Appreciative clients bid broker farewell

Noeline Munro. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Noeline Munro. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Craigs Investment Partners broker Noeline Munro sits in her soon-to-be-vacated office surrounded by flowers, cards expressing good wishes from clients and boxes of memories. Business editor Dene Mackenzie reminisces with Mrs Munro on her last day at work.

The inscriptions on the cards sitting on the desk of Noeline Munro pretty much sum up the goodwill and warmth the Craigs Investment Partners broker has generated with her clients and friends.

Some people write how they were so pleased they were never made to feel ''dumb'' when they asked questions about financial products and services.

Others were proud they were treated like ''real people'' and that they felt they were never left behind at any stage of their dealings with Mrs Munro.

Women, in particular, say how pleased they were that after being treated like they knew nothing about finances for most of their lives, once their husbands or partners died, they found dealing with Mrs Munro very easy.

''These cards have been coming in during the last couple of days. I can't believe the words they are using but they summarise what I am all about. I have an interesting client base - some struggling and others in good financial shape. But I treat them all equally.''

There was no need to be mysterious when it came to financial management, Mrs Munro said.

This reporter has dealt with Mrs Munro in her various professional and community roles for more than 25 years and can attest to the fact that she is a straight talker and one of the fiercest advocates of Dunedin as a place to live and do business.

Mrs Munro said she wanted to educate people on investing but sometimes she found herself learning a lot from her own clients.

Aged 66, Mrs Munro believed it was time to think about retirement and getting on with some other activities in her life. After starting work aged 16, 50 years of work was enough. She had moved to Wanaka but was unlikely to alter her sometimes frenetic life. She wanted to surround herself with people she could meet for coffee and a chat about her wide range of interests which, of course, included financial markets as well as sport and cooking.

One of her motivations for retirement was the new AFA (Authorised Financial Adviser) status required to be a broker. That required one-on-one contact with clients and to do that properly, a broker needed to work full-time. In fact, cutting the ties was easier than she thought.

''I have children, grandchildren, friends, brothers and sisters. I am tired of telling people I am so busy and they are probably tired of me telling them. I want to live life at my own pace and enjoy some of the things that I have set aside.

''I have thousands of cook-books and I want to use them. We have had a house at Wanaka for many years. I am looking forward to setting up gardens and meeting new people. I don't know what it will be like, but I am up for it. I love the views in Dunedin but look what I will get there in Wanaka.''

Mrs Munro was one of eight Bleach children born in Dunedin. Her father was a Gallipoli veteran who started having a family aged 40, with the last child born when he was aged 60.

Being in a big family taught them all not to waste, she said.

''I still have some of those traits. I still believe you appreciate what you have and you work hard for what you get.''

Her mother was a matriarch who had high expectations for her children. She expected all of them to excel in whatever they took on.

Mrs Munro was consistently first in class at St Bernadettes Primary School but when she went to St Philomenas, she was first equal in one of her classes. That was not seen as a positive by her mother because first place was shared with another girl.

While she still had the certificates from school, her proudest possession was a small cup that said ''Best All Rounder''.

''That's a lot about me. I loved school but wanted to go further. I had to leave school early because of the need to help support the family.''

She took time out from the official workforce to raise her two boys but tended to find work to help pay the bills. She had a radio programme and wrote articles for magazines. Her family were ''tolerant'' of her desire to succeed and of her plans to move into broking from banking.

Always attracted by a challenge, Mrs Munro became fascinated by markets. As a young mother, she turned up at auctions to bid on boxes of fruit she could use for her family. Her family had an extensive vegetable garden.

''I got to know how auctions worked. I liked the cut and thrust of the auctions and it was natural to go into broking.''

As her family were growing up, there was a tendency for people to put their savings into a bank but Mrs Munro always believed there were other opportunities to use her skills honed at the auctions. In 1986, she joined Forsyth Barr in a broking role, something she said was exciting. Being female had its advantages and disadvantages. Female brokers were not common in the late 1980s so people recognised her because she was the only female in the room. But others thought she had got the job because her father was a broker, or that she was just an assistant.

''Being a ground-breaker can be a lonely existence. You do try harder to justify your position.''

From Forsyth Barr, she established her own broking firm which eventually merged with Wilson, Elsom, Greenslade, then Greenslades before it became Craigs Investment Partners.

Growing up, the Bleach family would sit around a large wooden table talking about their day and debating issues, Mrs Munro said.

''All of us were doing well and we were a competitive family. We had an expectation about our lives and knew we had to fight to get ahead.''

Mrs Munro was always a strong advocate about equality and worked hard in her career to ensure that all people received equal opportunities. One of the first battles in her career was working in a bank where only men were allowed to take exams. She was ready to take exams - in fact the women took over the roles of men when they were away on courses. However, exams were restricted to men.

Her experience on boards of directors showed that gender was just one issue involving diversity. Most of the diversity involved people from different backgrounds, and understanding their roles, she said.

Some of her appointments to boards such as ACC and the Business Development Board had been from the government of the day. Others, she had earned in her own right.

She had learned early there were ''buddy appointments'' where friends of directors were also appointed to the same boards. And she found that often, close connections could block vote.

''One of the most important things being on a board is being up for the challenge.''

Before becoming a director, it was important people honed their skills on small groups, including school boards, sports groups and non-profit organisations. That demonstrated a desire to become part of a group and take on leadership.

It took courage to become a sharebroker because clients expected their adviser to get things right, she said. Those sorts of skills were not learnt overnight.

Mrs Munro has no regrets about staying in Dunedin to further her career. She knew it would have been a different experience living and working in Wellington. She knew if she could run a business in Dunedin, she could run one anywhere.

''Dunedin is an excellent place to work in. You get to know your community and if you want to become prominent, you can. It's a great place to bring up children and a great place to work.

''Dunedin is a compact place and I just love communities. I don't like large groups and prefer more intimate gatherings.

''I have no regrets. I have worked to the full and got the results I have desired. Accountability is very high on my priorities. The people I deal with are friends, neighbours and relations. Experience is valuable but is not valued enough. I will draw on that for the rest of my life.''

 

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