Of mixed Cook Islands and Irish heritage, Orr learned at an early age how to run a business. Orr was 13 when his father died, leaving the family a motel he had been building in Taupo, in New Zealand’s North Island. Together with his mother and two older brothers, he ran the motel while completing his secondary schooling.
The business and people skills he acquired as a teenager will come in handy in Orr’s new role. He will need to navigate the bank through what has been labelled as the biggest reforms it has seen since it pioneered inflation targeting three decades ago. He will also have to rejuvenate an institution that has become increasingly defensive after a number of communication blunders.
“The RBNZ has felt embattled in recent years,” says Harbour Asset Management Ltd’s head of fixed income Christian Hawkesby, who once worked with Orr at the central bank.
He says he is “sure Adrian will look to lift morale. That ability to relate to people and take them on the journey with you, that comes very naturally to him”.
Orr was formerly chief executive officer of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, a position he has held since 2007. From 2003 to 2007 he was deputy governor and head of financial stability at the Reserve Bank. He was chief economist at Westpac in New Zealand from 2000 to 2003, and chief manager of the Economics Department at the Reserve Bank from 1997 to 2000. Before this, he held roles at the National Bank of New Zealand, the Treasury, the OECD and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
At the time of Orr’s appointment, New Zealand finance minister Grant Robertson says he was delighted the board had been able to secure a governor with such a strong track record of delivery and public service.
“Mr Orr has the technical and leadership qualities required to be governor and CEO of the Reserve Bank. Further, I consider that he has the skills necessary to successfully lead the bank through a period of change”.
Reserve Bank chairman Professor Neil Quigley said the board was pleased to be able to recommend a candidate of Orr’s experience.
“Adrian Orr has a significant breadth of knowledge across central and commercial banking, economics, financial markets and regulation.
“Together with his chief executive experience at the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, the Board agreed unanimously that he can bring to the role of Governor of the Reserve Bank strong leadership and commitment to ensure the bank is fit for its wide role in the New Zealand economy.”.