This is My Story

Perhaps you have to grow up without a lot of money in order to realise the true value of it. The eldest of four children, Sue Tierney started life in Christchurch in a family where every dollar was precious. Her parents split when she was young, and Sue helped her Greek-born mother make ends meet by wiping tables at the Christchurch airport café on weekends from the age of 11. Although her leadership potential was recognised early – she was head of her School Council at the South Island’s biggest intermediate school – Sue left full-time education with few qualifications. Landing a job as a bank teller, she swiftly made the move into commercial and rural lending. Sue found she loved working with customers and representing their business to the bank (and vice versa). “Sometimes the bank would require a cashflow projection and the farmer wouldn’t know how to put one together. I’d ask for their accounts, then help them work out the figures. It was all about communication and getting involved in people’s lives.” At the same time Sue was making her first tentative steps into property ownership. She had opened a home ownership account at the tender age of 15 and paid a portion of her cafeteria wages into it each week. “I was saving $10 a week, and that really taught me the discipline of focusing on a goal and saving for it.” At 19 she found a section she wanted to buy and approached her employer, Trust Bank Canterbury, for a loan to put a house on it. Her loan application was declined, which came as a shock. Although Sue eventually found finance from another source, she reckons the experience taught her how the loan process can be stressful when you least expect it. “It taught me to empathise with clients, and never underestimate what they’re going through.” Sue’s passion for home ownership was infectious. She persuaded her siblings to start saving for property and eventually found herself managing a portfolio of four properties when her sister moved overseas. “I’ve mowed lawns, hung wallpaper and painted houses. I’ve never objected to the hard work involved in property ownership – even though I might ask for more than the $10 a week my sister was paying me back then,” she laughs.