Liz Coutts has been on the board of key New Zealand organisations across a diverse range of sectors for over two decades. Her ability to work within complex and challenging environments and her attention to detail has made her an outstanding asset, particularly as chair of the board and chair of risk and audit committees. In June 2016 her contribution was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours where she was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to governance.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in Matamata, Liz is equally at home in her gumboots. While studying for her Bachelor of Management Studies degree in Business Finance and Marketing at the University of Waikato, a holiday job introduced her to forestry which led to a graduate accountant role at Tasman Pulp and Paper in Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty. Liz went on to be Chief Executive of the Caxton Group, a vertically integrated forestry, pulp and paper and consumer products business, at just 31 years old.
Just three years later she was appointed to her first board, Trust Bank New Zealand. Liz’s governance career grew from there with a number of government roles including Commissioner with the Commerce Commission and Earthquake Commission, chair of Industrial Research and deputy chair of Public Trust. In 2015, she became chair of Oceania Healthcare and chair of Ports of Auckland, and chair of Skellerup in 2017. A full list of her current portfolio is available at here.
Liz is President of the Institute of Directors, a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
- Guest speaking
- Panel discussions
- Media commentator on governance
Here’s your chance to learn more about one of New Zealand’s leading professional directors:
What essential skills led to your success of being appointment Chief Executive of the Caxton Group at the age of 31?
My industry knowledge, management accounting experience, and management and marketing qualification.
You grew up on a dairy farm in Matamata, how did your upbringing prepare you for life in the boardroom?
It gave me a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.
What did it mean to you being appointed the first woman president of the National Council of the Institute of Directors?
It is an honour and privilege to be the President of a professional body of my profession. With a membership of over 8,000, I have a strong sense of responsibility to inspire governors to gain world class knowledge so they can add value to the organisations they lead.
What has been the biggest career (or life) lesson you have learnt so far?
Keep up to date, listen carefully and network.
How did it feel when you were recognised in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours and appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to governance?
I felt honoured and privileged to be recognised for my governance work.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
There have been many.
My break came when the late John Spencer introduced to me to Sir Richard Carter, then Chairman of Carter Holt Harvey, when Caxton was sold to Carter Holt Harvey. He later supported my appointment as CEO of the Caxton Group. Sir Selwyn Cushing who succeeded Sir Richard as Chairman of Carter Holt Harvey was influential in my career path as a director.
What advice would you give to other women climbing the career ladder in their respective fields?
Keep learning throughout your career and begin your networking early.
If you weren’t a professional director and businesswoman what would you be doing and why?
How do you keep fit, healthy and balanced in your life?
I run regularly and practice integrated yoga and Pilates.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I don’t cook!