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Leading by example

"Women are represented strongly in management across the ANZ Vanuatu business too, with more than 60 per cent of leadership roles held by women.’’

Banking is often thought of as a male-dominated industry.


But perceptions don’t always match reality. A case in point is ANZ’s commercial banking team in Vanuatu where the entire team of relationship managers are women. It’s a model for positive change.


And beyond numbers and credit scores, recognising and valuing the unique skills female bankers bring is driving tangible business benefits in the Pacific nation.


Ahead of International Women’s Day, we talked to the commercial banking team about their careers and how to help more women succeed in banking.


Empathy and leadership


Nicolette Tarileo, a research analyst in the team, says it is all about the power of empathy.


“A lot of research has been done to show women are often more empathetic and I think empathy is crucial as a banker,” Tarileo says.


Tarileo says cultural roles have a huge influence in helping to foster these skills.


“As women, we are caretakers at heart. Particularly in Pacific Island countries, this is the role we take on in our homes and our communities. For our customers, this translates into reliability and trust. They know they are in good hands.”


Women are represented strongly in management across the ANZ Vanuatu business, with more than 60 per cent of leadership roles held by women.


Tarileo says it was also important to overcome preconceptions about leadership.


“If I could tell my 20-year-old-self something, it’s that you don’t have to be a certain age to be a leader,” Tarileo says.


“You don’t even have to be in a leadership position to start embodying the qualities of a good leader. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people. People who support and encourage you and want to see you grow.”


“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of female role models who empower and uplift me and other women around them to fulfil their potential in their careers as well as their personal lives.”


“I strive to do the same for others, even though in our culture, women aren’t always encouraged to speak up.”   

Progress is something everyone can contribute to, she says.


“It is always refreshing to see male leaders who make a point of providing support to women, to encourage and empower them,” Tarileo says.


World Bank gender data shows in Vanuatu, labour force participation among females in 2022 was 60.5 per cent, compared to 78 per cent for males. Yet in 2020, women represented just 36.2 per cent of those employed in senior and middle management.


“When you look at businesses across the board, a lot of the key roles are still held by men. Shifting this on an individual level and a company level, isn’t only the job of women,” Tarileo says.




Felicia Garnier, leader of the Vanuatu Commercial Banking team, says the goal is to develop each of her team members to achieve their individual aspirations, rather than taking a prescribed career path.


“As a leader, I need to give everyone in the team what they need to succeed. Recognising and rewarding individual capability and what each person brings – this is about merit,” Garnier says.

“It comes down to building relationships based on trust, commitment and a shared vision. It’s not always perfect, but that’s okay. It’s also about being flexible, adaptable and having a growth mindset.”


“For me, the key is passion and being positive. This is something that I want to instil in the team,” says Garnier.




Marie Nakomaha, a Senior Relationship Manager, says the larger role of women in Pacific Islands society is crucial.


“Sometimes, we tell ourselves that we can’t do it all because we must look after the household,” says Nakomaha.


“But as Pacific Islander women, we already play a very important role within the family. So this helps in business and in leadership roles. We bring a different perspective to the table.”


Terence Low is the Vanuatu Country Head for ANZ

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