Revolutionary investment banker Rob Cameron had huge ambitions for New Zealand, which he demonstrated in his public and commercial life.
Last June, Rod Drury and I organised a soiree at Xero's HQ in Wellington to honour Cameron's contribution to New Zealand.
He had earlier presented as a rather gaunt figure at the annual Infinz awards, where he was honoured as a distinguished fellow for his contribution to the capital markets.
Read more: Investment banker Rob Cameron dies
Cameron was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer in 2010 and had kept the disease at bay through dietary changes and superb treatment, all the while continuing in his role as one of NZ's foremost investment bankers.
We had a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with Rob's colleagues at Cameron Partners to find a time between treatments and work engagements. Then there were the negotiations with Rob, who characteristically decided the event should not be about him.
He thought it far better to celebrate Xero's 10 years as a listed public company.
Of course, we honoured him anyway — Drury paying tribute to Rob's role in listing Xero and me talking through his many achievements dating back to his Treasury days. (Even Bill English, who had a torrid time in Parliament that day over the Todd Barclay affair, later popped by Drury's apartment for the after-match function, where the pair engaged in a long conversation).
Then it was over to Cameron. Rob hauled himself up and spoke with great passion for some 30 minutes over what the Drury-led Xero had achieved since its listing on the NZX.
He recounted how Cameron Partners had heard of Drury before he arrived on their doorstep: "He had this accounting software, and he envisaged a market that he would sell into. He wanted to scale quickly and become a global company. He had boldness and courage by arguing that Xero had to list to get the capital he needed to increase its profile." There was plenty more besides, which Cameron later reprised for a Herald article to celebrate Drury's award as Visionary Leader at the Deloitte Top 200 awards last November.
Cameron Partners went on to manage Xero's initial public offering (IPO). "It was quite risky. We made sure he had a good compelling business plan and this got us over the line," related Cameron.
He talked about how size didn't matter, and that New Zealand entrepreneurs can build global companies from scratch.
And for good measure, when Drury decided to shift Xero's listing to the ASX late last year — something that was hardly universally popular with those present at the June celebration — Cameron again stepped up to tell journalists that it made perfect sense.
It was a level of ambition that Cameron — who died on Thursday, aged 67 — demonstrated in his own career, which in many ways mirrored the development of New Zealand's capital markets.
I first came across him when he was at Treasury during the early 1980s and working on its blueprint for Rogernomics. Cameron was among several leading officials who were intent on a revolution.
In 1982-84 they developed and shaped the reforms that followed the 1984 election. Cameron's own responsibility included the development of policy on state-owned enterprises.
He then caught capitalism.
Brian Gaynor spirited him away from Treasury to become director of research at Jarden & Company.
At this time he was a regular economic and business columnist for the Sunday Times, where I was editing the business pages.
He was challenging and committed. But it was clear to me that he was also itching to get on the deal side and be part of the action.
This came when he shifted to Fay Richwhite to lead teams involved in some of the largest capital market transactions that have occurred in New Zealand.
These included the restructuring of the NZ Railways Corporation and corporatisation of the core rail business — an area which was not without brickbats; the $4.25 billion Telecom privatisation and subsequent IPO and the sale of $1.4b of Crown forest assets.
In 1995, he struck out and established Cameron Partners — now one of New Zealand's leading investment banks.
Cameron's strengths came to the fore when he led the negotiating team responsible for advising the Government on the $885m recapitalisation of Air NZ in 2011.
This role saw Cameron at his most tenacious. He worked over the politicians, the bankers, the directors and the media as he tried to build consensus for the recapitalisation.
I came back from one late-night meeting with him to look at the TV screen in the Herald office. It took the September 11 attack on the twin towers to wipe the Air NZ bailout story from the front pages.
His signature contribution came later as chairman of the Capital Markets Development Taskforce under the Labour Government.
Cameron took on this role when our financial markets were still held in considerable disrepute. There had been a loss of investor confidence with the finance companies bust.
But there were already 700,000 New Zealanders with KiwiSaver accounts and the then Labour Government believed ensuring confidence in our capital markets was imperative.
Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel asked Cameron to chair the taskforce.
He said at the time: "We'll need to look at the current state of our capital markets, the international context, future risks and opportunities and key changes necessary to deliver the best possible financial system for New Zealand. It will be a challenge but one that the taskforce welcomes."
Many recommendations in the final report were incorporated into National Commerce Minister Simon Power's Financial Markets Conduct legislation, and the Financial Markets Authority was formed, and armed with considerably more powers than the previous markets watchdog, the Securities Commission.
Cameron also (nearly single-handedly) made the case for the mixed ownership model which paved the way for the partial privatisations of the Crown's gentailers by the John Key Government.
He brought a focus on corporate finance disciplines to public-sector business which contributed to the improved performance of the economy. And he has been a tireless advocate for principled reform, at select committees, in seminars and with media.
He will be greatly missed within the New Zealand commercial community.