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The ‘Gen X’s’ of the Agri Banking Sector Pass Down their Tips

Oct 26, 2023 7:28:30 PM / by Cameron Smith


Information only disclaimer. The information and commentary in this email are provided for general information purposes only. We recommend the recipients seek financial advice about their circumstances from their adviser before making any financial or investment decision or taking any action.

In our article last week on the 'The Agri Banking Sector Through the Eyes of a Young Professional' I mentioned about some of the pearls of wisdom I had gathered from the ‘old Gen X’s’ that have a lot more wisdom than myself!

If you recall, writing this article started when I was asked to prepare an introductory document for our next Graduate to help bring them up to speed as they themselves enter the sector. Upon putting together the document I went to the people of NZAB and asked for their best ‘tip of the trade’ or ‘key piece of advice’ they wished they had when they first started out, and I received some absolute rippers that were too good not to share.

I believe there will be something that will resonate with every reader no matter the stage in your career. I have put them into sections based on some of the key messages that came through below: 


1. Draw on the knowledge of those around you to help assist your growth. 

  •  “Utilise the experience around you – ensure you spend time around those you can learn from, ask to go out on joint visits and the like. See how different people work and process things, and then see what resonates with you and how you can apply that to your own methods and approaches going forward".
  • Don’t think you need too or will learn everything straight away. Ask lots of questions, listen to conversations and try to soak it all in. It will come over time with experience, use the wealth of experience already within your business to help you along the way".
  • “Enjoy the journey. You’ll never get another time in your career to observe and learn from so many different people before having to be accountable for your own clients. Many Grads are tempted to rush to a ‘better job title’ but I often think back fondly on my time as a Grad".
  • “Everyone you work with in your time as a Grad brings their own skills and experiences that others don’t necessarily possess. They’ll also do things in a different way from their peers that will still achieve the outcome they require. Look at all people as a resource to tap into rather than at their job title. You never know when you will need someone’s specialist skills or knowledge at a future time in your career and their preparedness to help you will depend on how you treated them from all the various interactions, they had with you". 

2. Listen and ask lots of questions.

  • “Practice listening and get really good at it".
  • “Never be scared of asking questions if you don’t know the answer, even if it’s multiple questions. Sometimes we’re scared of that, thinking it makes us feel like we don’t know enough and that somehow will make us inferior - but that’s not the case in real life. Asking questions (or simply confirming what you think you’ve heard) shows a curious mind and a focus on getting more accurate information with a better understanding - excellent qualities".
  • You have a free 12 months to ask as many questions as possible about anything and everything. Make sure you use the 12 months wisely and learn as much as you can".
  • “Enjoy. It’s a special time in your career that you will look back on fondly in time to come. Don’t be in a rush. You will get there fast enough and the more you learn now through asking questions, exposure to conversations and meetings where you don’t have to play an active role in will be some of the best learnings you’ll ever get".
  • “Starting off as a Graduate is one of the most privileged positions to be in from the perspective that all you must do is show interest, ask questions, take notes and observe. Other than your colleagues giving you things to do for your development, you are literally there to learn the ropes without external delivery expectations. You have earned the Grad role through your ability to talk (communicate and articulate), your personality and the investment you made into yourself at University. You may have learnt some theory that is relevant to your job, but this next step is about bringing theory and commercial reality together. It’s important to have an opinion, and sometimes demonstrate your understanding of what’s been discussed, but your best position to come from is a place of curiosity rather than knowledge".

3. Always show respect and never be quick to act or judge. 

  • Our business and banking is about people. You can never know what people are juggling or managing that you can’t see. Approach every interaction, whether it’s with clients or the bank with empathy. Always “seek first to understand” before responding".
  • Respect the Customers/Farmers you deal with. We are in a privileged position where these farmers open the door to us and show us their businesses at an operational and financial level. Each and every farmer has earned the right to be where they are today".
  • “I remember getting told when I was first a Relationship Manager to never make assumptions about a deal before you have had the meeting. Super hard to do, but so true".
  • “Never burn bridges - even when dealing with people you don’t see eye to eye with, treat them with respect as you never know who they are either related too or have some level of influence over".
  • “The advisory industry is a lot of fun and a great opportunity to develop lifelong contacts and friendships along the way. We are in a super privileged position to see the good, the bad and the ugly. Remember that we are there to help, not cast judgement. So always be respectful of the fact that despite the challenging situations that some people face, this wasn’t how they saw it panning out and they once warranted all the debt that a bank has provided that now sees them in the position, they are in".

