Tauranga-headquartered Craigs Investment Partners has announced the appointment of a new chief executive officer, Simon Tong, to replace his outgoing predecessor Frank Aldridge.
Craigs’ chair Sir Ralph Norris made the official announcement recently and Tong is expected to take up his new role in August as head of one of the country’s largest investment companies.
Tong has been previously chief executive of Paymark and of Fairfax NZ Ltd, and is currently ASB Bank’s executive general manager digital, data and brand.
“It’s a sort of plum position in the finance industry in that Craigs is not a highly regulated bank. It is regulated, but not to the extent of a bank.” – Neil Craig
Norris noted Tong’s strong background in technology and strategy and said he was highly regarded as a leader who had driven change, performance, and customer centricity at the companies he has worked with.
As Craigs embarks upon the next phase of its growth, the board determined that Simon’s track record and leadership attributes were those characteristics that fit the company’s ambitious objectives.
Aldridge worked for the company for 24 years and became chief executive at the age of 31.
Surprise role for Craig
Craigs founder Neil Craig told Bay of Plenty Business News that Aldridge’s announced departure after some 16 years heading the company came as something of a surprise. But he noted Aldridge had worked especially hard dealing with the consequences of the pandemic for the firm.
“It was what Frank wanted to do,” said Craig. “It was what he wanted. He came back after Christmas and said he wanted to spend some time away. He’s done a great job for the firm and it was what he wanted.”
Craig noted the former executive was still close to the firm and remained a shareholder – as do some 260 shareholder members of the firm.
“Of course when you get that situation and it’s happened quicker than you thought it was going to, I had to step in as chief executive and fill in,” said Craig. “I can see now why Frank needed a break.”
Craig is practically the only person who knew all parts of the business inside and he told Bay of Plenty Business News it had been quite a pleasant experience running the business directly until Tong takes change.
“You see things in a different perspective than when you’re sitting on the board.”
Craig said the company had done a thorough internal and external search in filling the position.
“It’s a sort of plum position in the finance industry in that Craigs is not a highly regulated bank. It is regulated, but not to the extent of a bank. For people in the industry there’s not that many opportunities other than banks. We can operate differently from a listed corporate or a bank, with greater flexibility we’re a little bit more agile.”
Tong’s technical background is relevant, said Craig, adding that the reason he stood out from the field was that he had vast experience of genuine leadership roles in challenging businesses.
“He’s worked with and got along with very commercially adept people and he has a very strong technology bias. And technology is a piece we need to devote more resource to.”.
Craigs is one of New Zealand’s largest full-service investment firms, with approximately 600 employees, 173 investment advisers across 19 branches and c.$25billion* of client funds under management. (*as at 31 May 2021)