Proud Cook Islander joins NZCU Employees board


Proud Cook Islander joins NZCU Employees board

NZCU Employees Credit Union welcomes Ruth Sio-Lokam as its newest board member. A proud Cook Islander who grew up in the South Auckland suburb of Mangere, and attended the local college, Ruth studied a Bachelor of Business at AUT University (2005).

Having achieved an accounting major which opened the door for her at a large Auckland accountancy firm as an audit graduate, Ruth progressed to qualify as a chartered accountant, in 2010.

She soon embarked on her OE, working in the UK for six months before the Global Financial Crisis, which saw Ruth return home.

After giving birth to her daughter Elena (now 8) she worked in the public practice scene, which she admits made balancing family life challenging. A small boutique accounting firm in Grey Lynn, Auckland proved to be far more suitable.

“The firm was predominantly Maori and Pacific-staffed and it gave me a good insight into Pacific business ownership,” says Ruth, who has family ties to the Cook Islands of Mitiaro, Manihiki, Rarotonga, Atiu and Mangaia.

“It also gave me the confidence that I could manage my business by myself.”

Ruth began her business on March 1, 2018. She says the time since has flown by.

“It has been an awesome experience steering my own ship, doing what I need to do for my business and not someone else’s and choosing my own clients.”

When a friend recommended she apply for a board position at NZCU Employees, Ruth saw it as another important step towards governance roles.

“I feel it’s crucial to support more Maori and Pacific people to apply for such positions because there aren’t enough sitting at the board table,” she says.

“As a Pacific islander, it’s not natural to put our hand up and say ‘pick me’. We don’t like being seen to promote ourselves.

“But if an opportunity arises which aligns to my values, then I’ll have a go and give it my best.”

Ruth believes a seat on the NZCU Employees is that opportunity.

“There’s such a strong Pacific client base and from what I have seen in my initial meetings on the board – are the existing directors’ passion for our members, and the constant reference to ensure that their interests are always front of mind, which is quite different to what I have seen historically on other boards, which I find very refreshing,” she says.

“It was also great to meet the board members from the regions, including Kawarau. It’s a small place but there’s a strong sense of community. And they’re not afraid to have robust discussions.”

One of her ultimate goals is to establish a programme that mentors students in the Cook Islands to study accounting.

“There’s increasing and improving connectivity and I’m sure the students on Rarotonga will benefit from it,” she says.

“Personally, it’s also an opportunity to connect and re-learn my Cook Islands language, which we need to preserve for future generations.”