On-farm connections key for banker

Nicki McConnell. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Nicki McConnell. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Nicki McConnell has worked in rural banking for the past 22 years, an achievement she admits is not so common in this day and age.

She is the area manager of Rabobank’s agribusiness for Mid and South Canterbury and is based in Timaru.

Born in the South Island, Ms McConnell grew up just outside Matamata.

With parents farming sheep and beef in Waikato and constantly surrounded by rural friends and family, it was no surprise she soon found herself attending Massey University for a bachelor of applied science in agriculture and rural valuation.

Unsure what to choose for a career, she came to prefer banking thanks to Nigel Pitt, a National Bank employee.

"While I was studying, a young banker helped to manage my parents’ business. He was their banker and made me think it looked like a cool job. He was really knowledgeable and personable and made it look like a great job to get into.

"I thought it had a bit of everything. You can do the on-farm stuff but also learn about banking and have the ability to work in an office too. He probably does not even know that but anyway, my first job out of university was with the National Bank on their graduate programme."

A highlight of the role was dealing with the heart and soul of Kiwi farmers and seeing the personal side of their stories, she said.

Based in town and without customers of her own, Ms McConnell still does her best to get on-farm as much as possible by maintaining strong relationships with past and present clients.

Her parents are now deer farming just outside Fairlie. One brother is dairy farming at Sherwood in South Canterbury, and another brother is farming in Taupo.

"Although I am not farming, I very much get fulfilment from being involved in the farming arena. If I was not in this role, I am not sure I would have so much of an understanding of people that I consider myself lucky to have now."

Most of Ms McConnell’s banking career has been spent in the agri-manager space and although the role has evolved in the past 22 years, she understands what it is like for the team she leads now.

"It is pretty much about working within our team to combine skills and knowledge of the older team members to help support and bring up the younger team members that we have also.

"What I want to do is get everyone to combine their experience to provide clients and the community with an awesome experience."

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