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New NZX Chair Not A Stock Broker

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

by Pam Graham of NZPA

Wellington, Sept 5 NZPA - Andrew Harmos became sure about the importance of New Zealand having its own stock exchange while advising the Australian stock exchange on a takeover of its New Zealand rival.

It didn't go ahead and now Mr Harmos, a lawyer who specialises in merger and acquisition work, is chairman of share market operator NZX.

The old New Zealand Stock Exchange demutualised, listed on the market it ran, expanded into new areas of business and is now trying to expand in Australia.

The irony of a lawyer who worked on deals that took companies like Carter Holt Harvey and 42 Below from the NZX heading NZX is not lost on Mr Harmos.

But he says he likes nothing better than working for a New Zealand client and lawyers apply rules not originate deals.

"There is nothing more pleasurable than acting for a New Zealand company and now that KiwiSaver is here and we have the NZ Superfund we could see more."

Harmos Horton Lusk worked for Graeme Hart, New Zealand's richest man, when his private company Rank Group took over Carter Holt. Mr Hart has used Carter Holt as a base for a global expansion in beverage packaging.

Mr Harmos compares himself to Wellington merchant banker Lloyd Morrison who has been committed to progressing New Zealand, though he says "I'm not as well dressed".

Mr Harmos is not from the blue blooded clubby traditional world of stock broking or the ranks of the far right idealogues.

"I don't have any particular ideology. I'm sort of desperately New Zealand Inc." He attended Mt Albert Grammar in Auckland after his parents arrived in New Zealand penniless from Hungary in 1958. The family had a trucking business that was confiscated by the communists.

A career with Auckland law firm Russell McVeagh followed university and upon returning from spending 1999 in New York on sabbatical he was part of a team at the firm working with ASX.

Had that merger gone ahead New Zealand companies would have traded in Australian dollars on an exchange run in Australia to Australian time zones.

Many years later Mr Harmos makes no apology for the NZX seeing its role as broader than just matching orders.

NZX boss Mark Weldon is expected by his board to promote a national conversation on a range of issues.

And NZX expects to have good relationships with a range of stake holders in the New Zealand economy and be available to work with them at times of crisis as well as when the travelling is easier.

Mr Harmos sees where NZX has to go and where the country has to go as similar.

"We need to be relevant as an exchange and a nation and we have to be competitive. Those are both more in the nature of the direction of travel than an end point.

"To be competitive we have to be able to offer a compelling proposition for a bunch of things."

So Mr Harmos sets issues like policy harmonisation and mutual recognition of tax credit in a context of wider goals.

The goals being growth and creating a place people or investors want to be.

He rejects "the branch office economy stuff" he saw in the ASX's ambitions.

Mr Harmos said there will always be mergers and acquisitions as a healthy market does involve the buying and selling of assets.

He sees no value in policy that stops it.

The NZX chairmanship is his first such job but he has been on a number of boards, including the NZX's for six years.

"I actually think there are advantages in not being a stock broker," he said.

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