Retiring SBS Bank chief executive Ross Smith in the Dunedin
branch with Bronwyn Dobier (left) and Ella Willocks behind
the counter. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Ross Smith imagined he would spend three or four years as
chief executive of the then Southland Building Society.
However, on Thursday he will leave what is now the SBS Bank
after 22 years in the top job, and he leaves with no regrets.
In a farewell interview with the Otago Daily Times, Mr
Smith (64) struggled to single out one personal highlight
among what were many career-defining moments.
But in the end, it came down to removing the barriers of
formalities without losing the need for everyone in the
financial institution to show respect to each other.
''I believe in respect, and that comes from my parents,
respect and acknowledging other people for whatever they do.
''It used to be a manager was Mr This, or Mr That, and they
were seen as next to God. That's rubbish. You are who you are
as a person and appreciated for what value you add.''
Staff had trusted him and always felt free to knock on his
door or phone with concerns, he said.
''I hope that is not lost.''
The annual meeting last week of SBS was the first time the
fact he was retiring really came home, Mr Smith said.
As he stood up and gave his last speech as chief executive,
thanking the people who had supported him through his 22
years at the top, it became a bit emotional.
''This has been a massive part of my life and I just realised
it was about to end.''
He paid particular tribute to former SBS chairman Acton Smith
who for 18 years had provided valuable mentoring for him and
had become a ''wonderful friend''.
''It's sad to realise these things are finally ending but I
am sure Acton will remain a great friend.''
Over the years, plenty of people had joked about Smith and
Smith running the Invercargill-based bank, often asking what
connection the two men had. Apart from the same last name and
both being involved with SBS, there was none.
There was no doubt in his mind it was time to go, Mr Smith
said. From a physical perspective, he realised it was time to
take some time out and reassess what he wanted for the
He planned working two or three days a week as a professional
director and being involved with his peers in business
''I need to keep the brain ticking over.''
Mr Smith had two directorships and was hoping for some more.
And he had hoped for three months of contemplation but had
already received several phone calls about possible
While not visiting all of the 17 branches before his
retirement, Mr Smith had one last official function to attend
- the corporate ball on Saturday night, where 387 people were
He anticipated spending a lot of the night talking and saying
Mr Smith and his wife will move to Queenstown soon and the
prospect of increased golf activity looms.
Mr Smith is replaced by Wayne Evans, who starts his new role