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  • Member Spotlights - June 18

Member Spotlights 

Rod Severn

Chief Executive Officer

Professional Advisers Association

AuSAE member since: May 2014

What we do 

The PAA launched in 1953 and over the past 60 years has played a key role in supporting the development of a dynamic financial services sector. With nearly 1200 members and over $2.5 million in assets, the Association provides a range of services and an expert-industry-voice for financial advisers working in the areas of investment, insurance and mortgages.

The PAA is active in lobbying Government in the interests of consumers and advisers and plays a strong role in media debate relating to the industry.

In 2012, the PAA amalgamated with the New Zealand Mortgage Brokers Association (NZMBA), furthering the already comprehensive level of support and expertise provided to members across the three areas of financial services.

Today the PAA provides a comprehensive range of structured education and training programmes across investment, mortgages and insurance, and all relevant regulatory standards and requirements.

The Association is governed by a board of seven members (five practitioners and two independents) who are tasked with delivering on four key areas:

1) Community Awareness and Advice – Providing fair and accessible advice from advisers for all New Zealanders.

2) Adviser Champion – Advocating the adviser role to government, industry and consumers.

3) Adviser Competence – Providing quality continuing professional education, training and mentoring.

4) Adviser Collegiality – Building professional relationships and benefits that matter.

Number of members
Nearly 1200.

Staff size
Four full-time staff (including me) and three contractors. 

Years in association management
Four and a half years

How I got into association management

My wife’s financial adviser was on the board of the PAA. He knew me and my strengths and as the PAA currently had no manager (it was being run by the board!!) he suggested I consider the role of CEO. I had just come out of a senior management role, so the timing was perfect.

Although I had had the previous 30 years in IT, and had no experience in the financial services sector, managing and leading organisations, be they big or small, is largely the same so I jumped at the opportunity. I can honestly say I have loved every minute of the challenge.

It was in my early stages of the job when I started looking for support for the not-for-profit sector. I found AuSAE, joined immediately and have been grateful ever since.

What I like about my job

The ability to make a difference. When I started in this role at the beginning of 2014, the PAA as asset rich, cash poor, conservative and stagnant. We are now both asset and cash rich, much more dynamic and making major changes in the industry.

We are now in the final stages of combining three independent associations into one, creating a new brand, with a new board to drive a much more meaningful membership-based organisation in to the future. More scale and relevance give us the ability to have a louder and stronger voice with industry and the regulators, better placed to educate and advise all new Zealanders to make them better off financially in the future and give our members a new and dynamic body to be a member of.

This role has allowed me to travel around New Zealand on a regular basis visiting our members from Invercargill to Whangarei, and that has been a treat for me. We also run a large annual conference which we start planning for almost as soon as the oId one finishes. I have also learnt a lot from our members about financial services and the massive benefit they offer their clients. Getting good advice is the start to a better financial future.

My biggest challenge
Three years ago, we started on this journey of creating a new and different association. We started with a simple question. “If you were to start a new association today, what would it look like”? We hired a marketing and research company and three years later Financial Advice New Zealand will be launched on July 1st. This has taken a huge amount of work, time, money and resource but we are ready to launch. The first 1800 advisers are ready to join. Creating a brand-new organisation is a challenge, especially when you still have a day job of running your existing business efficiently as well. But it has been done so I am very proud of the efforts of my staff, my board and the other two associations to get to this point.

What I am most proud of at our association
Apart from above, I am proud of the culture and working environment we have created at the PAA. It is fair to say it wasn’t a healthy workplace when I started, but paying attention to the individual, recognising effort with reward and empowering staff to do their jobs effectively has played an important part in having a great workplace environment to work in.

Favourite AuSAE event  
I have thoroughly enjoyed all the AuSAE events however I think the value I get from the CEO networking lunches is probably the best. You get to mingle with industry peers, discuss issues that impact small to medium organisations in the NFP sector and learn from past experiences.

What I want to learn from other AuSAE members 
As above. It is swapping experiences and learnings from peers that benefit me in my business operations.

How AuSAE has helped me 

Apart from above one of the interesting spin-offs has been the creation of a small group of CEOs’ (varies between eight and ten) across various sectors. We meet twice a year in someone’s board room and we discuss issues that impact our businesses, be they legal, CRM, member retention, member benefits or any other issue that causes lack of sleep. This has been a great side benefit for me as a member of AuSAE I am grateful and thankful to be a member.

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Reasons to Join 

Community of association professionals


Professional Education 


Member only on-line Resources


Leadership Growth Opportunities



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