I chose Management Engineering as my major as I was attracted and challenged by its reputation as one of the toughest courses, and its roster of distinguished graduates. ME was truly rewarding in terms of academic learning and the lifelong friendships formed over constant QPI struggle. I worked hard and half-teased myself that with luck I could be a bME (barely ME) graduate. It was a great privilege to sit in class with such talented young people and learn from brilliant professors led by Doc Mari-jo. I found myself in the pantheon.
I particularly enjoyed economics and finance and thought of working for a bank. In 1996, I had the option to join the central bank’s treasury team or become an executive trainee for a major foreign bank. Choosing the latter is how I ended up with my current global firm, and had been doing markets and treasury work for the last 17 years.
Living in New Zealand (NZ) was a fortuitous development for me. In 2015, my former manager who has taken a senior role in Australia/New Zealand asked if I could cover for a year in the Auckland dealing room. I soon found myself way down under, in the land of the long white cloud for the first time.
My wife and two kids visited me in NZ twice that time. We fell in love with the pristine beauty of the country and the family-oriented, simple, easy-going way of Kiwis. We were inspired by young people engaged in a wide range of interests in and outside the classroom, with the freedom and support to pursue these as careers. People were not so concerned with possessions as with experiences and relationships. We wanted our kids to grow up in NZ. Upon my return to Manila, we started the application process for immigration to NZ.
In 2017, my former manager, out of the blue, again asked if I would relocate for a permanent role in Auckland. Perfect timing. By 2020, we received our permanent resident visas. We are now on our fifth year in NZ.
Among the first local quips one would relate to in NZ is “four seasons in a day” – there are extremes of wet winter cold and dry summer heat in a matter of hours. I realized this has made Kiwis the way they are – hardy, flexible, practical, resilient, successful in taming the land, and deeply connected to nature. From a young age, Kiwis develop a great love for the outdoors, “roughing it out”, and working with their hands, thus their strong independent and adventurous spirit. As we explore our new home, we get out of our comfort zones and take the less trodden path. It delights me that my kids have their whole lives to do this, take risks, and not be bound to consumerist creature comforts behind gated communities.
New Zealand honors multiculturalism and diversity. My family takes great pride in being Filipinos in NZ. The Filipino work ethic and innate warm nature are renowned and sought after in the services sector. The Catholic community acknowledges the contribution of Filipinos in nurturing the faith. I am struck by the parallels between NZ and the Philippines, both blessed with natural beauty and immense resources, family-oriented people who live by working the land and sea. Perhaps we could learn to be better stewards of our own pearl of the orient.
Looking back on my career and personal journey, I realized that my ME experience was about self-belief and resilience, not being fazed by either complexity or enormity of challenges, confidence in the knowledge that with hard work I will always be up to the task, and the tenacity and determination to see things to completion. Beyond technical expertise, I have found that “keeping at it” has made the difference towards meaningful progress and achievement. ME’s discipline is the robust quantitative method for modelling and optimizing, whilst its wisdom is the constant application of one’s self.
Alfonso Q. Banta, Jr. (BSME 1991) currently works as head of markets treasury in New Zealand for a leading global bank after spending most of his career in Manila.