After two decades away, Juliet Tainui Hernandez has returned to Aotearoa to take up the role of
Assistant Governor and General Manager of Transformation and People at Te Pūtea Matua (The Reserve Bank). She’s also a non-executive director on the Board of Ngāi Tahu holdings. She talks about her career journey, contributing to her iwi, and using Te Ao Māori to support financial and economic inclusion.
Juliet Tainui-Hernandez, of Ngāi Tahu and Te Whakatohea descent, is back in Aotearoa after two decades, bringing her career full circle as a non-executive director on the board of Ngāi Tahu Holdings.
“Ngāi Tahu Holdings was the entity I had always imagined getting involved with on my return to Aotearoa,” says Ms Tainui-Hernandez, “but I knew that I would also need to find a full time role if I was to relocate my whole whānau back home from London.”
At the same time Ms Tainui-Hernandez was looking to come back to Aotearoa and take up a position at Ngāi Tahu Holdings, Te Pūtea Matua – Reserve Bank of New Zealand was looking for a new Assistant Governor and General Manager of Transformation and People. The head-hunter interviewing her for the Ngāi Tahu director role asked if she would be interested in talking to Governor Adrian Orr.
“I have to confess that having been away for two decades, I didn’t really know much about Adrian Orr and thought that the Bank just set the Official Cash Rate – how would that fit in with my interests and values? However, I was a little intrigued when I saw the role specification and as I started to do some research, I got more and more interested.”
Ms Tainui-Hernandez found the Bank’s Statement of Intent incredible reading, saying “the Bank’s purpose being ‘to enable the economic wellbeing and prosperity of all New Zealanders’ spoke to my heart. It covered sustainability, financial inclusion and it recognised the important role of Te Ao Māori to our society. I realised that despite my initial lack of awareness, this was my next move!”
Ms Tainui-Hernandez’s career began with her attending Canterbury University, which she says happened a bit by chance.
“I decided last minute to go to University. I was the first person in my whānau to attend, so I was unsure as to whether University was a place for me.”
Her father helped her enrol at Canterbury University and she choose to study law alongside Te Reo Māori, Japanese and Information Technology first year classes.
There weren’t many Māori law students there, says Ms Tainui-Hernandez, but we found each other, and we campaigned for a study room where we could all hang out. That’s how Te Putairiki, the Canterbury University Māori Law Students society was born.
Ms Tainui-Hernandez reflects that it was the support and whakawhanaungatanga that this whānau provided that got her through law school.
But in the early nineties, it was quite controversial to have a separate Māori rōpū.
“I remember a group of Pākeha students complaining about us having our own room; and at its worst there were sometimes racist comments left on posters on the door over our Te Putairiki sign.”
There were comments made about special treatment and unfair quotas to get a law school place which meant other people missed out, says Ms Tainui-Hernandez. In reality, Canterbury struggled to fill even 10 annual quota places in those days, and Ms Tainui-Hernandez was the sole law student who graduated in the Māori graduation in her year group.
Ngāi Tahu and Bell Gully
During her studies, Ms Tainui-Hernandez worked an array of jobs to help fund University. A two-week-long research project for Ngāi Tahu turned into a whole summer, which ended up with Ms Tainui-Hernandez accepting a part-time role in the strategy and legal team, right when Ngāi Tahu was in the throes of settlement negotiations with the Crown.
“That was awesome mahi as a law student – I helped with research, report-writing and proof-reading, down to making cups of tea for the legal team and the negotiators (a highlight given the wisdom and knowledge of those kaumātua).”
From her part-time role with Ngāi Tahu, Ms Tainui-Hernandez moved into a summer clerking role with Bell Gully in Pōneke Wellington, which offered her a full-time Law Clerk position when she had completed her studies.
Bell Gully were working on commercial and property work for Ngāi Tahu, as well as the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Settlement litigation. “The litigation work lured me in.
“At Bell Gully, I was lucky enough to be one of four wāhine Māori there at the time. We have kept our close friendship today.”
