Life outside politics
What people say
On graduation, I joined a leading British financial services group, where I have now worked for 26 years - a rare feat of longevity in the modern labour market. This has required great flexibility, continual re-invention and an ability to work well with people from many different backgrounds and cultures. I have done a dozen different jobs and worked in 18 countries from offices in the UK, Japan, China and Indonesia
I was initially based in London where for two years I was part of the team advising HM Government on the privatisation of the electricity distribution companies in England & Wales.
However, I had always wanted to see more of the World and in 1990 I volunteered for a posting to our Tokyo office, a brave decision since I had never been to Japan. I was sent on an intensive full time "immersion" course in Japanese language and culture, studying at Stirling and Saitama universities, before undertaking four months of work experience at the Head Office of Fujitsu in Tokyo. I lived in a company dormitory in a room measuring 2.7 metres square - with only a futon for furniture!
In May 1992, I started work in my firm's Tokyo office. I was given a phone and, aged 25, told to build a business by cold-calling senior management of Japanese companies, most of whom spoke no English. I was fortunate to be part of a small team advising on the privatisation of Japan Telecom. However, the Japanese economy was in the doldrums, the rest of Asia was booming and in late 1993 I was sent to India. For a year, I lived out of suitcases, travelling from hotel to hotel, helping Indian entrepreneurs to raise money to fund the expansion of their businesses.
My period in India came to an end when my firm opened an office in Bombay. I was posted from Tokyo to Hong Kong. I spent most of 1995 travelling between Hong Kong and Manila unsuccessfully trying to persuade the Philippine Government to hire us to advise on the privatisation of the National Power Corporation. Then in 1996 I was asked to become our Corporate Finance Representative in Indonesia.
I had my reservations about Indonesia: the country was still in the grip of the Suharto regime. However, I was attracted by the prospect of working in such a diverse and beautiful country - which also has the World's largest Muslim population. For a year and a half, business and life were good. We won mandates to advise on the privatisation of electricity generating companies on Java and also state-owned plantations outside Medan in Sumatra. However, in mid-1997, came the Asian crisis. The Indonesian Rupiah lost 80% of its value against the Dollar, business dried up and in April 1998 I was posted back to the UK. A few weeks later, a British friend called me on his mobile from Jakarta. President Suharto had fallen. My friend was trying to get to the airport but up ahead there was a burning car.... I was glad to be home!
My return to the UK represented a turning point in my life. Previously, I had lived to work. Now, I worked to live.
In 1999, I met Kiloran at a friend's wedding. I proposed to her on 1 January 2000 and we were married in June. We now have three children - Katie (born in 2002), Tom (born in 2005) and Georgina (born in February 2008) - who are exhausting but enormous fun.
In 1999, I was appointed to the Board of Governors of Clapham Manor, a Beacon status primary school in Lambeth. I served for four years during which I worked closely with the local Conservative councillor to secure significant funding for the development of the school. After ending my term at Clapham Manor, I became a reading mentor at the English Martyrs Primary School in Tower Hamlets.
In 2003, I was elected by residents to the Executive of the West Bermondsey Community Forum, a body set up to enable local people, voluntary groups and service providers to work together to regenerate a priority area for neighbourhood renewal.
I served as a Governor of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust from 2004 until 2012. The functions of Governor include advising on the strategic direction of the trust, helping the trust to meet the needs of the wider community and approving the annual accounts and report from the Board of Directors.
I have trained as a prison visitor at HM Prison Brixton, meeting and talking to inmates about their treatment, conditions of confinement and, generally, the state and administration of the prison.
For five years, I was a member of the Stewardship Committee of Southwark Cathedral , persuading people to give their time, talent and money to support the work of the Church in the diverse and challenging communities of South London.
I am currently Chairman of the Trinity Newington Residents' Association, one of the largest residents’ associations in South London with over 200 households as paid-up members.
When not at work, bringing up three children or engaged in politics and voluntary work in the community, my hobbies include gardening, cricket, travel and reading. I have less time for hobbies than I would like!
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With the Mayor of London
Listening to pensioners' concerns
Meeting younger members of the community
Visiting Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital as a Governor
With Oliver Letwin, Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum
© Edward Heckels 2007-2018
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