year.

The judges also commended Abano Healthcare for its recent record dividend of 36 cents per share, and payment of $25 million in dividends over the past five years – an indication on why shareholders continue to back the company.

Finalist: Sanford

Sanford’s recognition as a finalist is the result of the freshness of strategy and a focus on broader considerations beyond the company’s commercial activity.

The directors are acutely aware the company’s future depends on its long-term sustainability. This commitment to rigorous management of environmental performance and sustainability across all areas of the business was commended by the Deloitte Top 200 judges.

They said: “Sanford is clearly transitioning strategy around their footprint and sustainability throughout the business to build a long-term business.”

The Sanford board chaired by independent director Paul Norling includes Liz Coutts, Bruce Goodfellow, Peter Goodfellow, Peter Kean and Rob McLeod.

Sanford has placed strong emphasis on offering meaningful opportunities for continual learning and development, setting a goal to maximise the prospects of all its people.

The company has acknowledged this is not an area that has previously been managed as effectively as it could, and has put in place management systems to make it a priority.

Sanford has made a commitment to improving the wellbeing of its employees, adopting the WorkWell programme developed by Toi Te Ora Public Health to support the development of a healthy working team.

Sanford’s annual report was referred to as “absolutely outstanding” by the judges. It includes a touching story from an employee, who credits turning her family’s health and lifestyle around following a visit to Sanford by a diabetes specialist.

The judges also commend Sanford’s very strong integrated reporting. The company has been recognised by the market for this — providing a balanced picture of their economic, environmental, and social performance; facilitating comparability, benchmarking and assessing performance; and addressing issues of concern to stakeholders

Dynamic Business: The value of seizing the moment (NZ Herald)

The forces and trends that shape the world are not always front of mind when running a business.

But in a world where trends are dramatically changing the way value is created, they form an important backdrop that all company strategy and planning should be considerate of.

Some of the most successful businesses over the past decade have prospered because they have managed to successfully navigate the challenges and opportunities these global forces bring with them.

Andrew Grant, Senior Partner (Asia-Pacific) at McKinsey and Company, says New Zealand is a small, nimble nation with an inherent ability to respond quickly to global forces.

“Over the years we have had many global trends working in our favour, but we’ve failed to respond fast enough to seize the moment and capture the opportunity,” he says.

McKinsey uses the metaphor of a crucible for these forces — “a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development,” and segments these “crucibles” into global growth shifts, accelerating industry disruption, and a new societal deal.

Some, like cybersecurity, geopolitics, and the rapid invasion of technology are already front of mind for executives and the boardroom.

Others, though not so obvious, are just as important to consider.

No one can know for sure what the future will look like. But businesses — both old and new — that grapple with these crucibles and question the assumptions of their business model, can expect to compete more effectively in the increasingly disruptive world we have found ourselves in.

1. Beyond Globalisation

Globalisation as we have known it — and as New Zealand has greatly benefited from — is going to change.

Donald Trump, Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, TPP: the results of recent elections and referendums worldwide can be attributed to a growing sense of disillusionment, anti-globalisation and protectionism.

Traditional measures of globalisation are also slowing. Trade growth over the past decade has been half of that in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Following the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, global capital flows as a percentage of GDP dropped dramatically — and have not returned to pre-crisis levels.

Despite this, many argue globalisation has accelerated — but it is taking place in different forms: cross-border data flows are increasing at rates approaching 50 times of those in 2005; the McKinsey Global Institute estimates there are now 914 million social networking users with at least one foreign connection.

The world now has 429 million international travellers, 361 million cross-border e-commerce shoppers, and 244 million people that live outside their home country.

Competing with the increasing number of global players means maintaining a local touch is increasingly important for companies. Rising tension between technology firms in China and the rest of the world is creating a gulf that will be an important factor shaping the future of global tech innovation.

The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo explains: “You can be Alibaba or you can be Amazon. You can be Uber or you can be Didi. But you can’t be both.”

