Learning from the Past: the Distress and Resuscitation of PSIS, 1979-2003


By Gordon Boyce


The Public Service Investment Society (PSIS) was placed under statutory management in 1979 after a period of growth and diversification. Over the next eight years, the statutory manager restructured the Society’s administration and systems, divested assets, freed up the frozen deposits, and restored member confidence. PSIS was released from statutory management in September 1987, and subsequently completed the rest of its restructuring programme. The co-operative refocused its operations on the core savings and loan operation and subsequently emerged as the largest New Zealand–owned co-operative financial services provider. PSIS’s brush with failure and its subsequent revival highlight five key balances that must be managed carefully in order to maintain stability and enhance performance. They are (1) diversity and homogeneity of the membership, (2) democratic processes and strong leadership, (3) mutuality and commercial orientation, (4) preserving continuity with past practice and adapting to changing conditions within the business environment, and (5) effective administrative control and flexible capabilities.