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05 September 2011

In a reworking of Arnie Schwarzenegger’s famous line “I’ll be back”, I’ve returned from my Far North Queensland break, am at work and, horror upon horror, sniffling, coughing and under the weather again after four weeks of perfect health.

The fortnight in 27-degree, blue-sky, by-the-pool-with-a-good-book weather, nothing cold in sight but a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc at the end of the day, never looked so good… and it held me in its warm arms for a few weeks.
Right now, though, I feel like a metaphor for the financial markets: falling, rallying, only to fall again… which made me think about people’s checks and balances going forward and whether they’re putting the right things in place to cope with the unsettling volatility of the times?

I know, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about superannuation: the cons of the system and how it performs under the sorts of market pressures we’ve been experiencing, but I believe we have to come back to the old adage ‘it’s time in the market not timing the market’ that counts. We also need to pay more attention to the products we have (along with researching what’s on offer) to make informed decisions. All sorts of factors within and without our control have contributed to the fact that many women are underfunded when it comes to their super – the ‘Prince Charming’ (whoever that may be) factor being one of the worst. It’s a romantic bubble that needs bursting. No one will look after you as well as you can, which makes getting a handle on super and insurance an absolute must.

Take my eldest daughter, Nicky Riemer, who was recently nominated Chef of the Year by the Age Good Food Guide for its 2012 edition. She was the only woman in the mix and her new restaurant, Union Dining, has set out to build itself a loyal local following by offering the sort of food and experience that works every day of the week not just as your one-off specialty occasion. It’s what you want from your super, flexible dependability that won’t leave you snoring in the corner.
Shameless plug – both for my daughter and the fact that during October we are focussing on some fantastic super and insurance initiatives for women – but if you think this is bad, then you should have seen me round the pool in Cannes… oops, I mean Cairns.

Hidden behind large glasses and a hat, I didn’t wear a skerrik of make-up the whole time I was away. I felt my skin breathe, read seven who-dunnits with a multitude of dead bodies between them and met, from my deckchair, most of Melbourne, which appeared to be holidaying with me. To every single one of them I recommended Union Dining. In fact, just the other day Nicky was saying she’s had a run of customers with tans asking if they’re in the right restaurant: the one with the chef who’s Larke Riemer’s daughter?

“Just how many people did you tell, mum,” she asked me? My answer: what’s it matter, how’s the strategy for having them return going?

The food thing is such a phenomenon at the moment. It’s our obsession entertainment of the moment. It must be the only arm of retail (other than online) that’s doing well. Food and chefs – they’re our rock stars. Speaking of which, who would have thought bankers could make the same cut? If the lunches we’ve had with Westpac CEO Gail Kelly are any indication, then for women with their finances on their mind she’s ‘rock-star’ material.

400 women turned out to the Catholic Club in Campbelltown to hear Gail speak about leadership and what she’s taken onboard during the past three years at the helm. There were five areas she highlighted the importance of developing and understanding, beginning with: Ambiguity, enjoying change and working in an atmosphere of change; having the right people with you and the wrong people off the bus; generosity, a genuine desire to see others succeed and support them in doing that; resilience, an ability to learn from mistakes and not to personalise what happens in business decision making; attitude, having the right positive attitude.

Lunch at an end, our guests were jostling to get photos with Gail, and at one stage I thought we might need bouncers to form a human shield to get her out and into the car. It really was very exciting and it’s got me inspired.

The success of our lunches with Gail as guest speaker continues to drive home for me the hunger that’s out there among women to hear from and understand what it takes to be a leader and a female leader. Access to the thoughts and experiences of women leaders and being able to open the lines of communication with them are such important things for all of us to experience and to be able to tap into. It reminds me so much of the importance of Ruby, and why we knew as an initiative, she was such a fantastic opportunity.

Ruby’s about opening up channels of communication that can be used when it suits you and when you need it, without the restrictions of hierarchy and the sometimes stifling formality of the corporate or business environment. Ruby is about talking with people in their time in a meaningful, approachable way rather than only having the 9 to 5 of the business day. Ruby is about dependable flexibility.

PS: The Global Banking Alliance (GBA) Summit is in Sydney this year from October 10 to 13. My position as Chair means we have played a very large part in shaping the destination of the organization. There will be attendees from across the globe, including those from developing nations with nascent women’s business markets. We are also having a special dinner to which we are inviting ruby members so do have a look on the site this month for details.

I’m up for my own award in October, and I’m very flattered. I’m to be a recipient of the 2011 TIAW World of Difference 100 Awards. The awards recognise 100 achievers from 27 countries for their efforts in advancing the economic empowerment of women locally, regionally or worldwide and my nomination has come about through my work in Westpac and as part of the GBA.

The International Alliance For Women ( is an umbrella organisation supporting and promoting professional women through resources and networks. TIAW connects leading women’s organizations and their members worldwide to leverage their reach and resources. Located primarily in the Americas, Asia and Europe, they represent more than 35,000 members worldwide.



  • Michelle Jewels-Parsons

    Michelle Jewels-Parsons 8 years ago

    I would be lying through my teeth if I said I was at all suprised! Congratulations Larke, not only on your award (very well deserved) but also for having such a motivated successful, creative and inspired daughter, a quality every mother should create in her daughter. Anyone can tell you that you are fabulous - but if you truly believe it yourself, thats a whole different level of success and achievement. Kudos to you both xx

  • Jeannene ODay

    Jeannene ODay 8 years ago

    Congrats to you and to your daughter Larke, it just goes to show that word of mouth is so much more influential than any other marketing medium!!! Even if it is from your Mum!!!!

  • Jill Hannaford

    Jill Hannaford 8 years ago

    Well done Larke, great to see the differences women like you can make - and be recognised for it.