Member since June 1981
With a polite nod, Bob McCay offers me a homemade ginger cookie and glances out at Oriental Bay. “I think Rotary stands out. It has a wonderful history working in the community and in recent years we’ve seen some good innovations,” he said.
“Being a Rotarian has certainly broadened my career life. For networking it was very important,” said Bob.
Bob worked for The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) for 43 years, joining straight after leaving school. He later attended two business schools in Australia and he graduated from the Stanford Executive Programme at Stanford University in the United States, in conjunction with his work at the bank.
“Today it’s unusual to stay with a single employer, but in my time you went in there and stayed there,” he said.
Now this might be regarded as being very restraining, but BNZ was an extraordinarily good employer and I’ve had a very interesting career.”
Amongst the most memorable, was his work in Japan, where he travelled to Tokyo in 1969 to open operations for BNZ. During his three-year stint, Bob embraced the challenges of Japanese business culture. “It was once a closed society but the Japanese had begun to invite foreign banks to Japan. It marked the opening up of international banking and was an interesting and exciting time.”
This was BNZ’s first branch in a country where the national language wasn’t English. “It was a marvelous experience,” he smiled.
After Japan, Bob returned to New Zealand for two years before his next stint running BNZ’s operations in London. BNZ was one of the oldest foreign banks in London and the bank’s headquarters for a period early in its history.
“Leading the bank was a significant task. There have been times in my career that I thought I could have done things differently. But with the benefit of hindsight one could always think of things you could have done better.”
Bob regards his greatest achievement as having the opportunity to work his way to the top echelons of BNZ. “My last years at the bank were extraordinarily difficult – but I wouldn’t have changed the opportunity of wrestling with that,” he said.
He believes integrity and honesty to be the highest principles needed for the world of business. “The world has changed significantly over my 60 odd years. Things certainly don’t stand still, but when one sees what has happened in recent times regarding the demise of many financial institutions - that situation is something I would never want to be associated with.”
“I guess as a banker one had to have high principles and if you didn’t, you couldn’t have been successful. So I considered that I had a very clean sheet in terms of standards that I set for myself and tried to live by,” he said.
Bob was introduced to Rotary by his predecessor at BNZ and joined on June 22, 1981. “I became a Rotarian because I was following the path of my career – in those days it was the pattern. Rotary rules were that you could only have one person from a particular industry classification – so you could only have one banker in the club.”
“RCW stood out because it was not only the oldest and the first, but it attracted the top people in the community. That in itself attracted many of the other people there,” he said.
Bob regrets not having enough free time to involve himself in club activities during his working life. “At the time I joined RCW I was at a very busy work load so I was not that terribly active as a member. The club understood that for me to achieve a 60% attendance was impossible.”
Once in retirement, Bob was able to further involve himself in Rotary, accepting the role as the club’s 1996 President.
“Then a strange thing happened,” said Bob, describing an unusual situation where he was required to return to office after he had finished his term. “My successor took up office, but suddenly resigned after five months to take up employment overseas. So I had to come back to finish the rest of that term – and that was difficult,” he recalls.
Bob believes that the regular change in leadership breathed new life into the club. “With each new person that comes in as president, new ideas are brought to the club which keeps things fresh,” he said.
“Rotary has done a splendid job and I can’t think of anything they could do better,” he said.
Researched and written by Lauretta Ah Sam, Communications Intern Dec 2011 - Feb 2012
Bob McCay sadly passed away in July 2016