Interview with Jon Macdonald | CEO Trade Me

Jon Macdonald

"Our purpose is to make things better for kiwis through online experiences they love. Within New Zealand, financial services is an area where there are traditional models that often support old-school businesses with big margins and big profits and we are interested as to where we can see an online model that is more consumer friendly and usually more transparent and immediate."

Short to medium term, our focus is very much on New Zealand. Coupled with this, a lot of our competitive advantage (our brand, audience) is domestic and we need to be clear in what we have to offer beyond New Zealand. From my point of view, the world is becoming increasingly connected. This means in a sense, that it is becoming a smaller place. I see both threats and opportunities within this. If you go back through Trade Me's history, one of the things that benefited us in the early days was New Zealand's geographic isolation, so it was at the bottom of the priority list of a lot of the global players. Fast forward to today, and I think those global players are able to span the world more quickly and with fewer impediments.

Our purpose is to make things better for kiwis through online experiences they love. Within New Zealand, financial services is an area where there are traditional models that often support old-school businesses with big margins and big profits and we are interested as to where we can see an online model that is more consumer friendly and usually more transparent and immediate.

Prioritising stakeholders is a balance but we have a bias towards the consumer. For us, the consumer is not necessarily our customer. In Trade Me Motors we help car dealers sell cars to the public. In that equation, the car dealer is our customer but the car buyer is the consumer. We will often focus on meeting the needs of that consumer and occasionally that will mean we are not wholly aligned with the interests of our customer. We hold the customer in high regard but if we are as useful as possible to you, the consumer, then we will be used as much as possible by other consumers. If you then apply that same pattern of thinking to our shareholders – then in the long term we should get the results that benefit our shareholders.

What I hope happens over the next 10 years is that New Zealand businesses have a better reputation with the New Zealand public and are held in higher regard. This way, the public is more inclined to celebrate business success, which leads to employment, economic prosperity for the country and overall better quality of life. At the moment I think it is a bit troubling because there is still an inclination at times to beat up business. It is incumbent on the business community to work on that exceptionally hard, because I think it has been driven from behaviours and ways that business has presented itself.

Organisations should be reporting on other metrics alongside their financials. For example, around data protection, we publish a transparency report. Trade Me has a lot of activity and a lot of data, so we are subject to requests of information from government agencies, everyone from the police, to the Commerce Commission, to Inland Revenue and others. Every year we provide a comprehensive breakdown of the information requests we received and our response to those, and the intent is to give the public and Trade Me members confidence about data protection.

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Mark Averill

CEO and Senior Partner, PwC New Zealand

Tel: +64 21 646 418

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