Ms Tainui-Hernandez describes these wāhine as purpose-driven, intelligent women with incredible humanity.
“They have given back to their people in so many ways which I have come to realise is a super power of Māori. It’s a gift born from the values we grow up with and which surround us by virtue of our whānau, our Taua and Poua (grandmother and grandfather), and the wide and supportive kinship networks and ways of doing things which are a part of Te Ao Māori.”
And so, when one of these women made the move to Australia, Ms Tainui-Hernandez followed suit. “I only stayed a year though, as I just couldn’t really bear the harsh Australian law firm environment and the commercial work I was doing that had no real heart to it.”
Ms Tainui-Hernandez found herself at a crossroads, wondering if she should return back to Aotearoa or head over to the United Kingdom. Eventually, she opted to spread her wings and build her skills and experience overseas, knowing that this would make her more useful to her iwi when she returned home.
Mahi in London
In London, Ms Tainui-Hernandez worked at a number of international law firms, starting out as an in-house lawyer in their central legal, risk and compliance functions, often managing significant cross-border issues arising around client conflicts, professional conduct and regulations, negligence, money laundering, bribery and corruption, terrorist-financing, economic and trade sanctions issues. This work was “simultaneously exciting and stressful,” she says.
“This work appealed greatly to my interest in ethics and conduct and doing the right thing by clients over profit – a concept I think comes from the way we grow up with our unique Māori values and different ways of measuring success.
This work appealed greatly to my interest in ethics and conduct and doing the right thing by clients over profit – a concept I think comes from the way we grow up with our unique Māori values and different ways of measuring success
“Sometimes there would be partners with potential multi-million pound deals that needed to be stopped due to illegality, bribery or suspected money laundering, for example. That could be hard to navigate but my strong view on values kept me standing my ground!”
Ms Tainui-Hernandez’s ‘planned short OE’ in London turned into her spending 19 years growing from an in-house regulatory lawyer into the Chief Compliance Officer of a large international firm and with responsibility for regulatory change projects around the world.
In Ms Tainui-Hernandez’s last decade in the UK, she also joined the management teams of her law firms. Following one of the firm’s period of huge growth in its combination with other large firms in the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia (growing from 26 to 58 offices), she took on a number of projects to assist with integration of the firms and with transforming central business operations. This mahi saw her take on a role as their Business Transformation Director and establish the firm’s first Transformation team, who ran strategic reviews, oversaw outsourcing arrangements, shifted operations to a central innovation hub, and ran a portfolio of programmes aimed at improving organisational effectiveness (including organisational design, process improvement and automation).
Her firm was also doing innovative work in designing and building legal tech products to deliver integrated legal and technological solutions to complicated large scale issues such as the Libor transition and it was also focused on applying technology to bring efficiency and effectiveness to its operations. Ms Tainui-Hernandez reflects: “I was involved in designing and delivering technology solutions including automation to improve processes, strengthen internal controls and find ways to reduce administration, save cost, and make life easier for our lawyers and staff.”
Ms Tainui-Hernandez notes that legal technology and innovation is an area that is going through massive growth at the moment – in the UK it is a big industry already, but it is still emerging here in Aotearoa and this is somewhere she thinks Māori could do really well.
“Our unique ways of problem solving combined with natural creativity and ability to see issues from more than one perspective can create real value in this space. If I was starting my career again, this may be the way I would jump!”
Despite all the excitement within her transformation mahi in London, Ms Tainui-Hernandez was a Māori girl from Akaroa at heart. “After the arrival of my two Tamariki, I knew that time in the UK was limited and I would need to bring them home. I wanted to make sure they felt strong in their identity and knew where their whakapapa came from.”
The big move home
Ms Tainui-Hernandez is back in Aotearoa, working as Assistant Governor/General Manager of Transformation and People at Te Pūtea Matua and contributing as a non-executive director on the Board of Ngāi Tahu holdings.
The opportunity to return to New Zealand and support two organisations whose work was close to her heart provided the impetus to take the plunge and relocate her family.
