Big job covers territory

New chief executive Tania Dickie with chairman Bevan Killick. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
New chief executive Tania Dickie with chairman Bevan Killick. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

Newly appointed Credit Union South chief executive Tania Dickie has some daunting territory to cover, with branches stretching from Nelson to Invercargill and points in between. Business editor Dene Mackenzie caught up with Ms Dickie this week.

Credit Union South chief executive Tania Dickie knows already how big a job she has getting around the branches of the South Island's largest credit union, having already worked for the credit union since 2012 as chief operating officer.

In that position she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business.

She has been acting chief executive for six months.

Ms Dickie said it was an exciting time being appointed the chief executive and she remained passionate about the role of the credit union in local communities.

''I have the full support of the team and they are happy someone with a short time in Dunedin, in Dunedin terms, has been appointed.''

One of her first goals is to increase the recognition factor of the credit union, something past chief executives of both Credit Union South and the former Otago Credit Union battled with.

Even some people in Dunedin did not know about or understand the credit union, but recognition was far less in Christchurch, a key market, she said. Ms Dickie intended spending time in Christchurch as the city had always been under-represented as far as the credit union was concerned.

''With the rebuild under way, we have built up relationships with organisers and tradespeople. We have been working with the Filipino community and taken out a sponsorship with the Burnside Rugby Club.''

Two branches in Sydenham and Hornby catered for where people worked, not necessarily where they lived, and focused on people working in factories and construction in those surrounding areas, she said. Credit unions had previously operated in Christchurch but Ms Dickie believed there was more scope now with the rebuild under way and workers flooding into the city looking for jobs.

''The target market for the Credit Union is around Sydenham and our Hornby branch is in a good location in The Hub mall.''

The mall was going through a major expansion and foot traffic was increasing, she said.

As well as lifting the profile of the credit union, Mrs Dickie was also keen to promote the credit union's philosophy of helping people manage their own money and meet their personal financial goals.

Traditionally, the market for the credit union had been factory workers and in Dunedin, the branch opened two nights a week to accommodate people who found it difficult to take time off during the day to deal with their finances.

In Invercargill, the branch opened on Saturday for those who could not make a visit during the week. That allowed people working out of town, on farms or other enterprises, to use the branch, she said.

KiwiSaver had proved invaluable for helping people into their first homes. Credit Union South had $35 million under management in one of the Fisher Funds' KiwiSaver schemes.

''We enjoy seeing members coming to the end of the saving process and picking up the keys to their first home. Sometimes, buying is more affordable than renting and Dunedin has more affordable homes compared to other parts such as Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson.''

People who had been in the scheme for three years were eligible for Government help and, after a qualifying period, could go to their provider for a payout and the credit union could help by lending them the rest.

Although not being able to compete with larger retail banks, Credit Union South still had an enviable record of helping people into homes.

''We are happy to help people who meet credit unions' values coming from other institutions.''

Giving members the confidence to achieve their goals, often starting small and ending large, was very rewarding, she said.

Asked about her background, Ms Dickie said she started working for the BNZ after leaving school, as many people did. After moving on to AGC Finance, she was mentored by members of the staff who encouraged her to do a degree part-time while being supported at work.

''That business was excellent and I try an instil the lessons from AGC wherever I work. I like to think I provide mentoring to my staff now. I always encourage young staff to try and establish their goals and desires and be successful.''

Without a formal training programme at her disposal, Ms Dickie encouraged people to study and stressed passing the exam was not the only goal. Setting aside time to study was a commitment that displayed dedication. Credit Union South chairman Bevan Killick said the board was confident Ms Dickie had the experience, leadership capabilities and skills to build on the existing strengths of the credit union.

''Tania emerged head and shoulders above an exceptional group of candidates. She has the full support of the board to lead the organisation into the future.''

Tania Dickie
• Aged 47
• Married to Graham
• Cat called Baxter
• Loves watching sport, keen supporter (now) of the Highlanders, junior rugby supporter with friends, but cannot say she is a sport participant. Previously a competitive swimmer.
• Likes shopping, art, wine and holidaying where it is warm.
• Main goal: Lifting the recognition factor for Credit Union South in areas it covers - Nelson, Greymouth, Christchurch, Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin and Invercargill.


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