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Kiwibank te reo puzzle

Running their business on traditionally Western principles like most banks Kiwibank wants to work in a way that speaks more holistically to all Kiwi, and respects the cultural foundations of Aotearoa – te ao Māori.


Kiwibank works with around one million New Zealanders, with support from more than 2,000 kaimahi (staff) in branches, contact centres and corporate offices.

In early 2020, Teaho Pihama was appointed Kiwibank’s Head of Māori Advisory, tasked with advancing investment in Māori outcomes and understanding at Kiwibank. That July, with a team of supporters, the Kiwibank Rautaki Māori was presented to the Executive team, Board Chair and members of Te Pūtea Matua, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

“Kiwibank and Māori have a natural alignment in our values and purpose. As an organisation operating in Aotearoa, we have an obligation to support Māori aspirations,” says Teaho.

Head of People Experience Jess Segal says the Kiwibank rautaki works towards increasing the knowledge, capability and comfort of all kaimahi to engage with te ao Māori. 

“We’re supporting all our kaimahi to understand how their decisions impact Māori and giving them the confidence to weave te ao Māori into the way they work with each other and our kiritaki (customers),” she says.

The rautaki is driving a wide range of activity, actions and initiatives. These include a te reo Māori and te ao Māori development and leadership framework involving the Executive leadership team and around 60 kaimahi from around the business, an app to support all kaimahi to learn te reo Māori me ōna Tikanga (custom), the establishment of Kiwibank Māori culture networks across the country, and the incorporation of te reo Māori into the Kiwibank purpose and values. 

“Establishing Te Uepu Māori o Kiwibank, a group of Māori and advocates, has been a huge support for our rautaki. While making everyday use of te reo Māori the norm in our business is one of the goals for this group, one of their biggest achievements has been composing and embedding our Kiwibank waiata, Pūrangiaho,” says Jess.

Kiwibank at Marae

The expectations of the rautaki were communicated to all kaimahi, and off the back of this a group called Te Rito was created on Workplace, the bank’s digital social platform, as a place to share content developed by Kiwibank’s communications team and for everyone to engage and share their experiences. 

A highly engaged executive team attended an offsite wānanga at Ōrākei Marae in January to immerse themselves in kaupapa Māori. After this their 12-month te reo Māori and te ao Māori programme began to continue their learning and increase their confidence so they can lead by example and effectively support the delivery of the rautaki.

As part of delivering the rautaki, the wording of Kiwibank’s purpose was challenged.

Since 2002 their purpose had been “Kiwis making Kiwis better off.”

“We realised that using the letter ‘s’ in te reo Māori is both incorrect and disrespectful. Our purpose is now ‘Kiwi making Kiwi better off’. Kaimahi have adopted this change confidently and proudly, which we take as a signal of how well we’re integrating te ao Māori into our everyday at Kiwibank,” says Jess.

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