2. ICASA Factor

Brazil, Russia, India and China (or the “BRIC economies”) are four major emerging national economies postulated by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to become among the four most dominant economies by the year 2050 and the biggest drivers for future global growth.

But more than 85 per cent of the growth from the BRIC economies came from China.

McKinsey proposes that ICASA — India, China, Africa and Southeast Asia — will become the dominant force, primarily because the greatest growth engine has been urbanisation.

At the same time, these regions present some of the biggest risks to global growth, as they struggle to deal with internal obstacles including sustainable urbanisation, increasing productivity, mobilising domestic resources and deepening regional integration.

3. Resources (Un)limited?

As the world’s population approaches 9 billion, there is growing urbanisation which brings with it a rapidly increasing demand for resources. This includes a dramatic increase in the demand for protein, consumption of oil and gas, fresh water, and synthetic and natural fibre.

Yet advances in analytics, automation, the Internet of Things and material science are reducing resource consumption in other areas.

McKinsey and Bloomberg have estimated advanced mobility systems — including self-driving cars, ride-sharing, and electric vehicles — could yield US$600 billion (NZ$880b) in societal benefits through to 2030, by cutting the costs of traffic congestion (about 1 per cent of GDP globally), road accidents (1.25 million deaths in 2015), and air pollution (health problems like respiratory ailments).

In other sectors, algorithms are helping optimise and predict energy use, enhanced oil recovery is transforming resource production, and innovative new materials are helping reduce resource use. Demand for resources is growing, but innovation and technology provide the opportunity for the world to be more efficient with what we have.

4. Technology Invasion

Technology change is happening continuously. But Grant believes we are underestimating the scale and the pace at which technology is evolving and will shape business. “People don’t quite understand how profound and how long the journey is going to be.

“The ubiquity of technologies and the ability to roll it out globally is making new advances far more impactful than ever before.”

We’re seeing rapid innovation in areas where families of technologies are coming together.

The smartphone brought the touchscreen, applications, CPU, LCD displays, wireless connectivity, and lithium-ion battery technology together with advances in miniaturisation.

The development of the autonomous car is combining video cameras, presence sensors, Radar, Lidar, GPS and CPU technology. Instead of linear step changes, we can expect to see combinations of technologies make the scale of change much more powerful.

5. Customer-to-Business

B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business) have long been commonplace, but digitalisation and new business models are giving consumers the ability to shape goods and services, often receiving free access to what would once have been paid for.

Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, declared the start of C2B, or consumer to business, open several years ago.

Rapidly growing Chinese mobile manufacturer Xiaomi uses crowd-sourcing to engage with consumers for fast, first-hand feedback on its products. Grant says Xiaomi is becoming representative of where the business world will need to position itself for the future.

Customers are increasingly dictating the terms of what they need (and what they want) directly to companies and the Internet is providing the ability for this to occur as never before. Consumers have an ever-increasing choice, and companies must make decisions about their product offering and which business models they should use to continue to create value.

6. Ecosystem Battles

Five of the 10 largest companies in the United States are platform-oriented. Airbnb now has four million listings globally, more than the top five hotel brands combined.

The company says “on any given night, two million people are staying in other people’s homes around the world on Airbnb”. Uber might be the world’s largest taxi firm, but it doesn’t own its cars. Neither of these companies existed 10 years ago.

Alibaba — the world’s largest retailer — moved NZ$37b (US$25.3b) worth of stock during its November 11 extravaganza, but doesn’t own warehouses to store the eye-watering quantity of products sold through its platforms.

These platforms offer business models that can be enormously disruptive in the way they shape the world, and are shaking up industries that were immune from significant competition in the past.

7. Dealing with the Dark Side

Cybersecurity has become a trillion-dollar issue. Grant says boards of Fortune 500 companies are now spending about 15 per cent of their boardroom agenda on cybersecurity.

The Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom in September revealed that New Zealand’s executives are highly concerned about the threat, with 67 per cent of respondents now doing significantly more to combat cybercrime and 30 per cent doing more “in a modest way”.

