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New NZSE chair balances principles with pragmatism

By Campbell McIlroy

Friday 15th September 2000

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TODAY'S MAN: Simon Allen
Newly appointed New Zealand Stock Exchange chairman Simon Allen puts a lot of store by principles.

One man he admires: Timothy Crammond, who resigned as a director of AMP in Australia after the acquisition of GIO cost the company $A1.2 billion.

"That's something 99 out of 100 directors probably wouldn't do," Mr Allen (42) said.

Mr Crammond was a mentor to Mr Allen during his time with Australian stockbroking house BZW, later ABN Amro, during the easily hyped 1980s.

Mr Allen's other local heroes: businessmen with a conscience such as Bruce Plested of Mainfreight and Stephen Tindall of The Warehouse.

But he will find pragmatism rather than principles necessary in taking leadership of the Stock Exchange at a time of major upheaval and its delicate merger talks with the Australian Stock Exchange.

Stock Exchange critics will be hoping Mr Allen is a man of action as well as a man of values who will kick butt in the morose market.

If they were looking for streetfighter cred in Mr Allen's resume they might be disappointed, but they will be reassured by his track record with ABN Amro.

Head boy of Auckland's St Kentigern College in 1975, he completed a science degree in physiology and psychology at the University of Otago and followed it with a business degree at the University of Auckland.

He began his career as a cadet, as they were called then, with once-stellar company Ceramco where he first met another mentor Alan Topham, also leader of the New Zealand Export Institute.

Auckland International Airport managing director John Goulter, an executive director with Ceramco at the time, said Mr Allen was considered the mostly likely to succeed and was perceived as being very bright and having a great deal of ability as a young man.

Mr Allen's job with Ceramco took him to Australia in 1981 where he began his career in investment banking with Meares & Phillips, later BZW, in 1984 as a research analyst and then a stockbroker.

He moved back here in 1988 to establish a New Zealand branch of BZW, which was taken over by international broking house ABN Amro in 1998.

Mr Allen has been its managing director and chief executive since and has been on the Australasian management committee for seven years.

Under Mr Allen's leadership ABN Amro has scored many of the best offerings in a sluggish market, such as the plumb job of helping float SOE Contact Energy.

Mr Goulter said Mr Allen was a well-balanced operator as he had the ability to play hardball and could be very intense on occasion, but could be equally relaxed.

Cavill White Securities managing director Don Turkington said Mr Allen was probably best known for his achievements in building ABN into a top-flight institutional firm.

He was very much today's man, part of the new breed of investment bankers and brokers who had come up through the ranks of large institutional firms.

Mr Turkington said he had also developed a strong network in the public sector during his work on the Contact Energy float last year.

Impatient investors hoping for a merger with the AXS would be happy with Mr Allen's comments that the argument for going it alone would have to be very strong in terms of the benefits to members, companies and the public.

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