Kent Gardner - UK New Zealander of the Year
Kent Gardner (BCom, Accounting 1993, LLB 1994) has lived in London for most of the last decade but was so moved by the devastating Christchurch earthquake in February last year he organised a fundraising event.
And what an event that was – Step Up 4 Christchurch brought together more than 1,000 people for a charity stair run up London’s Gherkin building last May with NZ $625,000 raised.
As a result Kent was named the UK New Zealander of the Year 2012 at a recent dinner in the British capital.
He says organising a high profile and successful charity event wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
"Like most Kiwis overseas, my New Zealand colleagues and I all had personal connections with friends and family affected by the earthquake so the impact of the devastation felt very close to home," Kent says.
"It struck us that in the Gherkin tower we had a unique asset with obvious fund-raising potential and the ability to attract widespread attention for what was happening in Christchurch. The idea very quickly snowballed from there with the support of the UK’s New Zealand community who rallied behind the project from the word go."
"We had individuals, corporate teams and entire families taking part on the day."
Step-Up 4 Christchurch raised more than £325,000, easily beating Kent’s initial target of £250,000
Interestingly Kent estimates that about 60% of those who took part were not ex-pat New Zealanders.
Kent, fourth of 11 children, attended Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin from 1985 to 1989 and while his father has passed away, his mother who was originally from the North Island now lives in Fielding.
After graduating Kent spent six years as a tax and finance lawyer at Russell McVeagh in Wellington but rather than taking up a partnership he decided to move to London in 2001 to work at Evans Randall, an investment banking firm. There he is one of three partners and the Chief Executive.
Along with his partners Paul Kendrick and Michael Evans, Kent refocused the business in 2004 and starting investing in commercial property. The business now has assets under management of over £4 billion and has acquired a prime office portfolio spanning London and parts of continental Europe. The Gherkin building forms part of that portfolio.
Kent is heavily involved outside of Evans Randall with roles as Commissioner of the Crown Estate Paving Commission (which overseas certain aspects of Regent’s Park in Central London) and as a trustee of the UK Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.
While he has no immediate plans to return to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife Gaye and their three sons - Freddie (6), Harry (4), and Will (20 months) all born in London - Kent believes there are opportunities to promote this country from London on a global scale and to show people in London, whether they be residents or visitors, what New Zealand has to offer.
"I believe that New Zealand’s unique landmark asset, in Central London, New Zealand House, can play a role in that.”