It’s Monday morning and St Paul’s senior students are listening to a man talk about monetary policy in New Zealand, in particular the effect of the recent official cash rate drop.
Who better for them to be hearing this from than former Board Chair and once Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank – Rod Carr (Williams 1972-1976).
Rod has returned to his old high school to spend the day speaking to students, some of who may be considering a career in the financial field. “See economics and accounting can be rather cool,” he says to the students, “especially when you see how it relates to a world context.”
His visit today, is his way of “contributing back” to a school that was an important part of his life. “Apart from giving me a good grounding in education, St Paul’s gave me an enormous confidence in myself.”
Legally blind since birth, Rod has roughly 40% vision on moving objects and 6/60 vision on distance. He is also completely colour blind. But he’s never allowed the challenges of his eyesight to restrict his goals.
Growing up, instead of attending a special school for the blind, Rod was mainstreamed into Saint Kentigern Boys’ School. “There was support available, but I had to foot it with ordinary kids in an ordinary class.”
That support and inclusive behaviour continued when he came to St Paul’s with older brother, John. “I remember Pat Plant would call out the words, for my benefit, as he wrote them on the board. Even sitting in the front row, I couldn’t read the blackboard.”
At school, Rod was head of Williams House and – even though he couldn’t catch a ball or partake in many sports – he excelled at swimming, and was captain of the swim team and junior swim champion.
Rod was also an excellent debater, leading the debating team in Years 11 and 12. He was part of the St Paul’s “dream team” that included, Simon Upton, who became a Minister of the Crown, and John Allen, who was at one time the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
But Rod had always had an interest in banking, “when I was a kid, my Grandmother took me to her stockbroker to buy some shares. I watched them go up and down and found that rather intriguing.”
In his school certificate year, he decided he wanted to do accounting, which was for him “the beginning of breaking the mould.”
He describes himself as a, “born optimist, sometimes to the point of a reckless optimist – that ‘what could possibly go wrong’ attitude.”
But he didn’t always make the best choices and says in Year 12, it nearly ended very badly. He proudly revealed to his mother he had figured out how to sell shares he did not own on the New Zealand Stock exchange to benefit when a share price declined, “my mother very nearly took me out of school!”
After finishing university, Jack Beckett – a former Board of Trustees member who had taught Rod accounting at school – introduced him to the assistant general manager at the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ).
It was through this introduction that Rod ended up working at the BNZ as an investment analyst – and became the youngest manager ever appointed by them.
During his time with them, the BNZ funded his MBA degree, which he completed in New York.
“Having a degree from an Ivy League university, meant I could get into the University of Pennsylvania where I did my Masters of Applied Economics and Managerial Science and my PhD. I was then able to have the credibility to apply for the role of Deputy Governor at the Reserve Bank.”
That means Rod has five university degrees, including two honours degrees from Otago University.
When you do the math, that’s ten years of full time study and a year of part time study at four different universities over 21 years since leaving St Paul’s!
But making money was obviously something Rod was good at. The first time he made a million dollars in a year was in 1998 as Head of Global Payments for National Australia Bank in Melbourne.
After around 20 years in banking, that included five years as Deputy Governor and five months Acting Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Rod made a significant career change.
He relocated to Christchurch to run software firm, Jade in 2003. While in this role, he was approached about applying for the position of Vice Chancellor at the University of Canterbury – a role he then commenced in February 2009.
His time at Canterbury posed many challenges, as he took on a hands-on role in the recovery process after the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes.
Now after ten influential years, Rod has retired from Canterbury. He still remains a director of the ASB bank and a trustee of the Christchurch Arts Centre and Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust.
Living in Christchurch, Rod and wife Jenny, whom he met while studying at Otago University, have four children – Elizabeth, James, Richard and Christopher – who already have nine university degrees between them in medicine, engineering, physics, biology and business.
But it’s not all banking and academics for Rod.
He’s also a keen runner and earlier this year, ran the North Korean marathon in Pyongyang. To date, Rod has run 22 marathons including ones in Boston, New York, London, Paris, Capetown, Istanbul, Easter Island and Antarctica – “If you’re ever going to run these things, you have to run the cool ones.” In October, he’ll run the Polar Circle marathon in Greenland.
When asked what his biggest highlight to date is, his response is easy – “being chosen by Jenny to be her partner”.
“Jenny has never said to me ‘you can’t’ or ‘you shouldn’t’. This also comes back to my positive experience at school – no one ever told me I couldn’t do anything.”