Pioneering insurance boss Naomi Ballantyne has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours. Ballantyne has spent 34 years in the insurance industry and is currently managing director of Partners Life, the third insurance company she has helped to found. She was in her late teens when the lure of a management course and the chance to earn some money saw her ditch a degree in marine biology. She previously told the Herald that she initially found the industry - and its old boys club - to be frustrating, with discussions centred on what competitors were doing rather than what was right for the customer. She was one of the founding employees of Sovereign Insurance before she struck out on her own and launched ClubLife, now OnePath, which she stayed with until 2009 after it was sold to ING. In 2010 she founded Partners Life, which earlier this year received a $200 million investment by US-listed private equity firm Blackstone Group. According to her New Year Honours citation, Ballantyne has been the main driver of the industry's product innovation over the past 34 years. "[She] has created careers for hundreds of New Zealanders, business opportunities for thousands of small-medium enterprises, hundreds of millions of dollars in shareholder value, and financially supported many thousands of New Zealand clients when health issues interrupted their lives." Ballantyne has also been a motivational speaker, sharing her experiences to encourage others from all walks of life.