As CEO of ASB and Deloitte alumni, Vittoria Shortt knows what makes a good leader. We sat down with her to talk about her time as a business leader and her experience across large companies...

What was your role at Deloitte and when were you here?

I was at the firm from 1994 – 1999. I started in Audit, which was my entry into Deloitte, and then I moved into Corporate Finance when it was run by Peter Simmons and John Hagen. John was Deloitte New Zealand Chair at the time.

What do you think is unique about working at Deloitte compared to other places you’ve worked?

Deloitte did a great job at recognising and managing talent at the time and I’m sure it’s continued to progress even more since then. That’s because Deloitte has always understood that value is all about the people.

When I was a grad, I remember a partner once saying to us, “Deloitte is like a bank, a university and a travel agent for you”. In a way, he was right. We were able to travel around doing really interesting work and learning a lot on the job. It was a terrific start to my career. The variety of work and locations helped me build confidence to understand client challenges and lean in to tackle solutions.  Those formative moments still stick in my mind.

It’s also about the people you work with. I made great friendships at Deloitte and I’m still mates with loads of people from back then.

What do you think makes an outstanding CEO?

Firstly, clarity of purpose. It is the CEO’s job to ensure the purpose of the business is inspiring, motivating and something everyone can personally contribute to delivering. 

One of the big challenges for a CEO is prioritising how you spend your time.  It can be so easy to be distracted by interesting ideas or never-ending requests.  It’s so important to spend a lot of time with your people and your customers, and never be distant from them. This is even more important in challenging or difficult times. You want to be an ‘all-weather colleague, not a fair-weather colleague’. 

Lastly, I believe a CEO is there to make a difference in a moment in time. ASB is an incredible business and is more than 170 years old. It is crucial to understand and respect the history, and your place in contributing to it.  The pace of change, enabled by technology, is faster than ever.  I see my role as ensuring we get fit for the future by helping our people gain the skills they need and building experiences our customers’ value.

What do you most enjoy about working at ASB?

The people. The best thing about working at ASB is the positive and vibrant culture. The people at ASB take genuine pride in solving problems differently and innovation has been at the core of ASB for a long time. It’s such a fun place to work.

I am also inspired by how we can accelerate financial progress for people, businesses and communities in New Zealand – from helping with home ownership, supporting business growth and start-ups, all the way through to raising financial literacy and capability.  

What skills or knowledge did you take from Deloitte that you use today?

This links back to the talent point I mentioned earlier. Deloitte builds talent and constantly invests in helping people learn.

At the same time, I learnt that it’s important to be accountable for yourself. There was a moment at Deloitte where I realised I was technically weak. Even though there was plenty of learning going on around me, I had to do a lot of work myself to make sure I was up to the right level of competence. You have to own your development, work hard to be better - and don’t stop. There is no such thing as a ‘career fairy’, there is no one rolling out the red carpet – it takes hard work and effort.

Do you have a mantra that you live by or one that you would like to?

I never have one source of inspiration – always multiple things. A few mantras that spring to mind are:  

  • What you put in is what you get out.
  • Treat others as you’d like to be treated.
  • The wonderful Māori answer to the question of ‘what is the most important thing in the world? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata (It is the people, the people, the people).

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career so far?

Take opportunities when they are presented! I’ve done so many different things, from HR to IT, to Mergers and Acquisitions, to Digital and Strategy, and so on. People always ask me how I have managed to move into such diverse roles.  My response is that if you take the opportunity to do different work, you learn a lot of new skills, and you learn how to apply your strengths in a multitude of ways.  This variety of skills and experience help make you a better leader.

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