Westpac Kaikoura manager Mel Austin says she is incredibly proud to have put Kaikoura on the map by being named a Woman of Influence in the Westpac Group's regional customer category.
From the 200 nominations submitted from the 35,800 Westpac Group employees from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, London, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and India, Mel was named one of 10 winners.
She was the only staff member from New Zealand to have been awarded the accolade.
Just 13 per cent of those nominated came from Westpac New Zealand.
"I am very, very proud," she says. "Especially to have put Kaikoura on the map.
"It just goes to show you don't have to be from somewhere like Sydney to win.
And it was all about girl power too."
Since taking over the role of manager at the Kaikoura branch in January 2011, Mel has been actively getting involved with initiatives which embrace the local community.
She received the award in Sydney for her inspiring leadership and mentoring, as well as implementing a number of new initiatives to support her people, build engagement and a stronger sense of one team.
"I have put my heart and soul into this new position since I took over last year, so to be recognised in this way definitely makes it all worth it," Mel says.
"I have some great leaders to learn from and try to bring the same sort of positive leadership to our branch in Kaikoura."
Some of Mel's community initiatives include hosting a first-home buyer evening, promoting the Sir Peter Blake Red Socks Day, presenting to local schools about the work of the Westpac Helicopter, with Hapuku School winning a chopper fly-in, extended opening hours on designated nights.
She also drove the national Gen W campaign, a scholarship initiative for babies born in the bank's 150th year. Mel took a photo of every baby brought into the branch and put their photo on the branch Gen W wall. Her enthusiasm for the contest saw two local winners as a result.
Mel is described as a fantastic role model and an example to those around her of what can be achieved through aiming high and going after every opportunity.
"I think being self-motivated is important in any role as is having a positive attitude, especially in a leadership role," she says.
"You have to support your staff and reward them for their effort. You must never forget every staff member is special and important to our success as a branch as a whole."
The Women of Influence Awards aim to shine a light on the many talented and influential women working in Westpac who consistently go the extra mile to deliver superior outcomes for its key stakeholders.
The awards cover five categories - customer, diversity and inclusion, young leader, innovation and Our Business.
Westpac New Zealand now has about 42 per cent women in leadership roles and Mel was lucky enough to meet some of these people in Australia, including Westpac's first female chief executive officer, Gail Kelly, who Mel describes as an extraordinary and inspiring woman.
Mel says she will continue to fly the flag proudly for her customers as well as the wider Kaikoura community, so watch out for more initiatives in the coming year.
"By driving these things you are helping the community, so why wouldn't you?" she says.
- Kaikoura Star
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