Culture needed to perform their best is clear to Kiwibank employees.

Creating a place to belong is one of the pillars of culture which earned Kiwibank the Wayfinder Large Business Award which is for organisations with over 500 employees.

The Southern Cross Health Insurance Wayfinder Awards recognise and celebrate New Zealand businesses and business leaders championing wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. The winners were named at a function in Auckland in November.

Like many parents, Kiwibank’s Chief People Officer Charlotte Ward knows how busy life can be.  

When she rings for this interview, she has just dropped off her three children at school, spent extra time setting up her daughter for an athletics day and answers our questions while walking to her office.   

“I love my work and I love my family. Like everybody else, I am just trying to make it all work,” she says. 

Since joining Kiwibank in September 2020 she has helped create a better working environment in her role leading work to reshape the bank’s culture. 

It followed a 2021 move by Kiwibank when it asked employees what they needed to be successful and to deliver on the bank’s strategy. As a result, the bank, in conjunction with their people, created Ngā Kauwaka (our culture) which included Ka tīmata i a tātou (a place to belong), Me Māia (rise to

the challenge), Tapatahi (better together) and Ngā Kiritaki (customer at the heart).

“When people are away from family and friends, it’s their employer’s responsibility to create the most positive and healthy environment they can,” Ward says. And, like the rest of the employees, she has benefitted from the changes.

She is able to work flexibly, while her favourite part of the culture is the quarterly wellbeing day all employees can take in addition to annual leave. This can be used for anything – no questions asked.

“It’s a day just for myself, otherwise it’s all family or work stuff,” she says. “I go for a walk and do whatever gives me energy.”

As well the company introduced supported leave (this replaces normal sick leave and can be used for time off around things such as long-term sickness, menstruation or menopause, gender transitioning, caring for dependents, the death of a pet or extended bereavement leave) and a paid volunteer day every year.

Moira Howson, Registered Psychologist, says: 

“Supported leave is an example of diversity and inclusion in action.  It is a holistic and modern approach to employees’ lives, acknowledging gender specific needs, our role as carers for elderly parents and relations as well as children, and our individual needs and responses to grief.”


  • Clear communication and education around supported leave and its basis on need.  There may be people who see the supported leave agreements as “unfair”, for example, if you have a pet, are female or trans and you are “allowed” extra days.
  • Also communicate the range of wellbeing day activities. This is so people have an understanding that they are based on individual needs and preferences.

“We can't just ignore the fact that life happens around work,” Ward says. “If you have a long-term illness, 10 days of sick leave is not enough. If you are bereaved, you want to know that your employer is going to support you through that. “

Kiwibank provides staff with fully subsidised health insurance*, annual flu vaccinations, serious illness and trauma cover and life insurance and is more transparent around remuneration through progress on pay equity and pay parity (the bank regularly conducts reviews on pay levels and pay parity).    

Kiwibank has introduced menstruation and menopause guidelines to raise awareness and end stigma around the issues, including providing complimentary sanitary products in the company’s gender-neutral bathrooms.  

The B Corp certified company is Rainbow Tick and Gender Tick accredited and a Living Wage employer. It is putting more resources into partnerships and internal networks such as Pride, the Kiwibank Women’s network and a new neurodiversity network which offers support groups for employees dealing with issues like autism and ADHD.   

To support a more balanced work culture, all the company’s meeting times now default to 25 minutes or 50 minutes rather than the traditional 30 and 60.  

Kiwibank has also introduced development initiatives such as a leadership programme for all, an online te reo Māori and Tikanga course, and paid study leave.  

The changes have paid off.  Staff turnover dropped significantly from November 2022 to July 2023 while in April 2023, Kiwibank’s organisational culture score increased placing the company in the top 25 per cent of organisations globally that its survey partner GLINT works with, Ward says.    

Director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience Dr Denise Quinlan, an award judge, said she was impressed with Kiwibank’s purpose.  

“Some organisations are providing initiatives around mental and emotional wellbeing that are Band-Aids. What Kiwibank is doing is trying to reduce the need for the Band-Aid.” 

*Kiwibank subsidises the Southern Cross Health Insurance Wellbeing One plan for its employees.