Keeping the doors open

During WW1, 560 BNZ Bank Officers enlisted in the Expeditionary Forces. This was over 50% of the 959 staff employed in 1913.

For the male Bank Officers who remained in New Zealand, leave was limited or not granted throughout the four year period. Staff reaching the age of 60 were asked to delay their retirement. Many rural branches were either closed or had reduced operating hours.

The 1915 Annual Report, released in March that year, announced the decision to hire women for the first time. The first woman to join BNZ service was Miss Ivy Waters, taking on a role in Head Office, Wellington. At its peak, the number of women employed during WW1 reached over 300.

Following the war, men already employed at BNZ were welcomed back to their same positions. However concern for the number of unemployed returned soldiers, led to criticism of the bank.

When asked if BNZ would remove women from the workplace in order to offer more roles to men, the General Manager publicly declined. Public pressure and social expectations of the time saw the number of women employed decrease to 70 by 1939. 

Miss Waters herself remained with BNZ until 1947, when she retired on a bank pension. 

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Annual Report 1915 Extract

An extract from the 1915 BNZ Annual Report

Hamilton Staff 1917 women taken on during WWI

Women feature in the 1917 Hamilton Staff Photo

Auckland Staff April 1914

Combined Auckalnd Staff Photo taken in 1913