Michele Embling

Michele Embling


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What attracted you to the chair position at PwC?

I’ve been a member of the executive leadership team at PwC for the past four years, so I’ve worked closely with both the previous chief executive and chair. Working at a strategic level within PwC and with my clients has given me the opportunity to make a real difference. 

At PwC, we’ve been on our own transformation journey. The nature of the work we do is changing, and so is the skills base of our partners and staff. We’re now involved in the digital and innovation space, advising clients on the cloud, customer experience, cyber security, and technology transformation. 

We’re also growing our expertise in new areas such as real estate and legal. It’s an exciting and energising time at the firm.

We have a huge opportunity at PwC to help businesses to prosper, because of our footprint, which extends across the private and public sectors, as well as from small businesses to large corporates. 

What are some of the highlights of your role so far?

Something that was very special to me was the opening of our new Christchurch office in November of last year. Being back in the central business district after almost six years gave us the opportunity to celebrate with our staff and clients, and it felt good to be part of the rejuvenation of the city.

I was also pleased to welcome our former prime minister, John Key, and MP Nicky Wagner when they launched their Disability Confident programme at our Auckland offices in November last year.

PwC is an investment partner for Global Women and I am the deputy chair. At Global Women, we’ve been running a leadership development programme for six years. Late last year, Bill English presented the certificates to the graduating class in his first engagement as prime minister.

How do you think businesses can position themselves for long-term sustainability? 

Businesses today are faced with an ever-changing environment driven by disruptive technology, shifting values, increasing stakeholder influence, changing demographics, climate change, and depletion of resources.

Consumers are becoming more aware of corporate activity and they’re making conscious choices based on what they value – and it’s not just a question of cost.

Traditional methods for competitive advantage no longer apply, and businesses need to look beyond increased output and short-term financial returns towards real, inclusive, responsible, and lasting ‘good growth’.

People are now looking for products and services that will have long-term meaning. They want to see the value their contribution will bring to society, and to support businesses that are giving back to their communities.

What initiatives is PwC currently involved in to improve the way New Zealanders manage their finances?

PwC has more than 1,000 staff who are motivated to help make a positive difference to New Zealand – and one specific area we’re focused on is financial literacy.

We’ve developed an exciting new corporate responsibility initiative: our financial literacy programme (FLiP) that we offer in low-decile schools across New Zealand. The FLiP programme covers the basics of financial literacy over four hour-long modules, and is targeted at students in years five and six. 

The programme provides students with the confidence to assess financial risks and opportunities in order to make informed choices, to know where to go for help, and to take other effective actions to improve financial wellbeing.

Since launching the programme last year, we have successfully delivered FLiP across 80 classrooms in 28 schools. More than 150 staff members have taken part – that’s around 2,000 hours of coaching time being poured into our low-decile communities.

Do you have any advice for those aspiring to leadership roles?

There isn’t a magic formula for success. It comes with hard work and an absolute commitment to what you’re doing. I also believe that lasting and sustainable success in any role will only come if you find true meaning and purpose in what you do every day.

It’s really important that you know yourself, know your values, know what’s important to you, and know what you will and will not compromise on. You can either take energy and passion from your work, or it can consume you.

I’m really excited as I see a greater acceptance of the fact that to be successful you have to be authentic and true to yourself. For some companies in the past, there was always pressure to act in a certain way, but these days there’s a growing emphasis on living your values, and this makes for happier and more productive teams.