There are more men named David running NZX-listed firms than there are women.

There are more men named David running NZX-listed firms than there are women, of any name. Also more Marks, Christophers and Michaels. When it comes to Chairmen of NZX-listed firms, then it’s Peters, Davids, Johns and Christophers at the top of the list, followed by women of any name.

I collated the data and wrote about it for my university’s annual “Future NZ” magazine, which is a joint publication with the NZ Herald. The full article is available here: Who’s running New Zealand’s companies?

New Zealand is of course very small, so the data could be distorted easily. It could be for example, that if I had counted things a little differently, or chosen a different time period, or looked at say the Deloitte Top 200, that I would have gotten a different result. Perhaps it might have been James, Josh and Ben at the top of the list. But I don’t think the overall pattern would have changed. When it comes to business in New Zealand, it’s men who are running the place, and it’s very hard for women to get a look in at all.

I think there are ways of changing this, starting with raising awareness of the problem, and then making positive steps to make a difference. The Ministry for Women runs a nominations service to facilitate the appointment of women to state sector boards and committees: perhaps it could be expanded to provide a register of board-ready women that private sector firms could use too.

And yes, lack of diversity in the top level management of New Zealand business is a problem. The research is very clear: people make better decisions in more diverse groups.

Lies, damned lies, and real estate agents’ phaffery

Competition hot in first-home property market

Apparently there are lots of buyers in the first home market, and not so many sellers, which is leading to competition for houses. In some cases, several offers are received on a property, so the potential buyers are in a competitive bidding situation. In these cases, rather than conducting a silent auction, each buyer is asked to submit an offer, and the seller chooses which offer she or he likes best. In effect, the purchase offer becomes a closed tender.

So what’s a buyer to do?

Kiri Barfoot, of Barfoot and Thompson, said prospective buyers needed to realise there was no room for negotiation after envelopes were sealed and buyers had to put their best offer forward.

Actually, that’s not true. There is more room for negotiation after the envelope is sealed, provided that the vendor chooses you as the people to talk to first.

Buyers need to do something a little more complicated than just putting in their best possible offer. They need to think about who else might be making an offer, and think about what the property is worth, and think about what they can afford, and put in an offer that puts them at the top of the list, so that they will be the person that the seller elects to negotiate with.

We have been in competitive offer situations several times, and each time, we have put in an offer. It’s never a final price. The vendor is still free to negotiate, and in some cases, she or he has elected to do so. A couple of times we were able to come to an agreement, but a couple of times, we walked away, because the vendor wanted more than we thought the property was worth. And at that stage, the vendor went back to the second highest offer.

So exactly why would real estate agents want to advise potential purchasers to make their *best* offer? Well, duh. Because they want to get the best possible price for the property, because then they earn more. Not necessarily a lot more, but once word gets round that they sell properties for outrageous prices, then they get more listings, and then they get more sales and they earn more again.

To be fair to real estate agents, they are supposed to work for the vendors. The people selling properties pay the agents’ fees, not the purchasers. But that should surely tell purchasers that it is not a good idea to take real estate agents’ advice about the best strategy for purchasing.