“I was interested in supporting Governor Adrian Orr in leading the transformation and modernisation of this historic institution, so that it lives up to its full purpose and mandate. I am passionate about helping it better reflect the society we serve by bringing in more diverse people and viewpoints. And helping to seep Te Ao Māori into the Bank’s bones to bring to life the bicultural basis of our modern country and Te Tiriti o Waitangi in a beautiful way where people can recognise the greater combined value we have as a country through that partnership.”
In relation to her support of the Ngāi Tahu Holdings board, she explains “It has always been a personal imperative that the time would come whereby I could contribute back my skills to support our iwi vision for the future wellbeing of our people and the restoration of an intergenerational legacy that was lost. Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei – For us and our children after us.”
Transformation at Te Pūtea Matua
Ms Tainui-Hernandez oversees the Transformation work at Te Pūtea Matua – a significant programme that encompasses a portfolio of major organisational change projects, which will enable the Bank to evolve into a more modern, accountable and effective central bank. Ms Tainui-Hernandez notes that the Bank expects this to be a long-term transformative journey with development and implementation to span a number of years until the changes are fully embedded.
Coinciding with the Transformation work, is the nascent Te Ao Māori strategy, launched in 2018 when Adrian Orr took up his role as Governor.
“We want to realise our vision of Matangirua ki Matangireia by partnering with Māori to influence the long-term economic well-being of Aotearoa,” she says.
The Te Ao Māori strategy weaves together several existing threads within the Bank as they navigate how to apply the Māori world view to our work.
“We breathe life into our Te Ao Māori strategy through three key work programmes: policy transformation, advocacy building and cultural uplift.”
“We are working hard on integrating tikanga and te reo Māori into the daily life at Te Pūtea Matua, we offer staff free te reo lessons and we are looking at how we can educate our staff on Māori culture and build their cultural capability.” Ms Tainui-Hernandez also oversees the People and Culture function at Te Pūtea Matua which oversees the internal Te Ao Māori work programme.
Te Pūtea Matua are also broadening their strategic relationships with iwi, rūnanga, Māori-owned businesses, government agencies, central banks and other Māori organisations which will help broaden the Bank’s knowledge of Māori businesses.
This has been helped significantly by the recently published Te Ōhanga Māori 2018 report, which Te Pūtea Matua commissioned Berl to produce.
“The report sits at the very heart of our Policy Transformation, which focuses on understanding Māori access to capital in the New Zealand economy.”
Māori Access to Capital is a current major work programme, to help deepen the Bank’s insights taken from Te Ōhanga Māori report, and focus on bank lending to Māori small and medium-sized enterprises.
Our unique ways of problem solving combined with natural creativity and ability to see issues from more than one perspective can create real value in this space
“Building a better understanding of barriers to financial and economic inclusion, consideration of distributional issues, and exploring the impacts and consequences of our policies across demographic groups not only helps us to assess the strength of the economy, but also helps us determine the appropriate policy response to fully meet our purpose and mandates. Toitū te Ōhanga, Toitū te Oranga!”
This is linked to what is most important to Ms Tainui-Hernandez:
“Meeting our purpose of enabling the economic prosperity and wellbeing of all New Zealanders, through growing and sustaining a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the people of Aotearoa.”
In addition she says, “I feel strongly that diverse teams lead to better institutional culture, which in turn will help Te Pūtea Matua effectively respond to changing environments. Creating a culture in which diverse points of view and a wide range of skills are valued is essential – not just to redress current imbalances we have, but also to safeguard the quality of decisions and ensure we can always meet our purpose.
“As part of this, I’m passionate about encouraging more Māori to join Te Pūtea Matua. This is an active area of focus for us. For all of this purpose-driven mahi and opportunity, we still don’t have enough Māori in our organisation. Law is proving a great background for a successful career at Te Pūtea Matua, but we also welcome people of all diverse backgrounds for our many roles. Matangirua ki Matangireia!”