VoiceOver users please use the tab key when navigating expanded menus

Pacific dream: reflections from a 30-year career. Thanks Mum.

"If there’s anything I hope for, it’s this: never be afraid to rewrite your story."

Keasi Tora


My interview was scheduled for Friday, 11:00am. The transport arrived with half an hour to spare. My damp wetsuit showed through my corduroy pants. I was looking for an excuse not to make the interview.

My mother had other ideas. She waited for me at the bus stop. In a bag were Dad's clothes, a sulu - similar to a sarong but with pockets - a Bula shirt and his sandals. My tough guy image died a fast death. I was marched to a public toilet and walked to the ANZ Lautoka branch for my interview.

I started in my new job the following Monday, 10 January 1992: 30-years ago.


Historic changes


The banking landscape was undergoing its lion’s share of turmoil when I joined.

Just seven years earlier, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group limited (ANZ) acquired British Bank Barclay’s operations in Fiji.

In 1992, ANZ was finalising its takeover of Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) operations in Fiji.

Sometime later, in October 2001, I was part of the Marketing team when ANZ announced acquiring the Bank of Hawaii’s (BOH) operations in Fiji, further consolidating ANZ’s leading position in retail and commercial banking in the Pacific region.

In 2010, ANZ underwent a significant brand change with the Fiji Marketing team deeply involved in this global effort.

But over the years three tectonic shifts in the Pacific haven't gone by unnoticed.


In my view, these are:   


1.     Attitude 

2.     Digitalisation

3.     Talent





Call it a subtle shift, like waves licking at your toes or rays of the sun warming your face. The paradigm shift of mind management - mental skill - has never been more acute in our day and age. These six inches of premium space between your ears have become the new battleground.

Psychologists use the metaphor of taming the "monkey mind", that ever-negative chattering voice in our head, or as the Buddhists term it "as resembling a restless monkey".

COVID-19 kicked this into overdrive and every one of us became the proverbial chickens when a fox is in the chicken coup, together learning about vulnerability.

Neuroscientifically, we have one brain and two minds - the monkey mind, our conscious mind; and the real you, the inner you - your character, your experiences, lessons learnt - our unconscious mind.

As leaders, our attitude is to use these tools and mechanisms available - otherwise we're just swinging from tree to tree every day this new year.




Being from the Pacific reminds me of the adage that a pebble can cause ripples in a pond on one side of the ocean and a tidal wave on the other. Not only do we have no control over the pebble but its repercussions are also far worse. Climate change and COVID-19 are recent examples of this model.

The impact of globalisation on cross border trade of goods and services, people and information has rapidly evolved even more for far-flung islands across the Pacific. The pandemic has seen the emergence of physical distancing while maintaining a lifestyle with convenient access to your banking and to the world.

While it has come with a tsunami of cyber-crime from online fraud, the dark web, identity theft and scammers, the lesson of digitalisation is understanding risk is everyone's business.




In a world where technology has rapidly changed how we interact and conduct business, it's hard to imagine televisions were first introduced mainstream into Fiji only 30 years ago.

Long before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, the Nokia 3310 was the most desirable item at any conference table. And way before Blu-rays, CDs and DVDs, rotary dial landlines were standard in every home - as were cassette decks to record your favourite pop songs off the air. 

It's from this world that emerged talent from Generation X, hardy souls suddenly exposed to change like no other generation and who now make up the crop of senior leaders in various industries and organisations today.

Reporting into them are Millenniums, talent who are as astute with the world wide web as they are using smart phones as an interface. They are natives in a virtual portal where jobs are boundaryless, applications are submitted online and getting your way around is dependent on terabytes, passwords and storage space.

It’s critical leaders understand this background in their roles and acknowledge this shift when managing people and talent.   



Circling back


COVID has been extremely brutal for everyone, I sadly lost my two most ardent supporters – my parents. In retrospect, my mother’s decision 30-years ago is one I’ve never regretted. Being a schoolteacher, she left a legacy to learn. As a staunch woman of faith, she helped develop a keen sense of perception. As a mother, she taught us to put others before self.

If family became a cornerstone to anchor one down coherently, cultural identity provided a blank canvas to express oneself. The culture I proudly represent is as complex and rich as it is open to interpretation.

As ANZ staff, I respectfully walk in the vein of an Itaukei (native of Fiji) first, a Pacific Islander second and lastly, with the veneer of a global citizen. This character density can be quite the conundrum but allows Pacific Islanders and many like us to interpret life through the lens of an infinite journey of learning by osmosis.

For any career, this translates to a fuller, richer understanding of yourself and that which immerses itself into your interactions. Critically, you understand what makes you tick intently and purposefully.


Tips for a longstanding career


Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, author, inventor and futurist once talked about the ‘precessional effects’ that arise from just getting started, of the sheer wave of activity created being in motion on your own goals. He argued as long as you are actively in motion in pursuit of your own goals, you stand to create ‘precessional effects’ far more important than you initially understood, planned, predicted or intended.   

The journey of self-discovery is a beautiful experience. Understanding who you are and the legacy you leave behind is just as important as how thoughtfully you live your life and the consequences of your choices.

If there’s anything I hope for, it’s this: never be afraid to rewrite your story. You must just start and the path of opportunities keeps on unfolding in front and to the side of you. We all face fears, no doubt these are inevitable but allow them to be a pathway to your personal exploration. We each have our own magnitude of challenges. Flip the switch and let that trigger reimagining life renew, every single day!       


A shorter version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn - Back To The Future - A Dry Run


Related articles

Starting over

2021 has seen the highest ever number of recruits to the Given the Chance program. Luisa* shares the impact the program has had on helping her start over.

A sustainability scholarship program to propel women leaders

The Chief Executive Women-ANZ Sustainability Scholarships will help women leaders advance to more influential roles and accelerate sustainable outcomes in their field

Time to celebrate!

As we celebrate IDPWD2021, Ability Fest could not have come a better time to empower people with disability as the country emerges from lengthy pandemic lockdowns.