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Rural Leader moving to MyFarm

New Zealand’s largest rural land syndicator MyFarm has appointed the CEO of Rural Leaders NZ, Chris Parsons as its Chief Commercial Officer.

Parsons will make the move to MyFarm in May, taking on responsibility for leading the investments team, formerly led by Con Williams, along with the operations side of the business.

Prior to joining Rural Leaders NZ in 2020, Chris Parsons was a decorated officer in the New Zealand Army. His record of leadership in the NZ Defence Force traverses tough special forces missions, for which he was decorated three times, and leading multiple organisational transformations. He established New Zealand’s first Special Operations headquarters in New Zealand and he was the inaugural commander of the 1st (NZ) Brigade (a multifunctional team of 3,300). As the brigade commander and then the Deputy Chief of Army, Chris championed the Army’s transformation from analogue to digital communications.

Most recently, as part of a small virtual team of volunteers he helped to successfully evacuate 563 Afghans to New Zealand in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

As CEO of Rural Leaders NZ since 2020, Chris Parsons is widely acknowledged as having rejuvenated and re-imagined the Rural Leadership Programme and Nuffield scholarships. During his tenure the profile and scope of both the Kellogg and Nuffield scholarship programmes have increased markedly, with all Kellogg recipients now also being able to complete a post grad certificate in Commerce from Lincoln University.

Parsons is co-owner of a hill country sheep and beef farming operation with his brother James. Together with their farm manager they also own a sheep and Angus cattle genetics business focused on parasite and disease resistance and hard hill country performance.

He describes MyFarm syndicates as a fantastic model to bring new funds into New Zealand’s food and fibre sector.

“I love the idea of helping everyday kiwis to be part of our flagship sector and ultimately lift our country’s prosperity.”

He says a focus in his own farm businesses, at Rural Leaders, and soon to be MyFarm, is about moving from technical competence towards better leadership and operational management.

“Over my career, whether working in defence, diplomacy or food and fibre, I’ve held a global perspective around maintaining security and enhancing the prosperity of New Zealand. That’s become even more relevant in this era of rapid and significant change. The ability to think strategically and at the same time deliver operationally with an eye for excellence is going to be critical.”

MyFarm CEO, Andrew Watters says with MyFarm’s portfolio growth in the past six years to over $600 million of primary sector assets under management, the business is more focused than ever on service delivery and operational efficiency. 

“Chris’ ability to develop high performing teams, focus on operational excellence and his strategic foresight, will be hugely valuable to MyFarm and its investors,” says Watters.

Meanwhile, MyFarm’s compliance manager for the past 15 months, Louise Wittwer has been promoted to the role of Chief Operating Officer. Louise joined MyFarm in 2021, having served 11 years with the Cook Islands Financial Supervisory Commission, the latter five as Commissioner. An accountant by profession (and admitted as a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand), she has a wealth of experience in various private, and public, sector roles across the financial industry.

“Louise’s natural leadership style and uncompromising focus on delivering to investor expectations made her the stand-out candidate for the newly shaped role of COO,” says Watters.

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