From Munchy Mart to financial markets

Juggling law and commerce with a permanent role in finance meant autumn graduate Paul Koraua left university with five years of professional experience.

Paul Koraua
Paul Koraua graduated on 14 May wearing a tapa cloth tie from his mother's village in Papua New Guinea.

Autumn graduate Paul Koraua was in his second year of a conjoint law and commerce degree when he was offered a permanent role with Heartland Bank. Suffice to say, his schedule took a turn towards the hectic.

“In the summer of my second year at university, I started working at Heartland Bank. I was initially interning two or three days a week before I was offered a permanent position. Juggling the role and university work was challenging.”

Following his day job as a junior treasury analyst in Newmarket, Paul would hop on a bus and head to the University, stopping at Munchy Mart to grab some snacks before going to the library. There, he would often spend hours studying for exams before finally leaving for home, sometimes as late as 11pm.

The opportunity to work with Heartland Bank arose after Paul, who is of Papua New Guinea and Kiribati descent, applied for the Bank’s Manawa Ako internship programme, which provides opportunities for Māori and Pacific rangatahi to experience work in the financial sector.

This chance early on in his studies meant that although he missed out on getting involved in student clubs and other extra-curricular activities, he gained real-world experience and a foot in the door that would help him land his current role as an associate equity analyst at Forsyth Barr.

Paul Koraua
Paul with his mum Grace Laxton Koraua and girlfriend Annalise Witteveen.

Paul, who graduated on 14 May, was born in the Solomon Islands and is one of seven siblings. Due to civil unrest, his family left the Solomon Islands in 2000 for Papua New Guinea, but safety was also an issue there and they decided to move to Aotearoa. Thankfully, Paul’s aunty had lived on Waiheke Island for many years and they were able to base themselves there and get settled.

“Both my parents grew up in small villages in their respective homelands. Through hard work and education, they managed to create opportunities for me and my siblings that they never had,” says Paul, whose education would have been very different if it hadn’t been for the move his parents made.

“When we go back to the islands to visit, we see what the schooling system is like there, and it’s tough. Many families can’t afford to put all their kids through school, and even then, they don’t have the infrastructure and resources to ensure every young person is able to continue with their education—even if they want to. In some cases, if you don’t get certain grades, you’re basically out of the schooling system.”

Paul says he’s immensely grateful for the moves his parents made to enable more opportunities for him and his siblings.

“A lot of the hard work I do is to repay my parents for the sacrifice and opportunities they gave me.”

I got to finish my degree advocating for Pasifika issues that are important to me, my family and my communities.

Conjoint law and commerce graduate Paul Koraua

Paul went to Pakuranga College before he enrolled at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland in 2017. Seven and a half years later, he’s not only graduating with his law and commerce degrees, but he also has around five years of professional experience in the finance industry.

“I was always interested in commerce, but my high school career adviser encouraged me to also think about law,” says Paul. "She told me about the industry and the sheer number of people who study commerce and recommended I consider ways to differentiate myself and build on my skillset. I looked into it and decided I would pursue both law and commerce.”

The further Paul got through law school, the more he wanted to take classes and courses that he found meaningful and that related to his cultural heritage.

“Thankfully, there were a number of different avenues to participate in Pacific-related studies, which I took advantage of.”

Last year, he won the Moana Oceania Issues Moot.

“I was on a work trip down to Nelson, and I was working on preparing for the moot on the plane. It was the final element of my law degree, and it was amazing and shocking that I won.”

Like many people, Paul wasn’t a huge fan of public speaking, so winning the moot was a real highlight and a fantastic way to complete his time at Auckland Law School – “not only because it proved to me that I can get up and present myself confidently in such a setting but also because I got to finish my degree advocating for Pasifika issues that are important to me, my family and my communities”.

Media contact:

Sophie Boladeras I Media adviser
M: 022 4600 388