When Joanna Lawn began her first job in a London financial dealing room, her boss almost kicked her out.
Instead of buying and selling bonds, the intrepid Lawn would buy them, change the denomination and interest rate, then sell them for more.
The British-born, Australian-raised banker who now calls New Zealand home has forged a career out of making deals better. Now she is turning her hand to improving relationships with New Zealand's sharemarket-listed companies, while encouraging more to join the stock exchange.
It's not an easy task. New Zealand is in the midst of a drought of initial public offerings (IPOs).
So far this year, just one company has listed on the NZX's high growth NXT market and not a single one on the main board.
That follows just one main board listing last year, by Oceania Healthcare, and the departure of eight other companies.
This year the NZX lost top stock Xero as the technology company decamped to the Australian exchange, choosing to consolidate its listing across the ditch.
That's despite the NZX/S&P50 index rising by more than 20 per cent last year.
Lawn says the NZX has a role in encouraging more companies to see the benefits of going public but it is by no means the only driver.
"The exchange has a role to play as a licensed operator in publicly espousing the virtues of raising capital in the public markets, but everyone else has to do that too.
"So we are talking with all those counterparties."
In fact, after joining the exchange in September last year, Lawn made it her first priority to get out and meet its customers.
"Coming in I knew what I wanted to achieve.
"By the end of the first quarter, we would have contacted every customer by phone, email or seen them in person."
Part of that involved asking people what they wanted and their views.
"I don't think there had been that interaction before."
Now every customer has a relationship manager.
That's no mean feat, given that the NZX has hundreds of customers and she has a team of only five.
Lawn says the move has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Her arrival at the exchange also came shortly before it released its strategy for shaking up the business in November, returning its focus to its core markets business.
It has also committed to zeroing in on growth opportunities in its debt, dairy derivatives and environmental and energy markets.
While new equity listings have been missing in action, Lawn points out that debt listings have been busy, with more than 20 already this year.
Many of those have come from existing customers which have their shares listed on the exchange.
And her 90-day plan keeps rolling, with more items being added to her to-do list.
This month the exchange will hold its first retail investor events in Wellington and Auckland.
"With more people buying shares we want to help people understand what the sharemarket is about," says Lawn.
Mum and dad investors will be able to hear from the chief executives of the likes of Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Gentrack and Link Market Services.
Lawn is also focused on building investor demand from overseas.
In October, the exchange is planning to take some companies up to Asia to get more foreign investors looking down this way.
The NZX has run a derivatives conference in Singapore for five years, driven by the dairy derivatives market it runs.
But now Lawn says it plans to take the dairy companies themselves, such as Synlait, to talk to potential investors.
The NZX has also forged closer links with stock exchanges in Asia.
"We have recently signed [memoranda of understanding] with Hong Kong and Singapore so we can work with those exchanges to explain the virtues of listing in New Zealand.
"It's a great country, with high dividend yields, stable economy, stable government."
"By constantly marketing our market to New Zealand and overseas, hopefully we can grow the capital markets."
Lawn says it is working on the IPO pipeline at home, too.
"It is something we want to focus on ... and it is building the pipeline ... not just now but for the future."
But she also points out that equity listings generally do follow a cycle.
Some analysts have pointed to cashed up private equity investors as being the main reason companies are choosing to sell up rather than go public, as business owners can get more money that way.
But Lawn says private equity also has a part to play, pointing to sell-downs which have led to successful listings in the past.
Despite the move from banker to market manager, Lawn says there are similarities to her past roles.
"I had customers in my banking career and I have got customers now and we are helping these customers grow and that is exactly the same type of thing I was doing in my investment banking career.
"Understanding the customers. Understanding the strategy and understanding what they need are the same things - it is just a different product."
Fortunately, some things have changed over her career. In Lawn's first job in the dealing room at Lazard Asset Management, the only other women she saw were the page three girls pinned to the walls.
"I had to accept it if I wanted to be in the dealing room." But despite being the only woman, she says she never had a bad experience with her co-workers.
Having a father who worked in finance spurred her enthusiasm for the career path despite it being male dominated.
Lawn moved from London to Melbourne at age 10 because of her father's work and then worked in London in her early career before moving internally within Deutsche Bank back to Australia.
She followed her then partner to New Zealand in 2006, taking up a job with the ANZ in its institutional banking division.
Ten years later the bank restructured and when it asked her to move to Hong Kong, Lawn took redundancy instead.
Before joining the NZX she took nine months off to visit family in Australia and travel, and says her first job interview with the exchange was via Skype, while she was in Switzerland.
"I was wearing my best t-shirt," she jokes.
She came back to New Zealand for the final interview in person and was already sold on working for the exchange.
By the end of this year, she says, the exchange will change its rules to make it easier for more managed funds to list and add new types of debt listings to its options.
While more equity listings are in the works, the NZX has plenty more it is hoping to offer investors.
•Job: Head of issuer relationships at the NZX.
•Born: In England, grew up in Australia.
•Education: Bachelor of economics from Monash University. Graduate diploma in finance from City University in London.
•Career: Worked on the dealing desk for Lazard Asset Management before moving into corporate finance. Moved to Cavendish Asset Management before joining the mergers and acquisitions team at Deutsche Bank. Before the NZX, worked at ANZ in its institutional banking team for more than 10 years. Joined NZX in September 2017.
• What was the last movie you saw? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
• What was the last book you read? The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn.
• What was the last overseas holiday you went on? Visiting family, who live in Airlie Beach on the Barrier Reef, Queensland.