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Mr Ward, who has been deputy chairman for the past four years and replaces recently retired Acton Smith, was looking forward to the challenge.
"It really is a wonderful opportunity to carry the baton for an organisation which is truly committed to its members and one which is an integral part of many strong communities throughout New Zealand," he said.
Mr Ward's appointment would be seen positively by the community as the organisation continued to build on the legacy left by Mr Smith, chief executive Ross Smith said.
"John is a well-respected business leader. He's been on the SBS Bank board for over 10 years, is a director of a number of entities and is currently the chancellor of the University of Otago. [He] carries with him a wealth of experience and knowledge and a high level of respect within the business community."
Jeff Walker has been appointed deputy chairman and Christchurch businessman Alec Neill has been appointed a director, filling the vacancy left by Mr Smith's retirement.