Westpac NZ's high-powered directors flexed their muscles - ever so diplomatically - to ensure the appointment of Kiwi David McLean as the bank's new chief executive.
After a tumultuous period of upheaval at the top level - the stylish McLean is the sixth chief executive of the New Zealand bank in less than a decade - the Westpac NZ directors felt it was time to end the Australian bank's practice of rotating its senior executives here to gain crucial experience as a chief executive before working their way further up the Westpac Banking Corporation ladder.
Westpac NZ chairman Peter Wilson confirmed this yesterday when he told me the board went through a rigorous global search to fill the chief executive role left vacant after Peter Clare's precipitant resignation last August.
The 56-year-old McLean clearly fitted the bill - there were other suitable international candidates - "but we didn't miss the opportunity" to appoint a New Zealander.
For Wilson, who will step down shortly from the chairman's role, McLean's appointment was "a professional and personal delight".
Wilson's board includes independent New Zealand directors Chris Moller (SkyCity Entertainment chairman), former KPMG chairman and chief executive Jan Dawson (currently deputy chairman at Air New Zealand) and Malcolm Bailey (a Fonterra director). McLean was appointed a director on Monday.
The only Australian director on the New Zealand board is Philip Coffey, who is deputy chief executive for Westpac Banking Corporation. It's obvious McLean's appointment had to be covered off at Australian group level and welcomed by incoming group chief executive Brian Hartzer, whose executive team he also joined this week.
Wilson says this was carefully worked through with the Australian side. But it's equally obvious the New Zealand directors weren't prepared to be there in name only. They expected to make major decisions themselves such as the chief executive's appointment. And not just because the Reserve Bank has made it clear that it is one of the prime duties of the boards of New Zealand-domiciled banks.
The bank has been through a disruptive period.
When McLean was pulled back from New York to fill in for Clare while the latter had a heart operation, he was welcomed back with both arms by the senior executives.
Clare's forensic operational style may have been necessary to get the bank's cost-base in order but he was essentially quite aloof. Something he ruefully remarked on himself in 2012 at one of several farewells for McLean as he headed off to be managing director of Westpac's New York branch after serving as head of Westpac Institutional Bank.
Clare - directing his message to the many top Auckland businesswomen present - said he couldn't be expected to fill McLean's shoes when it came to stylishly hosting the bank's "Red Carpet" event at Fashion Week or "Frocktails".
McLean loved living in New York. But frankly his role was more as a representative than wielding the real power a bank chief executive has.
One of the first signature moves McLean made when he became acting chief executive after Clare's subsequent resignation to recover from his operation was to shift the bank's executive team ("the Cabinet") from the 12th floor of Westpac's stunning Takutai Square headquarters to an open-plan office on the fourth floor.
It was a signal that a "people person" - as Westpacers accurately label McLean - was finally back in the engine room.
To get to the 12th floor had been a mission (up two sets of lifts instead of one). But McLean wanted both himself and the executives closer to the action.
It has been an open secret in the senior commercial community that the bank's local executives were also strongly supportive of an informal campaign for McLean to be appointed.
Many in the bank were tired of chief executive churn: Clare was chief executive for less than two years; before that there was the flamboyant George Frazis, who notably ripped his shirt off to display some admirable pecs at a staff do; Bruce McLachlan (acting) and Brad Cooper were each in charge for less than a year. In fact, there has not been a long-term Westpac chief executive since the popular Ann Sherry was in charge and her four-year term ended in March 2007.
Putting the "NZ"' back into Westpac - which unlike other Australian banks here such as ANZ and BNZ does not have an NZ in its name - was important to the New Zealand executives and also to McLean, who is currently assessing the results of a survey of the bank's brand just before Christmas which strongly identified it as an Australian bank.
The bank's board expects that McLean's first-class connections with the senior New Zealand business community will assist him to change perceptions and drive more business.
McLean will have to post good financial results and steer the bank through an increasingly competitive environment. He plans to launch a new online platform shortly and is strongly engaged with the bank's technological development.
He'll also continue to play a role in New Zealand Inc-related campaigns through his involvement in the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.
Internally the McLean appointment is seen as a signal within the bank that first-class New Zealand experience is now sufficient to be chief executive.
As a source close to the Westpac NZ board noted: "A New Zealander shouldn't have to spend 10 years marking time in Sydney before they could become chief executive here."
It's a view that is gathering force within the senior New Zealand directorate community where others are starting to question the received wisdom that it takes big international experience to run a company the size of a Fonterra or a Fletcher Building.
No one denigrates the obvious executive prowess of the two incumbents - Theo Spierings at Fonterra and Mark Adamson at Fletcher Building.
But when it comes to scouring the market for their successors, if there is a New Zealander available with the requisite experience he or she should be grabbed with both hands.