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.
Scott Pritchard is no stranger to being in the public eye, having been CEO since 2010 of Precinct Properties, the country’s largest inner-city developer, which has a portfolio of $3.3 billion. A year ago, he helped prime minister Jacinda Ardern to cut the ribbon on Auckland’s new central business district epicentre, the $1 billion Commercial Bay development. Pritchard’s first move into property came in 2000 when he was appointed property development manager at Auckland International Airport. He later served as fund manager at global property group Goodman for five years. He is chairman of the Property Council of New Zealand.
I grew up on the Hibiscus Coast. My dad was a builder and my mum worked in a supermarket. So I consider I had a humble but very fortunate upbringing. I went to the University of Auckland, worked in Auckland all my life, and I’d like to help make Auckland one of the best waterfront cities in the world.
I trained as a teacher initially and then worked as a fireman at Auckland Airport. I went to Massey University and did a master’s degree in management, and it was the airport that initially offered me a role in property.
For me, it’s about work and life balance, surfing, swimming and maintaining an active lifestyle, which has positives for both your physical and mental health. I’ve been doing this job for the best part of a decade, so I think the key to success is to create enough time and make sure you have a balance and a clearer mind, which in turn helps you make good decisions.
I buy new surfboards regularly, which probably doesn’t really help with my surfing but I do like to buy them, which kind of keeps me thinking young. Most of my surfing time is spent on the west coast of Auckland or when we’re on holiday in the Coromandel.
Locally, we’re big fans of Whangamatā on the Coromandel, which is stunning. Internationally, we’ve spent a lot of time in Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands. There are still tribes there and you can go around those islands surfing for a couple of weeks. I’ve done that a number of times.
I’m a big fan of the eateries at Commercial Bay, but I guess if I had to narrow it down, I’d have to opt for Ghost Donkey – good Mexican food and the best cocktails in Auckland.
We’re looking to launch a pretty cool hospitality precinct in Wellington but haven’t started building that yet.
My biggest business break came when I took on the role at Precinct. Given the support of the board and shifting our focus on development, that’s just been a huge highlight for me. But, behind the scenes, my wife has been my guiding light and undeniably has had the biggest influence.
I don’t give out too much business advice, but New Zealand is a small place and the ability to interact with people across the spectrum is important, regardless of if it’s the chair of a large multinational or someone who is cleaning the site for us. So it’s important to me to treat each of those people the same, and with the same amount of respect and courtesy, though that shouldn’t stop you from being highly ambitious in what you want to achieve.
My hardest business lesson was the global financial crisis. In that period there was a lot of exuberance in the market, and while that was 14 years ago, it did give us more awareness of risk, so we’re adopting a more prudent and considered approach.
A big part of that is where and how you source your funding. In our case we source debt from three different sources and have a very managed maturity profile so we don’t have large amounts of debt maturing at any given time.
It sounds a cliche, but covid has reinforced the adage of taking nothing for granted. By the same token, you also can’t have a plan for everything, so from a professional perspective, all you can really do is ensure you have a good strategy in place and try to plan around that.
If you ask anyone in my office, I claim to be the chief technology officer, but the opposite is in fact true. I’m fairly tech-illiterate; I operate on an iPad and can be quite content. I probably use Spotify the most. Getting in my car, I turn the music on and try to shift from work mode to home mode.
As told to Brent Melville.
This interview has been edited for clarity.