Talent rises to the top: Meet our four new Auckland directors

A safe pair of hands… a financial modelling genius: These are some of the descriptions showing the high calibre of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Auckland’s newest directors.

Time to read: 6 mins

On 1 February, the company appointed Daniel Merckle (tax), Nick Li (corporate advisory), Hayden McGregor (business advisory) and Reina Banno (audit and assurance) to its senior-most ranks.

First we have Daniel – he of the safe hands – also known as a trusts expert and coined as by Auckland director Mike Rudd as “mature”, meaning Daniel has the wisdom and knowledge of a much more senior gentleman.

Hayden is “Baker Tilly Staples Rodway through and through” meaning he is considered very loyal. He is also flatteringly known as a financial modelling genius.

Nick is a super-networker, the smooth and friendly professional who knows everyone in the room or if he doesn’t, soon will. He has a wealth of corporate finance experience and can segue beautifully from the New Zealand business world into Asian markets. 

Reina is known for her outstanding technical skills, sharp commercial acumen and strong leadership qualities. She handles her work with a professional attitude and keeps her composure, even in tough situations.

Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Auckland Managing Director David Searle describes them collectively as “great to work with” – a quality that’s highly valued across the Baker Tilly network.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch Daniel, Hayden and Reina develop. It shows our internal training and mentoring are working well and their appointments are testament to their hard work, values and skillsets. Nick joined our office in 2022. He is a real asset to the team and we’re very pleased to have him with us.”

Let’s look at the four in more detail...

Reina Banno – Audit & Assurance Services partner

Since joining Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Auckland as a graduate in 2016, Reina has demonstrated exceptional talent and business acumen within the audit team.

She has consistently gone above and beyond, always stepping up to help team members and putting in hard work and efforts well beyond her time with the firm. Such diligent work and her strong commitment to professional growth has allowed her to accumulate a wealth of knowledge.

“My ethos has been to learn as much as I can and gain as much experience as possible.”

This approach has fuelled her career growth and made her progression feel natural, because every promotion built up her skills and knowledge in readiness for the next level of seniority, and she felt supported every step of the way.      

“Once I became a manager, I started approaching my audits as if I was the signing partner. This mindset came with an additional layer of ownership. I am honoured to be part of such a supportive and collaborative firm and am grateful for the recognition.”

Reina says she and the rest of the audit team have a huge pool of knowledge and expertise, and she’s proud that they’ve built up trusted relationships with clients while maintaining professional independence.

Moving forward, she is excited to be heading up the team’s ESG and climate reporting assurance services, while investing in the development of team members to ensure continued delivery of high-quality services to clients.

Nick Li – Corporate Advisory Services director

Nick joined our Auckland office as an associate director in 2022. “It's been amazing,” he says. “It's good to work with people you can trust and rely on. They’re genuinely trying to help and support each other to succeed.

“When I was with other companies, people were always looking over their shoulders for Baker Tilly Staples Rodway (then Staples Rodway) because the firm was quite formidable and very well-respected.

“Baker Tilly International was named the best International Accounting Network last year so that itself is quite impressive. We have member firms in 145 territories and the people leading Baker Tilly International are well positioned to take our wider network to the next level.”

Having started his first accounting job in 2004, Nick’s experiences include working in London for an international accounting network, founding an Asian practice, and leading capital-intensive projects.

He loves the variety and mental stimulation of corporate advisory and is looking to expand and further develop that team at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Auckland.

“Then we’ll have a structure in place that would allow even more autonomy for me to go out there and win more business. This is the beginning of a journey for me. I’m really looking forward to being able to amplify my support to clients with pragmatic solutions.”

Daniel Merckle – Tax Services director

Daniel became a grad at BTSR Auckland in November 2012 and had someone had told him back then that he’d be a director by 2024, he’d have laughed at something so seemingly unrealistic.

“There are lots of stories in the chartered accounting world around people being fairly senior in an organisation and waiting for directors to retire or move on to create those openings, whereas that's not the Baker Tilly Staples Rodway way. It’s been very much ‘we can make a space at the table when you're ready’,” he says.

He’s become one of the network’s foremost trusts experts, relishing the governance side of work, with all its “tax fish hooks” and also the unique nature of every trust.

Daniel thinks it says volumes about Baker Tilly Staples Rodway that chairperson David Searle also rose to the top after starting in the Auckland office as a grad many moons ago.

“You're not just a number or a cog in a big machine. The directors listen to what you need, whether that manifests as working different hours, working part-time, fitting around life’s commitments or ambitions for wanting to go all the way.

“You are very much seen for who you are and to the extent they can, they work with people to get the best out of everyone. I’m grateful for all the support and hard work that they’ve put into me. It's been an amazing journey in terms of getting to this point. It's still a bit surreal.”

Hayden McGregor – Business Advisory Services director

The five months from November 2012 to March 2013 were a vintage era for Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Auckland. Hayden was hired fresh out of university as a grad five months after Daniel… and on his first day, Hayden met his fellow new hire and future wife, Velvet Ly.

It’s been a bumper period for Hayden because along with becoming a director this month, he and Velvet (a Business Advisory Services senior manager) had their first child in December. “Everyone in the office was suggesting that we call him Billy. That's probably why we're Baker Tilly through and through. We live and breathe it.”  

Of his financial modelling prowess, Hayden says the desire to analyse and extrapolate began when he was a boy. Now he thrives on getting involved with businesses.

“It’s not all about the numbers, it's the story and the project that that I really enjoy. Some people we’ve worked for now consider us a non-negotiable partner, so they bring us along every time.

“Baker Tilly being relationship-driven is probably another reason I've stayed so long. With the clients, it's about our high-net-worth families, the family dynamics, the family story, the businesses and the future that I enjoy so much.

“Our network’s also great for relationships and shared experiences. At every stage, right from the early business advisory trainings, you meet up with people around the country.”

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