Read Donna Cooper’s (CEO at TSB New Zealand) story

Donna Cooper is the new chief executive of TSB. She is also the first female chief executive for the bank.

One of the things we love most about what we do is having the opportunity to work alongside some of this country’s most inspiring business and community leaders – Donna Cooper, the CEO at TSB New Zealand, is one of these. You can read more about her story here.

When she was appointed chief executive of one of the oldest names in New Zealand banking, Donna Cooper made headlines partly because of the job and partly because of her gender.

Six months on, and in her first interview since becoming the first female chief executive of the TSB in its 168-year history, Cooper says she hopes to get to a point where a person’s sex isn’t an issue. 

“When I think about kids and what inspires you, it’s about looking around and realising you can be whatever you want to be,” the 44-year-old Kāpiti Coast native says, during a meeting in her New Plymouth office. 

“I love the fact that we’ve got a female prime minister. We’ve got three female CEOs of banks in New Zealand, we’ve got the New Zealand women’s rugby team doing amazing things, so if there’s some small thing I could do so girls look around them and see women doing a variety of things, that would be great.”

TSB, which is based in New Plymouth, is 100 per cent Kiwi owned. It has 500 staff, $6.7 billion worth of deposits and last year reported a $72.1 million profit.

But Cooper, who moved to Taranaki with her family from Auckland, says it cannot rest on its laurels.

“The needs of customers are changing rapidly. We need to keep our eyes to the horizon thinking about how we are going to remain relevant.

“One thing I know to be true is that we cannot do what we have always done because things are moving so quickly. I’m really committed to making sure that as an organisation we do think about the future.”

What this mean in terms of the bank’s operations she does not say. “Our priority right now, honestly, is about getting the right products and services into the hands of our customers and I think that’s an area that we recognise and are continuing to work on.”

Cooper has spent the majority of her career in financial services and it has taken her all around the world.

She was the chief executive of The Warehouse Group Financial Services, director and general manager of Baycorp, and worked with American Express International in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and India.

“What I’ve learnt in all my roles is that if you can really get in behind what customers want and deliver the products and services that are meaningful to them, that’s what makes a successful business.”

The CEO, her husband and two children, aged six and nine, live in the seaside town of Oakura, around 15 minutes south of New Plymouth. 

The children are loving it and have joined the local surf lifesaving club so Sundays are now spent at the beach. 

It was this kind of lifestyle that played a large part in deciding if the role was right for her. 

“I grew up in a smaller town and loved riding my bike around the neighbourhood and being able to walk to school on my own, things that in larger cities you have to think twice about, so we thought it would be a wonderful experience to give our kids the childhood that we had.”

Another big draw was the fact the bank has been 100 per cent New Zealand owned since inception in 1850, she says.

“I love the fact that we’re re-investing profits back into the Taranaki community and people. Over the last 30 years we’ve invested over $140 million into the people of the region and New Zealand.”

Cooper said she’s made it a priority to get out and about to meet the staff.

“I’ve just been so impressed with the people that we’ve got,” she says.

“The reason we keep delivering this great service is all down to our people so I want to ensure that I honour those strengths and can continue into the future.”

See the full Stuff article here.