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Local success story: Nadine Tereora

By MiNDFOOD | SEPTEMBER 19, 2017 

This CEO of a life insurance company has worked her way up from the bottom, living by her mother’s advice: anything is possible.

Nadine Tereora grew up in the small seaside community of Torbay, Auckland. “I was really fortunate to have an idyllic Kiwi upbringing,” she says. The most important lesson she learned was don’t let anything hold you back. Tereora wasn’t from a wealthy family, but her mother would always remind her that anything is possible. “She also taught me not to take for granted things like living in a beautiful country, having food on the table and just being grateful for everything I had.”

Tereora’s parents separated when she was seven. “My mother was on her own with three kids. She was a hairdresser so she didn’t have a huge amount of disposable income but she taught me … that it’s important to have a strong work ethic and set goals. One of her goals was to own her own home, which she managed to achieve on a very low wage. It also showed me the importance of being resilient, particularly in a financial sense. She made many financial sacrifices to make sure our basic needs were met and kept pushing through to reach her goals to make sure her family had the best possible chance of success. I’m incredibly goal-oriented today and that definitely came from my mum.”

Mind the gap

As CEO of Fidelity Life, one of Tereora’s priorities is to help close the under-insurance gap. “Today’s society has the tendency to believe access to financial advice is too expensive, especially the younger generations. The focus is more on the need to buy a house along with the pressure to have material things like the best car, popular furniture choices, etc., while often ignoring the importance of having a robust financial plan. A financial plan provides backup, including insurance cover to protect what’s most important to you – for example, your ability to earn an income. People think you need to be wealthy or have significant surplus income to have life
insurance, but there are products to suit everyone’s needs and budget. It’s important to have basic cover in the event the unexpected happens.”

Tereora funded her university studies by working part-time at a general insurance company, looking after travel insurance claims. When she was offered a full-time position, she decided to leave her studies. “In the insurance industry, we take huge pride in helping everyday Kiwis, often when they’re in a very vulnerable state, by providing financial assistance. It’s a humbling experience for me.”

What also drew her to the financial services industry were the career options. “I busted the myth that you had to be an accountant or an actuary to succeed in the life insurance industry. I have literally started at the bottom and worked my way up. Achieving CEO status at 38 is pretty awesome,” she says.

Tereora has succeeded despite an unconscious bias that often sees male candidates getting the preferred roles. “I have proven you can succeed as a woman in financial services. Diversity and inclusivity are my greatest challenges. Like many women, I would like to see gender equality in key senior roles. I think it’s important that we have more females in leadership roles because our contribution brings much-needed diversity to decision-making, which is essential to running a successful business.”

Tereora says there are plenty of other challenges too, including helping people understand the value of insurance. “Independent financial advice has significant benefits for the financial health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. Financial advisers form long-term relationships with clients, ensuring they have adequate insurance protection, helping them at claims time and promoting and improving financial literacy.”

Raising three daughters, Tereora has tried to instil them with a sense of ambition. “We have family goals and personal goals. I think it’s really important to have a vision of what you want to achieve and a goal is a good anchor in the ground from which to make your dreams a reality.”