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NZSL week spotlight: financial adviser making a difference
BoosterMay 9, 20242 min read

NZSL week spotlight: financial adviser making a difference

As part of New Zealand Sign Language Week, we want to highlight the work some advisers are doing to help people with hearing difficulties get access to financial advice. 

New Zealand Sign Language is an official language of New Zealand, along with Te Reo Māori. While both Māori and NZSL are official languages in law, English is only a de facto official language. 

Around 23,000 people use NZSL. We spoke to one of these, Richard Renfrew, a financial adviser with Lyfords Financial Advisers based in Lower Hutt. 


Booster: Hi Richard, can you introduce yourself?

Richard: I'm Richard, I'm a financial adviser and my sign name is ‘popcorn’. With 100% seriousness, my name in NZSL is ‘popcorn’.

Booster: Could you please expand on your background with NZSL? When did your journey with NZSL begin and what inspired you to learn NZSL?

Richard: I wanted to increase my businesses growth in the community and realised that enabling my team to learn NZSL and Te Reo Māori would be a great way.

I lead by example and attended six terms of night classes for NZSL and two terms of night classes for Te Reo Māori. But NZSL became more of a lifestyle. My wife joined me in learning, and we attended 'Deaf club' (events hosted for the Deaf community).

A couple of years after we started learning the language, my wife became a specialist resource teacher of the deaf. As a financial adviser I am thrilled when I can use my sign language skills but have only provided advice for a handful of deaf clients.

Booster: Can you share a specific example of how NZSL has positively impacted your ability to support clients?

Richard: NZSL is one of two national languages in New Zealand, but it has the distinction of being the only non-written communication tool for many New Zealanders. The ability for anyone to go up to a professional ask them a question in their native language, their national language and have that question answered is something that most of us take for granted.

I feel privileged to have worked with some outstanding people within the deaf community. NZSL has been a nice thing to know for many of my clients but for the few clients that are deaf it has been a 'have to' know.

Booster: What obstacles do you perceive members of the Deaf community encounter when seeking financial advice?

Richard: The deaf community faces similar obstacles as the hearing community does. Everyone knows the struggle that people have with money. Everyone knows the high number of scams. But can you imagine going through that unable to call your bank because they don't allow a third party to communicate with them? Or that nobody has talked to them about KiwiSaver because it's just too hard?

Fortunately, the advent of digital verification is helping to close the loop for banking services but there is a void when it comes to actually receiving advice.

Booster: How do you address these challenges to support your clients?

Richard: In my opinion it takes 200 hours to learn enough NZSL to effectively communicate. I'm so glad I put in that time. Last week, I had a client meet me and start signing with me and it brought a smile to my face and his face.

Thanks to Richard for letting us ask him a few questions and for telling us more about NZSL.

Learn more about New Zealand Sign Language and NZSL Week!



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