Where has New Zealand’s post-baby boomer generation disappeared to? This age group, which includes anyone born after 1964, is almost non-existent as far as the listing of new NZX companies, senior executive positions and directorships are concerned.

The post-baby boomer generation should be asserting control over the country’s business community but there is little sign of this. The dearth of new NZX listings is a clear indication that New Zealanders in their mid-40s and below are risk averse and reluctant to subject themselves to public scrutiny.

This is not a positive development as far as the future direction of the New Zealand economy is concerned.

In simple terms, the three dominant business generations since World War II have been:

1)    The World War II generation, which ruled the roost from 1945 until the early 1980s.

2)    Baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, and have been in the ascendancy over the past 30 years.

3)    The post-baby boomer generation that should now be beginning to make its mark.

The latter group should be the big risk takers and the ones establishing the new enterprises that will create the country’s future economic wealth. However, if the domestic sharemarket is anything to go by, the post-baby boom generation in New Zealand has gone AWOL as there have been only 16 new listings on the NZX over the past five years compared with 760 on the Australian Stock Exchange over the same period.

Why are our under-45s so conservative, particularly compared with Australia, and what can be done to encourage them to be more entrepreneurial and ambitious?

The accompanying table, which divides the domestic sharemarket into five-year blocks from 1976 to 2000, shows the influence of the different generations.

The 1976 to 1980 period was particularly dull as far as the NZX was concerned, because the World War II generation, which was still in control of the country’s business sector, was risk averse. Many companies run by this generation were asset rich, run poorly and going nowhere.

This was the perfect environment for the young Ron Brierley who, like most ambitious businessmen, was determined to list on the sharemarket from an early age.

After numerous rejections, R. A. Brierley Investments was finally accepted for NZX listing in March 1970, when Brierley was only 33.

The five years ended December 1980 was a particularly quiet period as far as listings were concerned, with only 18 new companies joining the stock exchange. The only ones of substance were Fisher and Paykel Industries in 1979 and ANZ Banking Group (NZ) in 1980.

But the winds of change blew strongly through the stock exchange in the early 1980s with the arrival of the baby-boomer generation.

One of the first off the block was Chase Corporation, which backdoor listed through Fountain Corporation in 1983 when Colin Reynolds was 38 and Peter Francis 37.

In 1984 there were 31 new listings including Equiticorp, when Allan Hawkins was 42, and Rainbow Corporation, when Craig Heatley was just 27.

In the following three years there were 146 new NZX listings as the baby boomers swept the previous generation aside and took control of the country’s business sector.

Most of the major listed companies were under the control of New Zealand-born executives in their 30s or early 40s. These included the largest three listed companies at the end of 1986, which were Brierley Investments, with Paul Collins at the helm, Fletcher Challenge, with Hugh Fletcher as managing director, and Chase Corporation, with Reynolds and Francis still in charge.

By contrast, three of our largest companies – Fonterra, Fletcher Building and Telecom – now have overseas-born chief executives and the average age of the country’s senior executives is notably higher than it was 25 years ago.

New listings are a vital ingredient for a vibrant sharemarket and the NZX exploded in the mid-1980s as the baby-boomer generation attracted huge interest – and capital – to the domestic sharemarket.

Unfortunately, New Zealand has always been capital starved and, as a result, we have limited experience of managing capital. This lack of experience was evident in the 1980s, as it has been during the recent finance company debacle, and most of the newly contributed capital disappeared when the market crashed in October 1987.

The crash knocked the confidence out of baby boomers and there have been a limited number of large floats in the past 20 years, with the exception of former politically controlled assets. These include Telecom, Air New Zealand, Tranz Rail, Auckland International Airport, Tower, the port companies, Contact Energy and other electricity utilities.

There has only been a limited number of private enterprise floats, with The Warehouse a notable exception in 1994. The discount retailer had a young board of directors comprising five executives and three non-executives. Four of the five executive directors have left the company and sold their shares while Stephen Tindall, the major shareholder, no longer has an executive position. The only other remaining director from the 1994 IPO is chairman Keith Smith, who has been a director since 1988. Unfortunately too many entrepreneurs, as demonstrated by The Warehouse, look at NZX listing as an exit strategy rather than a vehicle to grow their company.

The last few years have been the worst as far as new listings have been concerned, with only seven in the three years ended December – two each last year and in 2009 and three in 2008. This compares with 239 new listings on the ASX over the same three-year period, mostly by the post-baby boom generation.

As a result interest in the domestic sharemarket has been low and this is reflected in the poor performance of the sharemarket, with the NZX-50 Capital Index falling 24.4 per cent in the five years ended December.

By comparison the ASX All Ordinaries Index, which is also a capital index excluding dividends, appreciated by 2.9 per cent over the same five-year period.

The dearth of new listings has been caused by a number of factors, including:

The post-baby boomer generation in New Zealand is exceptionally cautious and averse to public scrutiny. They may be influenced by their parents’ negative experience in the 1980s.

Property has become the preferred investment for the younger generation because of its tax advantages and the banks’ willingness to lend against this asset class.

The stockbroking industry is more interested in expanding into funds management than helping young New Zealand companies to list.

NZX CEO Mark Weldon has expanded his company into funds management, share registry activities, publishing and a number of other activities instead of putting more emphasis on the group’s core sharemarket activities.

No matter what way we look at it, New Zealand has a crisis as far as the creation of high-growth private sector companies is concerned. The often-promoted solution is that the Government lists its remaining commercial assets on the NZX. However this is not a long-term solution as it doesn’t help create new companies – it just shifts ownership from the Crown to private shareholders.

The only solution to our company-development problem is for the post-baby boomer generation to take advantage of the huge benefits of a stock-exchange listing.

All it will take is for a few companies to list and be successful, and we are likely to have a repeat of the mid-1980s when Reynolds, Francis, Hawkins and Heatley listed successfully and a huge number of other baby boomers quickly followed.

Hopefully the post-baby boom generation will have far better business models when they list than their predecessors had in the 1980s.

NZX- Investor interest wanes as new listings dry up

Five years ended

New NZX Listings

NZX Capital Index*


31st December 2010




31st December 2005




31st December 2000




31st December 1995




31st December 1990




31st December 1985




31st December 1980




*At period end