Bruce Aitken, Distinguished Alumni 2014

20 March 2014
Bruce Aitken
Bruce Aitken

Education is a critical element in the future success of New Zealand, with training and development of the next generation crucial to achievement in the global marketplace, the Business School’s Distinguished Alumni for 2014 says.

Bruce Aitken, a director of Methanex Corporation based in Vancouver, says New Zealand has many natural advantages and should focus on excellence in industries that showcase the country’s strengths.

“Our biggest disadvantages are remoteness and a small population, but in some ways they are also part of the charm of the country that we should turn to our advantage,” the 59-year-old international executive says.

“It is pleasing to see a lot of innovative educational programmes in New Zealand – in many cases supported by the private sector – that are designed to lift our game.”

Bruce, who has lived and worked in five different countries over the past 30 years, was born in Methven, Canterbury, but educated in Auckland, graduating from the Business School with a BCom in 1974.  He says his selection as an outstanding alumni has left him “surprised, amazed and humbled, but also very honoured”.

“My BCom from the University of Auckland was a very useful passport to the rest of my career but it was only the very first step. Throughout my career, I have always welcomed changes and new challenges, and at various stages in my career I left a comfortable situation for a new challenge,” the Blues Super15 rugby fan says.

“I think more than anything this desire to learn new things and to expand my horizons helped with the success that I have enjoyed. I have also learned a lot about leadership skills over the years and been fortunate to work for great leaders and to be surrounded by some excellent people.”

Bruce was president and chief executive of Methanex for eight years until his retirement in 2012, and has worked for the company since 1991. Previous to this, he oversaw Fletcher Challenge’s acquisition of 90 percent of Cape Horn Methanol, and has worked in Chile, Vancouver and Auckland for both companies.

He is credited with advancing Methanex’s long-term strategy and leadership position in the global methanol industry, and led a review of its global organisation that evolved into its current operating structure.

Bruce has also been influential in establishing Methanex’s core strategies of global leadership, low cost and operational excellence.

He has also been the University of British Columbia’s Centre for CEO Leadership chair, and an independent director of a venture capital clean energy start-up based in Montreal. He and his wife Donna have maintained close ties with New Zealand, returning every summer on holiday, and they have recently bought a business in New Zealand with their son.

“Our intention is to transition to spend more time in New Zealand and less in Canada over the next few years,” Bruce says.