Ben Rose is the New Zealand and Pacific Islands country head of Binance, the world’s leading crypto exchange and blockchain ecosystem. It’s a post he calls a "career highlight" after sales and marketing roles in sectors such as tech, media and traditional finance before he jumped into the world of fintech. He has worked for brands such as Nissan, Unilever and Tourism NZ and helped grow brands like ASB, nib and Stuff.
I was born in the UK and made NZ my home 17 years ago. I’m proud to be a Kiwi. I live on Auckland’s North Shore with my wife, Tali, three daughters, and two dogs. It’s not a quiet household!
My parents divorced when I was young and my mum did it really tough. She did an incredible job of raising a large family while building an impressive career. She taught me the value of never ever giving up, and very much role-modelled the unconditional love of a parent.
My mum also taught me the importance of a sense of humour to get through hard times. She actually ended up being the most senior civilian police officer at New Scotland Yard and ran the volunteer policing for the Met Police during the London Olympics. I'm really proud of her.
At school, I was a chatterbox and a bit of a class clown early on. But as I got older, I settled down, found some subjects I loved, and had some amazing teachers.
I was always reasonably bright and ended up doing quite well academically. But it didn’t come naturally and I would forever get school reports that included the words, "if only he applied himself". Eventually, I got it, and learned the importance of hard work.
When I was very young, I wanted to be a policeman on a white horse. I later modernised that to a motorbike. I probably watched one too many episodes of The Bill.
As I grew up, I discovered a real passion for languages. I speak six – English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Russian and French. I considered working for the British Foreign Office, but discovered the world of business.
My love of languages led me to apply to Oxford University to study Spanish and Portuguese. I spoke Spanish, but not Portuguese then, and they agreed to let me in if I could go away and become fluent over the summer.
I ended up moving to Portugal, living with a local family and working in the Porto meat market for full immersion. I learned to speak Portuguese all right, but let's just say my tutors had to correct some of the less-polite words I would use.
At the end of four incredibly hard-working and enjoyable years, I came out with a master's degree.
As part of my university degree, I lived in Spain for a year. I went to stay with a friend who was also there, living in Logroño in La Rioja. One night, we sat down at 4.30am – just before the running of the bulls in the town. I remember being jealous of him as he’d been born with the goal of going into the army and he knew what he was going to do, but I didn't have a clue. He told me that I could “sell Christmas to a turkey” so why didn’t I try to get into advertising or something similar. So that's where I started.
Getting into advertising at that time was exceptionally difficult if you didn't have a personal connection in an agency – which I didn't have – or some experience in an agency – which I didn't have either. So, I went to the yellow pages, got the details of 250 ad agencies in London, then wrote to them all asking if I could come and do two weeks of unpaid work. Just two agreed, and that got me started. It meant that when it came to applying for my first role, I had that little something on my CV that others didn't.
As I got more senior and experienced different organisations and categories, I realised that while marketing is important, it's just part of the puzzle.
I found my real passion in sales and realised that I loved the satisfaction of growing businesses. Since then, I have moved from agencies into corporates where I've developed a career across marketing, sales and general leadership.
Of all the sectors I've worked in, finance has been the most exciting and the most challenging to differentiate and drive growth in. Initially, I was involved in traditional or legacy finance such as banking, life insurance and health insurance, but more recently it's been digital assets, cryptocurrency.
I’m an extrovert. I love engaging with people and have been blessed with what we Jews call in Yiddish "chutzpah". It’s the ability to ask the questions others might not and to know the worst that can happen is the answer no.
I get energised by taking on challenges – turning things around, and building new things. This could be because I have a low boredom threshold.
What I’m most proud of in my life so far is the family my wife, Tali, and I have built together. Both sets of grandparents are overseas and we're both immigrants, so it was team Ben and Tali from the beginning. We have three happy, bright and thoughtful girls who are all blossoming into lovely people in a country we love.
My biggest business success has also been my biggest business failure. In Jan 2020, after spending years of working in entrepreneurial roles for others, I decided to start my own business, a sales and marketing consultancy called The Growery.
My wife and I put our heart and soul into it and even put our house on the line to fund it. It was real money-where-your-mouth-is stuff and we were all in. We started to build a name for ourselves and even started considering expansion to Australia. Unfortunately, covid-19 and successive lockdowns meant that all our clients stopped spending.
We were too young a business to have enough funds to keep going and we ended up selling assets such as our family boat and car to keep paying the team’s wages and to keep it going while we waited for things to improve. In the end, they didn't, and we had to make the hard call to close down. I'm proud to say that we paid all our debts, but we had to sell our house to make that happen.
It was a tough time for both my wife and me, and I learned a lot of lessons. I look at that experience as my greatest success that became my greatest failure and certainly a life-defining business moment.
What did I learn from it? Timing is everything, you and your role are not the same things – although at times it can feel like it – and keep your overheads low.
My best piece of business advice is the quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “You don't get if you don't ask.” The worst they can say is no.
I've always enjoyed high-pressure situations, so for me, there's often a fine line between energised and stressed. When things feel too much, a digital detox, a good whisky and some time at the beach usually do the trick.
When I have a strong sense of purpose at work – I feel like I'm making a difference in achieving something important – and I can balance that with meaningful sharing of experiences with those I love, I have well-being.
My ambitions at this stage of my life? I want to grow happy, successful kids. And I want to give back to this country that has given me so much. I try to do this through my role at Binance, as well as by serving on the board at the incredible Ronald McDonald House Charities New Zealand.
When it comes to buying things for myself, I've always been a sucker for trainers. I don't have rooms full of boxed shoes – I always buy them to wear – but they've always been a thing of mine. I remember the cake for my bar mitzvah was in the shape of a Nike Cortez.
Although not without its challenges, NZ is a place full of possibilities and opportunities. Couple that with a small population and you get a place where you can move from idea to execution quicker than anywhere I've experienced. I see NZ as a place where the question isn't "If?" but "How?".
As told to Ella Somers.
This interview has been edited for clarity.