Previous Mood of the Boardroom reports suggest a clear — and rapid — trend: in the 2015 survey, cyber crime rated 5.9/10 in terms of impact on business confidence. Last year it became the top issue at 7.16/10, and this year it sat head and shoulders above other issues, with an impact rating of 7.64/10.

Alongside cybersecurity, McKinsey estimates that 81 per cent of executives worldwide single out geostrategic factors as the top risk to growth.

Examples of the severity geopolitics can have on business include:

  • A 4.5 million shortfall of Russian tourists as a result of the ban on agency tours to Turkey in retaliation for shooting down a Russian warplane.
  • 120,000 tonnes of Norwegian trout and salmon have been banned from Russian markets in retaliation for EU and US sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
  • 16 per cent of London properties listed online have had their price cut after the UK referendum to leave the European Union.
  • 500 direct daily flights were halted in the Middle East as a result of the diplomatic stand-off between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar.

8. Growth Formula Experiments

There is no shared narrative on why economic growth is stuck. Is the problem in developed economies a supply problem or is it a demand issue?

Monetary easing, a universal basic income, and debt mutualisation are among the suggestions on how to restart growth. There is extraordinary experimentation going on, but no consensus.

Grant says solutions will not be singularly political. They will require business, civil society, and the political arena to come together.

“Some interesting insights are coming from Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Israel, Singapore… I think New Zealand has a real opportunity to lead on this,” he says.

9. Middle-class Progress

The benefits of globalisation have not been distributed evenly. Alhough globally the middle-class have done well, those in advanced nations have missed out.

This has created a widening of earnings disparity, and has been blamed for the increasingly negative view towards immigration, the status quo, and trade deals that appear to favour the boardroom over the workers.

Much disillusionment has been blamed on, and exploited by, politicians, but trust has become a critical flashpoint that companies must address and build back to ensure long-term, sustainable businesses.

Sources: Presentation by Andrew Grant — A new narrative of progress? Major Macro Trends Shaping our Region — to the 2017 Infinz conference; McKinsey report — The global forces inspiring a new narrative of progress.

Phil Goff extends alliance with Guangzhou, Los Angeles (NZ Herald)

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has signed an agreement with Guangzhou Mayor Wen Guohui and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell to extend the alliance between their three cities for another three years.

The third and final Tripartite Economic Summit took place in Guangzhou last week.
Los Angeles, Guangzhou, and Auckland are sister city triplets, and the past three years has seen the Summit rotate between the three ‘gateway cities’ – previously in Los Angeles in 2015 and Auckland last year.

The 97 Auckland delegates represented 70 businesses including tourism, urban planning and design, bioscience, creative, digital and education.

Auckland Council says this has been the largest ever trade delegation to come out of the city noting that business delegates all paid their own way to attend.

Goff – who signed the free trade deal between New Zealand and China during his period as Labour’s Trade Minister – said , “If like me you’ve been coming here for 30 years, you can appreciate just how quickly, how dramatically, how strongly this country has grown.”

“When I came to Guangzhou in the 1980s I travelled by steam engine on the rail. Today, we see a nation that has progressed more quickly and further than any nation I can recall in history.”

Now, Guangzhou is China’s third largest city, contains seemingly endless skyscrapers, and is considered a manufacturing and commercial hub. Although it may not always be the first city companies have in mind when they consider entering China, it has been consistently ranked as by Forbes magazine as the best commercial city in mainland China when considering ease of doing business, talent, location, and international connectivity. Many delegates left the Summit noting that Guangzhou may be a more accessible market for their business than the more recognised larger markets of Shanghai and Beijing.

New Zealand can tend to overuse the phrase “punching above its weight,” but in this sibling rivalry we indisputably are. Auckland’s population of 1.5 million is dwarfed by Guangzhou’s 14 million. Auckland’s estimated GDP of NZ$93.5 billion could be considered a mere rounding error when compared with Los Angeles’ over US$1 trillion.

Yet Auckland’s 97 delegates were met with around 500 others from Los Angeles and Guangzhou that saw value in making connections and seeking out opportunities to collaborate.

