Stepping stone to dream career


The dream of working for the Reserve Bank in Tonga and giving back to her home country, has just become more real for University of Auckland economics and finance graduate Malia Laumanu Mafi (Laumanu).

Laumanu, who studied through the New Zealand Scholarship programme, has returned to her hometown Ma’ufanga, Nuku’alofa following graduation.

Scholars are required to work for at least two years in their home country on completing their studies.

The talented student, who was part of the inaugural 2015-16 Summer Internship initiative, and was placed at Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) at the end of 2015, has recently been employed by the Retirement Fund Board (RFB), as an investment analyst.

“The RFB looks after Tonga’s civil servants’ retirement money, and as investment analysts, our team is responsible for finding viable investment options that maximize long term real returns whilst minimizing short term risks,” Laumanu explains.

Given the limited opportunities in the Tongan market, it can be difficult to meet some of the benchmarks (which are set against the CPI) but it is an exciting time for the Fund as it seeks to expand its investment portfolio, she adds.

Ultimately, Laumanu dreams of working for a policy making institution, preferably the Reserve Bank.

Currently, the RFB is regulated by the Reserve Bank and Laumanu believes work experience outside the bank will be beneficial in reaching her goal.

During her time in this exciting new role, Laumanu hopes to get more familiar with the Tongan economy.

“I also hope to develop my analytical skills further, sometimes the information in the customer’s annual reports is not enough, so you have to dig deeper and ask yourself what other information is required.

“Being a part of the investment team is fun; you have to keep up with all the developments in government as well as in the private sector, to keep an eye out for investment opportunities.”

When applying for employment in Tonga, Laumanu’s Summer Internship experience has worked in her favour, as not many graduates come out of university with work experience in recognised organisations in NZ like PCF, she says.

I believe it definitely increased my job chances, and during the interviews, the panelists asked me to elaborate further on my time with PCF.”

At the start of 2016, Laumanu moved to BNZ, where she interned for five weeks, and she says the time spent there also majorly contributed to increasing her chances of getting a job.

Laumanu is hugely grateful for the opportunity she had with PCF, and the skills – both technical and soft skills she has learnt – have been very helpful, she continues.

“The analytical skills I developed while conducting the business case analysis for the Grow Pacific Project have been extremely useful.

“In my role at RFB I have to do similar tasks and I’m glad I had a little bit of experience in the area.

“I still have more to learn but the task was not as daunting as it would’ve been if I hadn’t done the internship with PCF.”

The natural leader encourages NZ Scholars still at university, to aim for a spot on the Summer Internship programme, and to work really hard towards it.

You all have the potential to be selected you just have to go the extra mile.

“The internship programme is an amazing opportunity and the skills and the network you come out with are invaluable.”

Don’t forget the North and South Fono events for current NZ Scholars from the Pacific and Timor Leste are coming up! Visit for updates.

(Picture caption: Laumanu with fellow Summer Intern Joy Seseve at an Alumni Networking event.)