Carmel Fisher

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.

Carmel Fisher was on maternity leave from her job with an insurance company when she decided to seize control of her career by starting a business.

And so it was that the arrival of her first child coincided with the birth of Fisher Funds, co-founded with husband Hugh in 1998, operating from a house on Auckland's North Shore.

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Within two years, the pair had $50 million under their management.

Fisher made their fund accessible, allowing regular Kiwis to chip in a few dollars a month.

Another secret of her success, in the early days, was focusing exclusively on one area: NZX small caps.

"At the time there was really only one other boutique fund management firm and when I say boutique fund management firm that focused on one area of specialty," she told the Herald.

"I liked that idea. I'd seen that trend develop in Australia and internationally and thought that there was a place for it in New Zealand.

"I think really for the first few years to just focus solely on New Zealand equities, and in particular the small companies within the New Zealand sharemarket, I think were quite critical because we were able to focus our efforts on a small number of investments and fortunately we picked the right ones."

Fisher, who was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit today, turned her fund into a trailblazer for independent, retail fund management and a major player in the KiwiSaver era.

Fisher Funds had $3.6 billion in KiwiSaver funds and $7b total under management by the time of the company's sale to TSB in August 2017 - making it the fifth-largest fund manager in the country behind the four major Australian banks.

Fisher's success as a fund manager was matched by her rise as a business commentator, advocate and mentor.

She has championed women's financial independence and financial literacy and supported a number of charities both through her company and personally.

She was inducted into the Co. of Women Hall of Fame in 2017 and was awarded an INFINZ Fellowship in 2018, recognising her career success and contribution to the finance industry.

Fisher is currently a director of listed investment companies Kingfish Limited, Barramundi Limited and Marlin Global Limited, and of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.