Naomi Ballantyne with her mother Evelyn
Naomi Ballantyne credits her Tongan mother as the driving force behind her path to remarkable success.
Naomi Ballantyne’s earliest memories of money were not having any.
Her life has since changed drastically and last August she sold her company Partners Life to Dai-ichi Life Holdings in a $1 billion deal.
She is lauded as not just the first woman in the Pacific – but the first woman in the world – to found her own life insurance company.
Raised in Glenfield on Auckland’s North Shore, her Canadian father’s alcohol dependency affected the family’s finances, but it was her mother’s devotion to God that helped inspire a responsibility within her to “do good” in the world.
“Growing up with the culture and values instilled in me by my Mum was a major advantage to me in my career,” she says.
At age 19, a fork in the road decision to leave her studies in marine biology to work a trainee role at an insurance firm were the first steps along Naomi’s path to success. She became a founding employee of Sovereign Insurance where she steadily rose through the ranks to Chief Operating Officer.
She later walked away from the leadership role and into unemployment in her 30s because she didn’t agree with the company’s sale to ASB. At yet another important crossroads, Naomi decided to found Partners Life underpinned by values her mother would have respected.
“My Mother was brought up in Tonga until she was 19 - when she moved to New Zealand to work and send money back to her mother and younger siblings,” she says.
“My Mother’s heritage and culture gave me an understanding of how a culture based on love, faith and responsibility can and should underpin both personal and business success.”
Her tough upbringing informed a fearless work ethic later in life but she says growing up it wasn’t always easy watching her mother face bigotry.
“The world can be unfair when people are not afforded love and respect for their individual self but are labeled and discriminated against for the category someone else has put them in.
“My mother suffered because she was Pacific, despite being the most amazing, multi-talented and multi-faceted woman.”
Reflecting on the past 12 years from starting Partners Life to creating a ‘unicorn’ she was able to sell for the historic $1 billion amount, Naomi still feels her mother on her shoulder.
“I am proud to be my mother’s daughter.”