Centre Stage: Kevin Hayes, Man Group CFO

By Simon Hendery

The newly appointed head of finance at the world's largest listed hedge fund developed his interest in accounting as a schoolboy at Wellington's Hutt Valley High.

New Zealander Kevin Hayes' early passion for numbers proved to be the springboard for a career which has included senior positions with big-name global firms Ernst & Young and Lehman Brothers.

Last month Hayes was appointed London-based chief financial officer for Man Group, a global investment firm managing more than US$61 billion ($82 billion) of clients' funds.

Hayes graduated with degrees in commerce and law from Victoria University in 1986 and began work in Wellington at what was then accounting firm Arthur Young.

After a period on secondment to the State Services Commission, he moved to Arthur Young in New York, arriving on the day in 1989 the firm announced its merger with Ernst & Whinney to form Ernst & Young.

"The fact that I came out of New Zealand was a little bit of an advantage for me because in that environment I wasn't either an Arthur Young or an Ernst & Whinney, I was a guy from New Zealand," Hayes says.

"I think that gave me a bit of a novelty value. People in New York are naturally attracted to people who are from other places."

Hayes made partner at Ernst & Young before joining Lehman Brothers where, over 12 years with the firm, he held senior finance and strategy positions, the last being global director of process and productivity.

Hayes says he was attracted to FTSE-listed Man Group because of its position as a global leader in "alternative" investment products. As well as being the world's largest hedge fund company, Man is also one of the largest futures brokers.

"This is a huge industry that continues to grow," he says. "People are needing investment products more nowadays. People are living longer, people are thinking about long-term investments.

"They're thinking about long-run performance, they're looking for innovative products and Man is an organisation that can provide that, both on the retail side and the institutional side."

One innovation being pushed by Man is "green investing" - a concept proving increasingly popular with environment-conscious investors.

"We constantly look for new investments, new investment strategies and the green market is going to be a very big market," Hayes says.

"People are very enthusiastic about the opportunities. People see some real social impact that they can have in making investments in people who are committed to reducing emissions and carbon levels."

Hayes says the time he spent at the State Services Commission in the late 1980s, working on the sweeping reforms to New Zealand's corporate framework introduced through the 1993 Companies Act, was invaluable.

"That was a good opportunity for me to clip together some commerce and law and really gave me an exposure - which was very important later on - to the US framework of accounting."

Hayes is married to a New Yorker and has children aged 11, 10 and 6. He returns to New Zealand regularly. His mother still lives in Lower Hutt.

On whether he might eventually settle back here, he says: "I never discount anything.

"The opportunity of going back to New Zealand I always keep open. I have a strong affection for New Zealand. It's a great country to grow up in and to bring children up in."

One of the country's top CFO jobs, at Telecom, may open up soon if incumbent Marko Bogoievski succeeds Theresa Gattung as chief executive. But suggesting the possible vacancy brings a diplomatic chuckle from Hayes. It seems unlikely he would want to change jobs again so soon after joining Man.

Man Group's investment division, Man Investments, has more than 25,400 clients in New Zealand who have $745 million invested through its fund products.

On a per capita basis, Man has more clients in New Zealand than in any other country.

"A lot of the trends you see in the international markets tend to be very quickly adopted in New Zealand.

"New Zealand is an innovative country where you've got a lot of people who are open to new ways of doing things, new investment strategies.

"That's definitely been the experience of Man - the take-up of the product in New Zealand has been tremendous."

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