Dairy analyst thriving on challenges of job

Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins is tuned into the dairy industry both in New Zealand and on...
Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins is tuned into the dairy industry both in New Zealand and on the global scene. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
In a nutshell, Emma Higgins describes her job as a communicator of dairy information.

Ms Higgins is a dairy analyst for Rabobank, a role she described as being ‘‘absolutely fantastic’’.

Originally from a small sheep and beef property near Nelson, she studied law at Canterbury University, convinced she was going to be a lawyer.

After graduating, she worked as a tax consultant with KPMG for two and-a-half years before joining Rabobank three years ago.

The move was driven by a call to become involved in agriculture and she ‘‘couldn’t fight it’’, she said.

Initially, she was in a support role, working with dairy analyst Hayley Moynihan. When Ms Moynihan became general manager country banking, Ms Higgins took over the dairy role.

She had been very fortunate to have Ms Moynihan as her immediate manager and a mentor, she said.

She was one of 90 Rabobank analysts globally who covered 10 different sectors. Dairy was an integral part of its business, both locally and internationally.

Ms Higgins’ job was to monitor the dairy markets locally and ‘‘everything to do with dairy’’ and feed that back into the global team.

From there, they pulled together a picture of what it looked like from a global perspective and her job was to work out what that meant for the bank and its clients.

She came in at ‘‘quite possibly the worst time’’, when prices were crashing in 2014, but fortunately things had improved since then.

The Rabobank team had very close communication and that was a real core strength. It was very useful to have that global team to bounce ideas off and discuss issues.

While New Zealand was facing challenges in the environmental area, that was also a topic in the Netherlands.

Through liaising with Dutch colleagues, it was good to get their perspective and see how Dutch farmers were managing different environmental pressures.

At 29, Ms Higgins said she was very perceptive of the fact that many farmers had been farming ‘‘since before I’ve been alive’’.

Her role was not to tell them how to farm; it was to communicate what was happening around the world and in New Zealand and feed that to clients, colleagues and stakeholders so that ultimately, that information would help their businesses.

At the moment, the dairy situation was looking ‘‘pretty balanced’’. As predicted, China purchases had increased through the year and that was expected to continued for the remainder of the year.

Production had been challenged in parts of China, with low production in three of the major provinces. That had been combined with low inventory stocks.

The real challenge that was seen over the next five years was around production, which was expected to grow by about 1.6% over that period, a marked slow-down from where it had been.

There was going to be more competition for a largely stagnant pool of milk and there was a risk of capacity utilisation not being optimised, which could affect farmgate returns.

Companies were going to have to watch the situation and there could be a ‘‘real fight’’ for milk supply over that period.

Ms Higgins’ job involved travelling, part of which involved getting out and talking to farmers, and she also got to travel overseas, gaining a comparative perspective of farming in New Zealand and other key dairying areas.

New Zealand was fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources. The dairy industry had managed to reclaim its low-cost competitor status, which it lost over the peak of low milk prices.

Generally, the New Zealand system had been able to maintain a production system that was largely flexible so it could strip out costs, as demonstrated over that trough.

Ms Higgins felt very fortunate to have her job, which was the perfect combination for someone who loved talking to people and who was ‘‘unashamedly’’ fond of data. .

‘‘It’s just been absolutely fantastic, I love it.’’

‘‘I’m very glad I didn’t end up being the next Harvey Specter,’’ she laughed, referring to the character in American television legal drama Suits.

Add a Comment