' />

TelstraClear chief executive Allan Freeth looks back on a tough year and what's in store for the future.

How was the recession for you?

TelstraClear has experienced continued strong growth in the consumer part of the business over the past 18 months and returned a record profit of $18.2 million for the 2009 financial year.

The country's small- and medium-sized businesses have faced arguably the toughest time and that has flowed through to their providers.


We have worked with many of our customers in this space to help lower their costs and help keep their business solvent.

Corporate New Zealand has continued to invest and develop enhanced technology solutions to drive productivity benefits and better service.

In our activities associated with charities, as part of our corporate social responsibility programme, we have seen the impact of the recession on these partner organisations.

While the need for their services has grown, fundraising has been difficult.

What was the biggest lesson you'll take out of it?

Foreshadowing the recession we invested resources in our credit control and debtor recovery areas. If we had not, there would have been an impact on our cash flow and profitability.

The recession re-emphasised to me the need for strong discipline around the basics of business, the need for robust strategies and to focus on what you can control.

Are we through the worst of it?


My guess is we are, but that does not mean the recession is over.

Bad debt issues and the like tend to lag the main event and we are definitely seeing evidence of this and the impact on business owner confidence.

I suspect it will be some time before we see businesses taking material investment decisions and relaxing their risk perspectives.

This, in turn, means it will be some time before the economy really comes back up to speed.

What do you think is the thing most likely to trip up the recovery?

My sense is the confidence level of the small-medium business owner and their preparedness to take risks and invest in their businesses, in both capital plant and staff.

Further poor weather impacting our agricultural output could also be a major factor on one of the foundations of the New Zealand economy and the need for money to start flowing through it.

Clearly, exchange rates and issues of economic performance send signals through the business community, but having a vision of success as a part of the recovery will also be important.

What will you be doing in 2025?

Enjoying a New Zealand that has improved its position in the world in both an economic and social policy sense.

Hopefully, we'll be living in a country that has driven the drug P and the criminals that trade such misery from our shores and has tackled the issues around our current youth crisis.

And living in a country that has strengthened its leadership on the world stage in business, science and the arts.

Hopefully, I will be sitting on a beach, or near a pool, reading of our success in these things.