Women of Influence Series: Rei Vagi

In this week’s edition of the Women of Influence series, the spotlight is on Kina Bank’s Financial Controller, Rei Vagi. From the coast of Central Province Papua New Guinea, Rei spent most of her childhood away from her home province.

A pastors daughter and the eldest of six children, her formative years were spent in Western and Gulf Provinces. In Morehead (home of Bensbach wildlife lodge) Western province, her family survived with basic essentials; no electricity or running water, surrounded by nature and wildlife. Visiting the city and towns fascinated Rei. Her parents would sometimes travel alone for her father’s work leaving Rei in charge to manage the household for days. She credits her work ethic, deep appreciation and perspective on everyday life to those early experiences in remote PNG. Today, Rei is a registered Certified Practicing Accountant with the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Charter with over ten years of practice and experience. Living in Port Moresby, far from the jungles of Morehead, raising four young daughters to be strong and self-sufficient.

Rei attained her Bachelor in Commerce (Accountancy) in 2007, graduating with merit from PNG’s University of Technology. She joined PwC (PNG) as a graduate accountant where she worked as an auditor, progressing up a level in practice each year earning the role of Assistant Manager- Audit in 2011. In her role as PwC’s Assistant Manager – Audit (PNG), she led audit teams and managed clients within the superannuation, banking and manufacturing industry. She later worked as Hugo Canning’s (a subsidiary of Kraft-Heinz Australia) Financial Accountant, where after only eight months in her role, she was promoted to Financial Controller.

As Kina Bank’s Financial Controller, Rei is responsible for supporting finance and accounting operations, coordinating annual report publication, preparing and reviewing financial statements. Reporting into the Chief Financial Officer function, she also ensures Kina Bank is compliant with financial reporting requirements and standards and prepares financial reports for the Board. Her meticulous work won her Kina Bank’s 2018 Employee of the Year award.

Here is what Rei Vagi had to say about what inspires her and shares career advice for young accountants when Kina Bank’s Corporate Affairs caught up with her in an interview.

Q: How do you overcome challenges to reach your goals?

RV: Make a plan to reach that goal. When faced with challenges, revise the plan or find workarounds. I have sometimes not been able to meet a goal in a planned timeframe. While this could be considered as a failure, I keep reminding myself that failure does not always mean it is the end of the world. I’ve learnt the most from mistakes along the way to reaching a goal. These valuable lessons are deeply etched in my memory.

Also, ensuring I maintain meaningful relationships has been key. Building and nurturing these relationships at the workplace or at home gives you a deep pool to draw from when in need.

Most importantly, I bring these to God in prayer.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
RV: My inspiration is driven by my motivation surrounding well-being of my family. Growing up, it was my parents and siblings. This has since evolved to my beautiful children, ever supportive husband and close family members. It stems from striving for a better tomorrow today. To see, envision and aspire to, is to act today.

“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”
– Hilary Clinton, American Politician

Q. Since the ANZ Integration Kina bank has grown significantly. What has that meant for you? What are some career highlights you have had while working at Kina bank?
RV: We have been challenged on two fronts; the new financial reporting standards and the application to business acquisition. This has required us to rethink how we manage our accounting and reporting going forward. Also, with the additional business, the volume of business transactions is likely to go up significantly. We are preparing for that and one capability we are further engaging with is automation of process to enable us to value add through our day to day work. Despite these challenges, we have kept the headcount and FTE numbers the same.
My career highlights at Kina Bank include being part of the team leading the finance and payroll teams during the ANZ-Kina Integration project and timely delivery of project actions within these functions.

Q: As an Accountant, what advice would you give to young female accountants starting their careers?

  • Revisit your foundations of debits and credits frequently (!!!)
  • Keep an open mind – always! The data and information that filters through our desks may sometimes seem daunting. By keeping an open mind, we give ourselves room to filter through all of these with objectivity.
  • Cultivate curiosity. The world is constantly changing and every day you learn something new – don’t settle for the status quo.
  • No one does it alone. Be a team player.
  • Define your values. Building trust, acting with honesty and integrity are fundamental. Letting these values guide your actions will strengthen decision making and foster meaningful relationships
  • In the words of Hillary Clinton, “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you”.

“Make time for yourself…We worry ourselves with how our families are, how much more work is yet to be done and in the process forget that to get the best outcome of the above, we need to be operating at an optimum level.
That ‘third space’ or ‘me time’ is critical.”

Q: What is your message to inspire the women of PNG on International Women’s Day?
RV: Make time for yourself.
I recently attended a women’s seminar and the concept of the ‘third space’ was talked about. We worry ourselves with how our families are, how much more work is yet to be done and in the process forget that to get the best outcome of the above, we need to be operating at an optimum level. That ‘third space’ or ‘me time’ is critical.
Be authentic, respectful and empathetic. These are key to fostering meaningful relationships. Relationships that add value to the well-being of your mental, physical and spiritual life
Build each other. We are stronger only if we do. Let’s celebrate each other’s wins, whether this be at work, at home, in the communities that we live in or within our close niches

The world will always have an opinion of you. Shrug off that which adds no value to your life. You can, if you will to. We are limited only if we allow ourselves to be. Give it your best every day. Some days may not be great, but knowing you did sometimes helps reset the head space. Wherever you land in life is based on the decisions you make – you are responsible for your dreams. Only you hold the key to where life takes you.



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