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. 

British-born Rhiannon McKinnon arrived in New Zealand in 2007 after gaining an MA in history at Cambridge University followed by a career that included working in equity research for Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Cazenove in London. A Chartered Financial Analyst, she has since worked in corporate finance, investor relations, treasury, mergers and acquisitions and strategy for corporates such as Kiwibank, NZ Post, and Murray & Company. At Kiwi Wealth, she was first executive adviser to the chief executive, then general manager of strategy and partnerships, before being promoted to the CEO role to oversee $9 billion in managed funds for 220,000 investors. She has served on the boards of the CFA Society of New Zealand and various not-for-profits and government entities, including the Film Commission. She met her husband, sixth-generation New Zealander Alexander “Sasha” McKinnon, while they were both studying at Cambridge. Being half-Chinese herself, she was fascinated that he could speak Mandarin. (His father, John, was twice NZ ambassador to Beijing.) The couple are now passing on the language to their young children Madeleine, Betsy and Percy, with the help of their Wellington-based paternal grandfather and, over Zoom, their Hong-Kong-based maternal grandmother, Yuen Chiu. 

I was born and brought up in a town called Watford, which is outside London. I’ve got two older brothers, James and Andrew, and they had a big influence on me during my childhood, particularly Andrew – I pretty much hero-worshipped him.

His belief in me is important. Often in my career, if I'm feeling a bit uncertain, I can hear my brother saying: “Rhiannon, you’re the real deal, hold your ground.” That's something I keep in my mind when I'm in difficult negotiations. 

I was a pretty middle-of-the-road child. I did well academically and I'm definitely not shy, but I don't think I was the most gregarious person, either, going through school.  I had enough friends to feel stable and secure, but I wasn't one of those cool kids. 

We've got quite a libertarian family. My parents [Dr Brian Evans and Yuen Chiu] taught me never to judge what other people are doing or tell them what to do. Everyone should make their own decisions according to their own choices. It’s a sort of lack of righteousness that I have held close to throughout my life. 

I'm a strong believer in work-life balance. I don’t think you should take any more than 40 working hours a week out of anyone. Investing in your people, their development and their wellbeing is the answer to getting teams to work well together.

I'm proud of where I've got to in my career. I would never have thought I would have become a CEO at this age with all the children that trail behind me. So I think it's a big achievement. But, actually, I’m much prouder of my home life. I like to think I'm a good friend, hopefully a decent person and someone who's fun to be around.

Rhiannon McKinnon with brothers James (left) and Andrew in 1986.


There have been a couple of jobs that have not worked out at all. And I've ended up pretty stressed and miserable, where I wondered what on earth I was doing there. 

I don't think you should ever give yourself too much of a hard time. A lot of failures are because you're taking risks and you should congratulate yourself for doing that in the first place. 

I try to look at the factors that didn't lead to success. And as long as you've learned from it, as long as it’s not life or death, and most things aren't, you should be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. 

Family and friends are the most important thing. There was a maxim at [stockbroker and investment bank] Cazenove in London, where I once worked, “that we work to live, rather than live to work”. I think people need to keep enough time for themselves otherwise it’s quite detrimental to their mental health. 

Between my husband and me, we drop the kids to school every day. I also try to block out time in my diary to do children-related things during the day, swimming after school, or going to the park. 

If I’m feeling stressed, I try to get out into nature and go for a walk, either by the harbour here in Wellington or in the bush.

On the weekend, we cruise around with the kids. We like going to the cafe at the Rose Gardens and the Wellington Botanical Gardens.

I used to have an insane shoe collection, but motherhood has taken me away from some of my heels. I did recently buy a See by Chloé handbag in a Kiwi Wealth green to remind me of getting this role though.

As told to Jacqui Loates-Haver.
This interview has been edited for clarity.