Welcome to My Net Worth, our regular column on the lives and motivations of our country’s top business, legal and political people, in their own words.
Cam Wallace was born into a business-minded family. His father ran a retail company (and continues to hold directorships), inspiring the younger Wallace to get into management from an early age. Before taking up the MediaWorks top job a couple of months ago, Wallace spent 19 years at Air New Zealand, holding roles including chief revenue officer. His executive education includes business management programmes at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, and the London Business School.
I was brought up in Tawa, which is about 15km north of Wellington. When I was growing up, the suburb was probably best known for the comedy character Lynn of Tawa, a minor celebrity on the television in those days.
I had a strong, solid upbringing – a classic Kiwi upbringing, really. We spent a lot of time outside playing sports. I developed a really close-knit group of friends at Tawa College, and pre-covid, we’d still get together every couple of years somewhere in the world to spend a week together.
I grew up close to school, and I’m the youngest of three. I have an older sister, who has been bossing me around for decades, and an older brother. My parents are still around and very mobile, fit and healthy, and we’re a very tight family unit.
I went from watching and listening to sport to focusing on business pretty early. My father has had a successful business career, and I was always interested in and intrigued by that. He had a number of management roles; he was the CEO of a retail business, and did directorships, and still does.
I'm a curious kind of personality. I quickly became interested in business, leadership and how you create a competitive advantage. Probably earlier than most people, I was focused on getting into some form of business. I didn’t have a view on whether it was going to be banking, or travel, or media; that just evolved through circumstances. I was never one of those people to have a 50-page career plan.
My friends would probably describe me as energetic. I’m quite passionate about the things I’m involved in. I guess I’m a media and political junkie.
An Australian, Paul Donovan, who recruited me to Air New Zealand, is probably the biggest influence on my career. He rang me at 1am to offer me a job when I was at Qantas. When my phone rang in the middle of the night, I thought there had been some sort of tragedy. I asked him what my role would be, and he said not to worry. Paul was a big confidence player. He taught me about being passionate for people and to always have energy and confidence. You couldn’t pull him down — he was one of those Australians.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some great business leaders. Rob Fyfe [a former Air New Zealand CEO] was a strategic genius. He would look at problems through a different lens. I was always strategically challenged about the opportunities in the business. Christopher [Luxon, another former Air New Zealand CEO, now MP for Botany] was an execution powerhouse. He was focused on outcomes and delivery, and our skills were complementary.
Not being able to travel because of covid has affected me a lot. In previous roles, I’d be travelling every second week, going away on a Monday and coming back on Saturday morning. I miss catching up with mates in Chicago, Shanghai, Singapore. The change of roles also means less travel. But on the flip side, I won’t have to rely on sleeping pills any more and won’t have constant jet lag. It’s much better for my health, to be fair.
I spend most of my weekends watching my boys play cricket at the Kristin School grounds in Albany. They are pretty full days, and 45-over matches, so there’s not much left in the day after that. I can be found on the sidelines lamenting their shot selection. I’m a pretty poor spectator.
I like to exercise if my dodgy knees allow it. I also spend an inordinate amount of time watching old Australian and New Zealand election coverage on YouTube, and like most people, got through lockdown by watching Netflix.
The last book I read was The Ride of a Lifetime by former Disney CEO Bob Iger. I have the biographies of Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers of the past 20 years on my bookshelf.
The most valuable thing I own, as an Aucklander, is my house. I don’t have a boat, but the last thing I really splurged on was a jet ski. I bought that about 18 months ago, and that has been a constant source of amusement for friends and colleagues. I’ve been out on it about 12 times, and there have been numerous disasters, like sucking sand into the engine, flipping it, or falling off. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
As told to Daniel Dunkley.
This interview has been edited for clarity.