4. Get involved and just give it a go!

  • “Don’t be afraid of giving things a go, the more exposure you have the quicker the learning curve. We all start at the same place but if you apply yourself and put yourself in situations to learn and grow you will accelerate your development. Try to avoid sitting on the sidelines because you don’t feel qualified".
  • “Turn up to work with a good "can do attitude" and a smile. Login to your emails, keep them open all day, and regularly check them".
  • “Have a crack at working things out yourself (look at old papers that have been completed) but also don't be afraid to ask for help".
  • “Make an effort to introduce yourself to the whole team - in all regions, there's a wealth of experience, and everyone is itching to share their knowledge. Relationships with the team help build confidence to build relationships with clients and other intermediaries".
  • “Attitude and intent are the absolute key. As a Grad, you’re not hired because you are expected to know how to do the job, you are hired for your perceived ability to learn and execute. Say "yes" to everything regardless of who’s job it is (above or below you) and put your shoulder in to every chance you have”.
  • “Try first, ask second’. This is the best way to learn. Have a crack at a model, or a review and then ask questions once you’ve done what you can".
  • "Travel and see the country! The best thing you can do as a Grad is move as far away from home and your comfort zone as possible. You meet a ton of new people, build key relationships that may come in useful later in your career, but most importantly if you mess anything up, it’s not in your hometown!!".
  • “I remember coming into the Bank as a Grad, thinking there was expectation on me to know what I was talking about. I don’t recall ever being given the perspective of the fact that nothing was really expected from you, other than to be grateful for the opportunity, be respectful and be eager to learn".
  • “Don’t sit back and wait. The best people in the business are usually too busy to be totally effective mentors (that’s possibly unfair to some, but generally I have found it to be true) so if you want to learn, you’ve got to force your way in by demonstrating some usefulness or value to those high performers. Look for ways to do this, it might be prepping a meeting, or some extra insights etc".

5. Sometimes the basics can be the most important. 

  • “You can be taught banking and technical skills, but the soft skills are more important. Being able to structure meetings and talk to people is most important".
  • “Admit when you don’t know something. It can be a bit intimidating to tell a farmer that you don’t know the answer to their question, but they respect honesty, and can smell bullshit from miles away. If you don’t know, then say so, but offer up a plan to get back to them".
  • "Remember you are now part of your business’s brand. People will affiliate you with that business at any interaction. We’ve all had slip ups, but make sure you are carrying yourself at a level that you would be proud to be talked about".
  • “Get it right - clients pay us a lot of money to get the job done and to do it professionally. It is always a good idea to get someone else to proof your work before sending out to clients/banks etc".

6. Bonus advice.

  • “No good happens after 11pm. Go home. If you do push the boat out a bit far, always front the next day on time".

On that note I’m going to call it a day. No matter the stage of your career there is always something you can do better.

We are involved in a very exciting industry that is constantly evolving which means there is always something to learn. I hope there was something in this article that helped you do just that today!

Thank you to those who responded following my first article, it was great to hear from you and I enjoyed those who challenged my thinking – again please feel free to drop me a line if you have any follow up comments!

Who is NZAB?


Farming’s very complex and you can’t be an expert in everything. That’s why the best farmers gather a specialist team around them. Our specialty is better banking outcomes for our clients.

There’s no one better to work alongside you and your bank. With a deep understanding of your operation and our considerable banking expertise, we can give you the confidence and control to do what you do best.

We’ve been operating for over five years now and we’re right across New Zealand, For an introductory no cost chat, pick up the phone and talk directly to one of our specialists on 0800 NZAB 12.    

Or if you prefer, Visit us at our website  or email us directly on info@nzab.co.nz  

Tags: Debt, Action, Planning, Budget, Banking, Strategy

Cameron Smith

Written by Cameron Smith