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Agri-banker looks back on 50 years of change

ANZ Rural Bank Manager Roger Fannin has been working in banking for half a century all over Hawke’s Bay – all the way back to the post office days. He shares his thoughts on the good times and bad times, and reflects on the events that shaped his career.


When Roger Fannin started his career in 1973, things were a bit different.


The average house cost $15,500, family meals around the dinner table were sacred, and newly-introduced colour televisions were a novelty.


“I was all geared up to go to university to become a teacher, but I was a bit sick of the mundane nature of studying, so I flagged that,” he laughs.


“I worked with my brother putting roofs on houses until my Dad said, ‘son, you’re going nowhere - I want you to make a change’.


His father had a friend at the post office, and there was a position available, starting the following week.


“I had no idea what a post office did,” Roger recalls.


He began working as a clerk at the New Zealand Post Office branch on the corner of Jervois Street and Karamu Road in Hastings, on a salary of $2,114 per annum.


"It was a one stop shop - we handled savings accounts, postal notes, money orders, foreign currency orders, toll calls from the in-branch booths, and even births, deaths and marriages," Roger says.


"I remember marrying a couple of people in the Ōtāne Post office - a woman came in, quite heavily pregnant, and said 'would you marry us?'


"I just about did a double flip - I had to look up the rule book and find out what I had to do - that was a quite an interesting experience."


Roger was promoted to Senior Clerk in 1978, and a couple of years later was promoted to Postmaster, and worked in several Post Offices around Hawke's Bay.


Around 1987, a process Roger describes as "corporatisation" began to take place.


"The post office was split into three state-owned enterprises - New Zealand Post, Telecom, and Post Office Savings Bank, which later became PostBank," Roger says.

The PostBank branch in Hastings at Stortford Lodge, where Roger Fannin worked in the early 90s. Image: ANZ Archives.

The PostBank branch in Hastings at Stortford Lodge, where Roger Fannin worked in the early 90s. Image: ANZ Archives.


Although it was a time of great change, Roger says he enjoyed the period.


"At 34, with a young family and a mortgage, it was exciting - it was great," he says.


"To go into that PostBank environment, you became entrenched, and it encompassed what was good about banking.”


PostBank didn't offer lending - but that changed in 1989 when PostBank was acquired by ANZ.


"That was really exciting, because we learned so much about the finer points of banking," Roger says.


By 1990, Roger was the Area Assistant Manager of PostBank in the Hawke's Bay.

Pictured in 1991 at an ANZ/PostBank manager's workshop, are (back row from left) Ross McFarlane, Andrew Holdstock, Malcolm Lewis, Grant Jenkins, Graham Hunt, Roger Fannin, Geoff Keogh, Mark Waite and Doug Taylor. Middle row, from left, are Garry Slatter, Carlye Boyd, Jeff Holmes, Rex Nathan, Graeme Downing, Murray Hindley and Grant Waldron. Front row, from left, are John Morrow, June Gordon-Crosby, Geoff Upton, Pauline Hutchings, Elizabeth Allison, Rod Pelosi and Norman Skelton. Image: ANZ Archives.


"It involved a lot of travelling around, meeting people, obviously talking with customers and helping to develop the skills of the people that were under us.


"I had the opportunity to go into business banking in 1994, and moved to the Hastings branch on Heretaunga Street," Roger says.


"That was the beginning of my close involvement with the rural community - around 30 years ago now,” he says.


“I grew up surrounded by orchards, and was an orchard owner for a period - so I did have some experience, but not in pastoral farming.


"So I felt I needed to get a diploma in agri-business management, in order to gain some acceptance and to know what I was talking about - it was a really good learning curve.”


Roger says banking has gone through many periods of change, and will likely continue to.


“I’ve generally welcomed change, and I’ve seen lots of it. Moving from paper and pen to computerisation - that must be the biggest change I’ve seen, and I’ve had to learn as I’ve gone along.



"It’s a bit like being on a train, roaring down the tracks, and if you don’t want to accept the changes you need to get off – but generally, I think I’ve managed to stay onboard."

Roger Fannin - ANZ Rural Bank Manager


In 1996, the bank’s business and agri customers were split into separate centres, and Roger was fortunate enough to be chosen as the agri manager for all of Hawke’s Bay.




A couple of years into Roger’s new role, there was a dramatic downturn for the entire Hawke's Bay agri community.


1998’s unusually warm and dry El Nino weather conditions led to a “horrendous” drought.


"Some commentators said it was the worst they had seen in 40 years - it didn't rain from about December until about May the next year," Roger says.


"And here I was, relatively new to this position, and caught smack bang in the middle of it, as I had just taken on quite a large portfolio of agri clients.


"Animals were dying, water was scarce, feed was almost non-existent, and farming folk were heavily depressed.


"The demands on my time were huge and there were many sad stories, and requests for capital to get businesses back on track.


“There were also some really difficult discussions – where I wasn’t able to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.


“You did get the odd person who would denigrate you, because they felt betrayed - but fortunately, not too many.”


Sooner or later, all things change, Roger says, and as soon as the first proper rain came, the land sprang back to life.


"Hawke's Bay is such a fertile place, and it just bounced back - you never would have known it was a drought, apart from the fact that it cost a lot of money."

Roger says that being able to help people through that difficult period brought him immense satisfaction.


“It was exciting, challenging and very rewarding to think that I was able to actually do something about it, and help those people get through,” he says.


“And there have been droughts since then – one of the messages we try to get out to our clients has been that preparedness and diversification can help you through, and protect you when events like this happen.”

Roger Fannin, pictured just outside Hastings, in late 2023.

Roger Fannin, pictured just outside Hastings, in late 2023.




After ANZ purchased National Bank in 2003, many more agri clients came onto Roger’s books, resulting in a busy time for him and his team.


Then, in 2008, the Global Financial Crisis hit, which led to a great many difficult conversations.


“That had a massive impact, obviously on the banking sector – but fortunately our Australian owners were very, very strong – one of the strongest in the world, and we were very lucky for that,” Roger says.


“But there was no money around – you weren’t out there trying to take on new customers, you were just trying to look after the customers you had.”


The crisis continued for more than a year, stabilising around 2010.


“In 2016 my health started to play up, and I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia,” Roger says.


“In the next three years I had a few different treatments – including a stem cell transplant – and I got through that, despite the doctor telling me there was probably only a 30 per cent chance of survival.”


As part of the treatment, the new stem cells completely changed Roger’s blood type.


“Not a nice thing to go through – very difficult, and very hard on your body,” he says.


Roger has continued to undergo chemotherapy treatment.


His employment with ANZ has continued throughout his illness and treatment, and since 2018, Roger has worked on the Agri Valuation Team.


Roger says his advice for new bankers - and for anyone - is simple: never stop learning.


“Drink up as much information as you can, seek out the right people to mentor you, and accept that, over the course of your career, you’re probably going to change roles and opportunities five or even ten times.”

Roger Fannin, right, at his 50th work anniversary celebration, with ANZ Regional Manager, Business Marcus Bousfield.

Roger Fannin, right, at his 50th work anniversary celebration, with ANZ Regional Manager, Business Marcus Bousfield.


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