07 September 2023

Cat Simpson’s job is about caring for both people and their wishes.

There are 3 words that Catherine (Cat) Simpson keeps returning to – ‘people’, ‘customers’ and ‘care’.

She talks about caring for her team, caring for customers, and her role as a leader being about setting up ways for people to ‘show up with care’ in order to get the job done for customers.

And when you learn what Cat and her team do, it is extremely reassuring to hear such a dedication to caring for people and getting good outcomes for customers.

Cat works at Public Trust, New Zealand’s largest provider of wills and estate administration services.

Established in 1873, Public Trust is an autonomous Crown entity.They provide a range of products and services including trustee supervision, trusts management, estate administration, and estate planning services.

On any given day, Cat’s team will be writing wills and enduring powers of attorney to protect the things that matter most, setting up or managing people’s trusts, or be out and about visiting customers to make sure their affairs are being looked after in the way they wish.

“The work is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also incredibly challenging at times,” she says.

“Most people don’t want to talk about 3 things: money, death, and the future.”

Cat’s life experiences also influence the way she works.

“My father passed away last year after a period with Parkinson’s-related dementia. Watching someone you love lose the ability to make important decisions, and then supporting my mum to follow through on his wishes once he passed, makes the work we do very real and personal. You understand how important it is. You get it.

“And that means that making the experience better for customers is about providing very real, human benefits – not just about streamlining corporate processes.”

Based in Auckland, Cat has worked at the Public Trust since 2019. She originally joined as a contractor, focusing on improving processes, then moved to the People team, and then on to an Operations role where the focus was on finding solutions to better the experience for customers and make it easier for teams do their work.

As Head of Service Delivery for Auckland and Northland, Cat looks after a team of 40 Trustees who support Auckland and Northland communities to plan for their future, and then help make sure their wishes are followed after they’ve passed away.

She says it can be difficult interpreting someone’s wishes in cases where they haven’t been written down, or the documentation isn’t legible (e.g. hand-written notes).

“I think of our role as caring for both the people and their wishes.

“In those situations, we have to stand in people’s shoes – what would they want in this situation.

“My goal is always to leave things better than how we found them, not from our point of view, but from the customer’s point of view.”

In 2020, Cat was a finalist in the Spirit of Service Awards, which recognise public servants and initiatives that exemplify the spirit of service and demonstrate an outstanding commitment to New Zealand.

In her citation she was praised for being passionate about people – those she works with and those she serves. “She exemplifies the spirit of service through her continued focus on creating a positive, inclusive working environment that mirrors what communities are asking for.”

Her leadership philosophy is simple.

“Show care for people so that their buckets are full enough to show care for others.”

She’s also honest, direct, shows up consistently, and can be impatient for change – an attribute she jokes her team will readily attest to.

On the question of preparing for the future and making your wishes clear, Cat’s advice is both honest and direct: do it now.

And in this regard, Cat is very much taking her own advice.

“Absolutely, my will is sorted, my husband’s will is sorted, and we both have sorted our enduring power of attorney stashed in a drawer at home.

“My friends and family all do, too, because I harass them about it,” she laughs.