The new Chief Executive Officer of the A.N.Z. Bank in Samoa, Bernie Poort, is excited about his new role.
Weeks into his term as the man driving A.N.Z. Bank in Samoa, Mr. Poort is quietly optimistic about the prospects for growth not just for the bank but also for the nation.
Mr. Poort though is no stranger to Samoa. He and his wife Susie were based in Samoa for four years when he was the Head of Commercial Banking.
He took up the role of C.E.O. of A.N.Z. Tonga and now he is back.
“Firstly let me say it is fantastic to be back to Samoa and for both Susie and I it feels very much like home,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“The opportunity came about through some long term planning by A.N.Z. Management to build continuity around our senior leadership in the Samoan business.
“Pleasingly, it extends well past me and we now have some really talented local A.N.Z. talent in overseas postings hopefully aspiring to return home one day also.”
Mr. Poort added he had thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Kingdom.
“Our business is blessed with some really talented people and the two years went very fast,” he said. “For one of Samoa’s closest neighbors it’s culturally very different, but has many of the same economic challenges as Samoa.
“One thing I will really miss is the amazing supply of fruit and vegetables – best watermelons anywhere! I’m delighted my new role sees me with some strategic oversight of our business in Tonga as well as the Cooks Islands.”
But growing and consolidating the A.N.Z.’s business in Samoa is his focus for now.
“We will continue to play our role as Samoa’s largest bank,” he said. “We are the only truly international bank operating here with a commitment to the Pacific for over 135 years.
“I can tell everyone we are here to stay. We will continue our investment into digital banking channels and our work around financial literacy to the broader community.
“Our customers will remain the core focus of everything we do, every day. Internally one of my passions has always been Healthy Lifestyle as well as having a bit of fun, and I hope we can extend that out to our customers and the broader community.”
So what do you see as the challenges for growth in Samoa?
“There has been plenty of investment in both the Tourism and Agriculture Sectors of the economy – some through aid, some private,” said Mr. Poort.
“We need those sectors now to really take root and both face formidable challenges. For tourism it’s finding ways to attract new tourists to the market and increased airline passenger access.
“The time is now, Samoa is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and safest places in the world – who wouldn’t want to come and visit?
“The challenge is it’s not cheap to get here, or to stay, service and food are not always at a consistent world standard. We need to all work together to capture this opportunity that exists in the global tourism market today.
“Agriculture also has challenges – what can we do well and what we can do in sustainable quantities to meet both export standards and demand.
“I still think there is considerable upside in focusing on trade with our neighbors.”
Having taken a sabbatical from Samoa, Mr. Poort notes that there has been a number of positive changes while he was away.
“Notably the new airport looks impressive when you arrive,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel open and we now have a first class luxury hotel in our tourism mix, Taumensina Island Resort another beautiful property, extension of the bypass road, Bluebird and Frankie’s both seem much bigger.
“I’m sure there is plenty more. Things are more expensive and I have seen a bit on this topic in the press over the last week – every one everywhere says the same thing – Melbourne, Auckland, Nuku’alofa, Suva – it is true of everywhere around the globe.
“The negatives would be that we lost some great people and good friends since I was last here, Tupua Fred Wetzell from the Foundation of Samoa (A.C.P), Margaret from S.B.E.C, Erna from S.I.F.A and sadly plenty more.”
Mr. Poort replaces Mathew Fisher who will be retiring from the bank at the end of the year after 33 years of service to A.N.Z., and four years in the role of C.E.O A.N.Z. Samoa.
He has over 30 years of banking experience specializing in Corporate and Commercial relationship Banking. He holds a Degree in Banking and Finance from Monash University.
He is joined by his wife Susie Poort and they have five children back in Australia. He is on a two year contract here in Samoa.