My job: entrusted

We spoke to Martha Selwyn who is a Senior Relationship Adviser with the Public Trust in Auckland and a member of PSA’s Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina.

Martha 31 May 12 002The Public Trust is an independent Crown entity under the Public Trust Act 2001. Their Māori name, Te Tari Tiaki Iwi, translates into “the organisation that takes care of people”.  The Public Trust has 492 staff operating from 30 customer centres and a number of part-time offices looking after the interests of 268,000 New Zealanders.


What responsibilities do you have?

I am part of a small team.  I am responsible for managing the property of people who are unable to manage their own affairs. My portfolio mainly includes clients who have suffered strokes, have chronic mental health issues, or have been incapacitated in some other way.  Public Trust is appointed by the Family Court as property manager to ensure that these people and their finances are protected.

To be successful in this role you need to work with the client, as well as with the people or institutions who have influence in their lives. This might include family members, medical professionals, and others who may have strong views on what is the best way to handle our client’s estate. It can be challenging, but on a good day it can also be incredibly rewarding.


How long have you been with Public Trust?

I have been here for 25 years and held a number of different positions. I didn’t plan to be here this long, but I can tell you that I’m still enjoying it and definitely still learning.

For example, in my current position, each case is so different and there are so many varying factors that there is never an “off-the-shelf” solution.


What attributes do you need to do your job?

Empathy, patience, detail oriented, and the ability to juggle a number of different priorities at once.  The reality is that the people who we serve have not chosen to be in this position and we are often their executors for the rest of their lives – although there are the occasional happy endings where people become well enough to be able to manage their own affairs again. It’s important that we are trusted advisers for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Our primary role is to manage our client’s estates, but that often comes with a host of interrelated issues that also need to be addressed. What I have found is that it’s important to discuss with each client how they want their relationship with Public Trust to work – and that really does need to be on a case-by-case basis.

To do this job well you also need to be a team player. I work with a really good group of people who are there to provide advice or just let me bounce ideas off of them. Because we’re often dealing with intricate and complex legal and financial issues it’s critical that we have people who are willing to share their experience and expertise with their co-workers.


It sounds like a high-pressure role. Any tips on finding work/life balance?

It’s a lesson that most of us in the office have had to learn the hard way – and that is that you need to leave your work at work. It will still be there in the morning and you’re not doing your clients or yourself any favours by not taking care of yourself.


This article is from the June 2012 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.