The biomedicine and health forum was an example of these collaborations, co-organised by Auckland’s Maurice Wilkins Centre – New Zealand’s Centre for Research Excellence targeting major human diseases – and the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH), part of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Maurice Wilkins Centre has been working closely with its Chinese counterparts since 2012, establishing a joint centre for biomedicine with the Guangzhou institute in 2015. The two research arms are now expanding their relationship with new projects, joint symposia in both countries, and increased exchange of staff and students.

“GIBH is one of China’s leading biomedical research groups and hosts many world leaders in their fields,” says Professor Rod Dunbar, Director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre.

“We are delighted that our colleagues in GIBH see such value in intensifying our collaboration, and look forward to working with them to deliver new treatments through the clinic.”

Businesses took part in business matching, sector specific sessions and forums, and a visit to tech giant Huawei’s nearby Shenzhen campus.

While New Zealand can be blasé about our mayors and local Councillors, in China they are considered almost like celebrities. It is for that reason that many of the Auckland business delegates considered the high-level representation to have helped connect them to significant players within companies that they would not have otherwise had access to. While the primary aim of the Summit is to build connections for the long-term outcomes that can eventuate, ATEED has said that several companies have made excellent progress at this year’s Summit.

The Council will track and report on the business outcomes of the Tripartite Summit where possible.

– Tim McCready travelled to China as a guest of Alibaba.

11.11: It’s shopping – but not as you know it (NZ Herald)

Step off the plane in China and there is no doubt about what day it is – Singles’ Day.

It’s hard to escape the sale buzz – billboards, the airport arrival hall, malls, hotel elevators – the advertisements are everywhere.

And the numbers are astounding: more than 140,000 brands offering 15 million product listings to hundreds of millions of consumers. The annual sales event dwarfs its Black Friday or Cyber Monday equivalents in the United States.

Last night, e-commerce giant Alibaba lived up to the hype. Oscars producer David Hill was responsible for the gala event that counted down to the start of the shopping extravaganza. Held at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz stadium, the event was broadcast on three TV channels and featured American rapper Pharrell Williams, British singer-songwriter Jessie J and former world number one tennis superstar Maria Sharapova – plus 100 or so other celebrities.

“If you analyse why we are doing the show, it’s to turn shopping into sport and to make shopping into entertainment, so the show has got to reflect that philosophy. And the way the show is constructed – with so many segments, so many stars and fun bits – it reflects the overreaching theme of what Singles’ Day has become,” said Hill.

“We can do things in China we can’t do virtually anywhere else in the world. In America, if you stream to any more than one or two million people you get a swirling circle of death, meaning it’s not connecting. In China, we can stream to over 35 million people. It boggles the mind.”

This year’s 11/11 fiesta has been themed around “retail as entertainment”.

The company’s chief marketing officer, Chris Tung, describes the shopping festival as “bringing consumers around the world a step closer to realising the aspirational life where entertainment and retail becomes one”.

The event is also an opportunity for Alibaba to show off its latest shopping technologies, and gives us a glimpse into what the future of shopping might look like.

Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” was an eight-hour marathon of singing, dancing and fashion. Broadcast on seven TV and online channels in China, the show encouraged viewers to shake their phones whenever they saw something they liked to immediately purchase it.

The Tmall platform is running a “Catch the Cat” promotion, designed to drive consumers to bricks and mortar locations including global brands Procter & Gamble, KFC and L’Occitane.

Customers use their mobiles to earn coupons, discounts and prizes by “catching” the e-store’s cat mascot – in much the same way as the game Pokemon Go.

Other online promotions are giving out virtual red envelopes containing a total of more than 250 million yuan ($54.3 million).

Maggie Zhou, managing director of Alibaba Group Australia and New Zealand, is keen to ensure New Zealand is one of the key markets supported in these new initiatives.

“New Zealand products are perceived as high quality and continue to outperform in China, and we are working … to engage more closely with New Zealand merchants and partners to further encourage this growth.”

Tim McCready travelled to Shanghai as a guest of Alibaba.