Long-time Takapuna resident Ann Tod is the personification of the wisdom of asking a busy person when you want something done. Recently retired from KPMG where she was an audit partner, she has for the last three decades combined a busy family and professional life with involvement in sporting and community organisations. Most recently, she was appointed as chair of the board of Harbour Hospice. Christine Young talks to Ann about work, family and volunteering.
Ann has lived for the last 40 years on the North Shore, shifting here after she and husband Alastair moved to Auckland where he completed teacher training.
Ann was born in Hastings and went to university at Massey in Palmerston North. She laughs about the longevity of her time at KPMG, where she spent her entire business career, and in audit. It was not a path she had specifically planned, but one that she found suited her. Initially, it was simply that she needed a job where she could get her post-university professional qualifications, and “audit firms were hiring” when she arrived in Auckland. Better still, “I found myself good at it”.
“I didn’t aim for a corporate role,” she says. But once in the workforce, “I learned very quickly that I was team-based and that team values motivate me. I thrived in the professional services environment.”
She admits she may have a different approach to many auditors, as she takes a collaborative approach. This enabled her to build long-standing trusted relationships with many clients, one of whom was to play a role in her joining the Harbour Hospice board. But more of that later…
Her career at KMPG could have been derailed when in 1987 Ann had the first of her and Alastair’s three children. In those days, there was little room for anyone in a professional services client-facing role to work part time. “The feeling was that if you’re not full-time, you’re not focussing 100% on your job.”
Ann’s solution was to return to KPMG part-time, in the learning and development team, working on internal training and large change projects. It meant she was made partner later than many of her contemporaries, as that didn’t happen until she resumed full-time work. But it also meant that she stayed connected, and was able to step back into a client-facing role with confidence, as she had kept up to date with changes, and developed her communications, presentation and facilitation skills. But she attributes her success above all to her “knack of recognising that listening and good questioning was the foundation of getting everything right” for clients. “That’s motivated me all through my career. My success came from caring for people and building relationships.”
Just as work was important, so was family. Ann played netball at community level and at university, and as her girls grew, although she was no longer playing, they became involved in the sport. Like many parents, Ann was always on the sideline – and the team needed a coach. As she had some experience, she “ended up” coaching her middle daughter’s team. “And I’d umpired, so I found myself umpiring” as there was a shortage of umpires. With an attitude that’s served her well in her career and her community involvement, there was a job that needed doing, she had the skills, and she stepped up.
Not content to umpire at school level (again an attitude that I suspect defines Ann), as her girls advanced through the sport, she thought she should improve her skills too. By “working hard” she attained her New Zealand C level umpire qualifications. She umpired until 2016, and now coaches North Harbour netball umpires.
Just as she became involved in netball as part of a family activity, Ann’s leisure activities also revolve around family. She and Alastair enjoy walks along Takapuna or Milford beaches, or up Te Mata Peak when in the Hawkes Bay; she knits, and says she does “a bit” of sewing. Questioned, she admits that this “bit” might on occasion involve making up to 15 costumes for a dance performance, as one of her daughters is a dance teacher. And the family holidays together, over Christmas always in the Hawke’s Bay, where she and Alastair both grew up.
In the early 2000s, Ann added Rotary to her already busy schedule. She confesses that this was purely for herself: she had deep community networks, but needed to develop her business networks as she built her career. She joined the Auckland club, as it was close to the office and had lunchtime meetings – and as is her style, threw herself into full involvement, becoming Director of Community Focus on the Rotary Auckland board. Her early focus was on youth programmes – the family hosted a number of young people through the Rotary Exchange programme, and two of their three girls went overseas on the programme. At the same time, she was also involved with the Auckland club’s participation in RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a week-long leadership development programme for 20-28 year olds), supporting six young people to attend a one-week residential camp each July. This involved interviewing them, making sure they understood what they were committing to, transporting them to camp, attending the associated dinner, and supporting them in speaking to Rotarians.
A more recent programme, and one she is still involved in, “which is very cool”, is Give Every Child A Future, a project initiated to celebrate 100 years of Rotary in which the Auckland, Wellington, Sydney and Melbourne clubs (the four original clubs in New Zealand and Australia) have combined to fund vaccinations against rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and cervical cancer to reduce child mortality in the Pacific. Ann’s role (not unexpectedly) is as treasurer, and she is excited that after several years’ planning and fundraising, the first vaccines will be given soon.
While Rotary and netball both require hands-on involvement of several hours a week of Ann’s volunteer input, her most recent role, as chair of the Harbour Hospice trust board, is more like a full day a week. But, she notes, the role at Harbour Hospice is a genuine governance role.
“I have a view of governance,” she says, “that we are there to ask good questions to enable the organisation to look forward. For example, with the risk register, I also like to look at opportunities. Our role is not to be a hand brake but to drive the organisation forward.”
She is also actively committed in a more general way to improving governance and financial reporting in the not-for-profit sector. She became aware of a need as financial reporting standards changed for not-for-profits, and encouraged teams at KPMG to engage with charities; she also reached out to funders, many of whom had strict and sometimes unrealistically high reporting standards for small charities applying for funding. Some financial reporting by charities, she comments, was “abysmal”, and on occasion charities and their auditors were compromised by the auditor having to become involved in completing the financial reports, as well as trying to remain independent as an auditor. As a result of her work, she says that KPMG ended up doing around 80% of charitable audits – a win for the charities, in that they were dealing with people who understood their needs, but also for KPMG.
Ann became involved in Hospice, as alluded to earlier, through her role at KPMG, where Mercy Hospice had been one of her clients. She had built a strong relationship with Jan Nicholls, then chief executive at Mercy Hospice and now at Harbour Hospice. For once, when Jan first approached Ann about joining the board, Ann said no. It was only on Jan’s second approach in 2017 that Ann agreed to join the board. Two years later, repeating the pattern of giving full commitment to whatever she takes on, she was appointed chair of the Trust.
Planning for the new building was under way when Ann joined the board, so she knew what she was taking on. She is also fully engaged with other board activities and she has continued the ethos of the board engaging with the large number of Hospice volunteers (who are looked after on a day-to-day basis by paid staff who manage the volunteer programme) through ensuring that someone from the board attends all fundraising events, inviting people in, and taking time out around Christmas to have morning tea together and celebrate with service awards.
Ann is clearly committed to and passionate about the work Hospice does in the community, as she is with all the roles she maintains. She may have retired as a partner at KPMG but there is little sign that her workload is decreasing or that she has any inclination to sit back and relax. As she says, she is an “active relaxer” and that seems unlikely to change any time soon.