A Wanganui business that began as a one-man band 30 years ago has been catapulted on to the world stage ... thanks to pies and a culture of caring.

Wanganui Security has been chosen as its Australasian partner by Vivint, one of the United States' biggest alarm system companies.

"This is huge for us and the potential for our company is unbelievable," said Wanganui Security co-owner Bronwyn Paul of the deal which will see her business oversee Vivint's alarm services in New Zealand and Australia.

The contrasts between the two partners are a little staggering ...


The Wanganui operation, run by Ms Paul and Mark Simmonds and based in Heritage House in St Hill St, has about 30 staff doing alarm installations, night patrols and event security.

Vivint has 700,000 clients across the US and Canada and around 9000 employees who enjoy the services of three in-house doctors, free foodcourt lunches and their own library and gym.

Based in Provo, Utah, one of its most recent innovations is digital tornado alerts - a warning system which has been credited with saving lives - and it was named by Forbes magazine this year as one of America's most promising companies.

So how come such a high-tech corporate giant has hooked up with a little New Zealand battler of a business?

Well, a family connection and a bit of Wanganui hospitality provide the answer.

When Vivint was looking to move into the Australasian market, its executive Ariel Metekingi was given the task. A Kiwi, he checked out the register of the NZ Security Association and decided to give Wanganui Security a call.

He didn't know that Bronwyn Paul was the chairwoman of the association but he did know that his uncle - respected kaumatua Manu Metekingi - was from the river city.

It was a call which, as Ms Paul says, was to turn her life on its head.


In March, Vivint sent four of its executives to New Zealand to check out Wanganui Security.

"I remember it was a smelly day with the wastewater ponds which was not a good omen," Ms Paul said. "But we introduced them to Mayor Annette Main, which was a good move - it's a big thing for Americans to meet the mayor. We also flew the US flag outside Heritage House and had a powhiri.

"And we treated them to some lovely home-made meat pies from a nearby bakery. They were impressed - they don't have meat pies like that in the US."

The Americans had had a meeting in Auckland with another potential partner but that hadn't worked out.

"They liked the inclusiveness of Wanganui and were really impressed by the care and culture of the city. One of their mottos is 'Vivint gives back', and we found our culture and ethos were very similar."

Mr Simmonds and Ms Paul were invited up to Auckland for a night out by their guests, but talk of a possible deal was not on the menu.

"They took Mark out fishing next day but again there was no mention of business, and Mark came back dejected and wondering what we'd done wrong.

"But it was just their way of building the relationship and a few days later they told us they wanted us as their partner."

Vivint installs and monitors a sophisticated array of alarm systems, including links to customers' smartphones, and has moved 13 families, headed by Ariel Metekingi, to New Zealand. They have gone into the Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington markets and will target Australia in August.

Wanganui Security will monitor these new customers and its head operator, Ms Paul's daughter Bianca, was flown to Utah to be trained.

"They treated her like a princess," says mum, adding: "Their technology is incredible, and their tech team came here for two weeks installing computer servers. What we have learned and gained from them, money can't buy."

To cope with the increased workload, the company has taken on nine mainly business and accounting students from UCOL.

"They pick their own hours and work around their studies. They are bubbling with excitement and there is the possibility of them going to the US for 90 days on exchange."

It's another sign of culture compatibility - one of the US giant's slogans is "Vivint supports tomorrow's generation" - and Ms Paul said she expected to be taking more students on as demand increased.