Honouring Kit’ Astwood
After 50-years of continuous membership in the Institute of Directors (IoD), the Bermuda branch of the century-old organisation has honoured well known business and political figure, Jeffrey Christopher Astwood — he is more commonly known simply as J.C. ‘Kit’ Astwood — with a lifetime honorary membership. He had a business career that saw him serve as director to dozens of companies.
Recognised at a reception in his honour, Mr. Astwood said he had greatly benefited from his IoD membership and valued the networking opportunities made available in Bermuda and abroad.
He said, “As a frequent worldwide traveller, I was also able to meet directors in other countries through introductions made by the IoD.”
“We live in fast changing times and it behoves us all to stay current and informed in whatever our field of endeavour. This applies as much to directors as it does to any technician.
“The Bermuda Branch of the IoD is making great strides to help with this and I encourage everyone sitting on the board of a company, or any other entity, to join the IoD and make use of what they have to offer.”
At 81 years old, Mr. Astwood has been at the centre of change in Bermuda on a number of fronts. He was a Member of Parliament from 1968 to 1980, active in the Chamber of Commerce and its President 1968-1969.
He remembers renting pedal cycles to tourists through J.B. Astwood and Sons, a company right on Front Street that his grandfather started in 1890.
He recalled, “It was the building of the big hotels which helped us. The Bermudiana Hotel and the Princess were so close to us that we could deliver pedal cycles right to the hotels.
“Tourists liked the fact they could come right out of the hotel and jump on a bike. The horse and buggy owners were complaining we were taking their business away,”
But pedal cycles gave way to mopeds and again, his company was the prime mover.
But he was among a group of businessmen who had to figure out how to get more visitors to come to Bermuda.
They were interested in getting products of value to sell to American travellers — products such as crystal, Wedgewood China, Icelandic wool and Irish linen.
Mr. Astwood and his colleagues recognised the value of connections with UK businesses to make this happen. And he saw the Institute as a way to help.
He said, “I feel that our relationship with the UK has been strengthened by our affiliations through organisations such as the IoD”.
But he was also in the mix when international companies began beating a path to Bermuda’s door.
“There were so many international companies as members of the Chamber of Commerce and we were trying to accommodate them and we couldn’t handle that,” he laughed.
“They had their own division of the Chamber (as of 1971), the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC). But they spoke a different language. In those days, few knew what international business was about. But ABIC gave international business a voice, separate to the rest of Bermuda.”
In 2001, given the dramatic growth of the international business sector in Bermuda, ABIC became an independent organisation.
Mr. Astwood was also involved in the envisioning of the new role for the Royal Naval Dockyard in the 1980s, after decades of neglect. Very little had been done with the old ruins since the late 1950s.
Today, as a result of concepts, planning and activities that began with people like Mr. Astwood, “Dockyard” is a vibrant commercial community.
Remembering Mr. Astwood’s contributions to Bermuda recently was another influential business figure, Mansfield ‘Jimmy’ Brock.
At Mr. Astwood’s IoD reception, Mr. Brock recounted the early days of their friendship, and the fun and fulfillment they enjoyed as they worked together to help build Bermuda’s reputation as an international business centre.
Also present was IoD Bermuda Branch chairman, Roger Gillett, a retired ACE executive who commented: “Kit gave me encouragement and support, and I encourage all of the IoD members to follow Mr. Astwood’s example by taking responsibility for their own development and the well being of the community.”
Paul Munden, the leader of IoD’s course tutors, visiting the Island to run a formal classroom course and individual board training sessions, added his congratulations to Mr. Astwood, noting the very special and long-standing nature of IoD Bermuda’s relationship with the IoD in London.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) was founded in 1903 and obtained a Royal Charter in 1906. The IoD is a non-party political organisation with approximately 34,500 members in the United Kingdom and overseas.
Membership includes directors from right across the business spectrum — from media to manufacturing, e-business to the public and voluntary sectors. Members include CEOs of large corporations as well as entrepreneurial directors of start-up companies.
The IoD provides an effective voice to represent the interests of its members to key opinion-formers at the highest levels.
These include Government ministers and their shadows, parliamentary committee members, senior civil servants and think tanks. IoD policies and views are actively promoted to the national, regional and trade media. Interested executives follow the Institute on Twitter to get their reaction on business and public policy issues.
The IoD offers a wide range of business services which include business centre facilities, with 15 UK centres (including three in London, Reading, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Nottingham, Norwich, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast) and one in Paris, conferences, networking events, virtual offices, issues-led guides and literature, as well as free access to business information and advisory services.
The IoD places great emphasis on director development and has established a certified qualification for directors — Chartered Director — as well as running specific board and director-level training and individual career mentoring programmes.
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