Footballer Richards aims to score for BDA
A painting of the view of Bermuda, as seen from his childhood home, was the impetus that led Kevin Richards back to the Island after many years working overseas.
He is the newest business development manager recruited to the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), helping international companies to either start-up, relocate or expand in Bermuda. His specialised areas include the shipping, aviation and commercial banking sectors.
From his sixth-floor office, which overlooks Par-la-Ville Road, he recalled the impact the painting had on his decision to relocate to the Island.
The artwork was created by his fiance and adorned a wall of his apartment in Toronto. As he faced a career crossroads earlier this year, he looked at the painting’s familiar scene.
“I was 33 and I thought, if I was ever to come home now would be the time,” said the former Bermuda national team football player.
He was briefly out of work; a casualty of the worldwide collapse in the price of oil.
For four years he had progressed his career with one of North America’s biggest companies, General Electric.
Two of those years were with GE Capital International in London, as part of the leadership programme. A project manager and strategy analyst, he was involved with insurance for aircraft leasing customers and analysing competitor banks across Europe.
He then worked for GE Canada, based in Toronto, as a marketing manager with the growth team, heavily focused on the oil sector. But when oil prices started to dive in mid-2014 the signs were ominous.
“They gave it a quarter to see if the prices would go back up, but they didn’t,” he said, explaining that oil production in Canada is relatively expensive. With the industry hitting the doldrums and customers cutting back, GE Canada’s growth projects were also put on hold.
“My team was shrunk and I was out of a job.”
He returned to Bermuda to network and meet with potential employers. That let to interviews, including a meeting with BDA chief executive Ross Webber.
“He’d been doing a lot of the heavy lifting work and was looking for someone else to join the team,” said Mr Richards. He accepted the offer to join the agency as a business development manager.
“I see the BDA as the right fit for me at this stage of my career,” he explained.
“I’ve always felt I’ve been an ambassador for Bermuda, and this role is a real opportunity to do what I can to grow Bermuda.
“I’m very passionate about that. There’s a real feel of optimism on the business scene.”
Mr Richards brings to the BDA a commendable level of experience across a number of sectors.
He has worked in Britain, the US, Canada and Bermuda, and this, coupled with exposure to aviation and insurance sectors, has helped him to hit the ground running with the agency.
He has already met with the BDA’s shipping industry focus group and stakeholders on the Island, including his brother Victor, who is a lawyer advising on aspects of shipping and aviation registration, among other areas.
The BDA’s mission is to attract new business to Bermuda and to retain and grow business already on the Island.
Mr Richards said Bermuda was once the leader in many business areas, but during the past 20 years had “taken its eye off the ball” in terms of telling its story and enticing international businesses to locate to the Island.
The task now is to make Bermuda a compelling destination of choice for businesses when compared to its competitors.
“It’s about putting ourselves out there and explaining what Bermuda has to offer, listening to the businesses and making changes.”
Mr Richards is confident his background means he can offer a high level of expertise to assist in that mission.
“I was with one of the biggest companies in the world and worked as an agent for change, and that’s what I want to do with the BDA,” he said.
The son of Bob Richards, the Finance Minister, he grew up in Bermuda and played sports at a high level, including as a player with PHC Zebras and with the national tennis squad at junior level.
He played for Bermuda in both the 2006 and 2010 Fifa World Cup campaigns, and trialled for English League Championship side Queens Park Rangers.
However, even at a young age, his parents insisted that he struck a balance between his sporting and academic endeavours. It was advice for which he is now grateful, having seen his footballing career dogged by injury.
“If we were not getting the grades at school, then we were not allowed to watch television or play sports, etc. That’s how our house operated, and I’m thankful for that now.”
He explained: “You could have a long career in sport, or something can happen, such as an injury, to stop that.”
Mr Richards attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where he captained the football team and was drafted to Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids. He achieved a bachelor’s degree in English and political science.
Moving to England led to a meeting with insurance sector veteran Paul Scope, who now heads Willis Bermuda and has connections to the Island stretching back to the 1980s.
“He heard there was another Bermudian out there, so we hooked up and he has been a mentor to me since then,” said Mr Richards.
It was through Mr Scope that he was introduced to the Ace Group. He joined Ace European Group, in London, working in the internal audit department. In 2007, after three years in England, he returned to Bermuda as an assistant underwriter with Ace Bermuda Insurance.
Outside of work, he played football with the national team and the Bermuda Hogges in the United Soccer League’s second division. It was a busy time, but also on his mind was a desire to take his education to the next level and pursue a master’s degree.
In 2009, he returned to the University of Notre Dame to complete a master’s in business administration. While there he performed a sustainability audit on the university.
After university, he worked for GE for four years. Last month he joined the BDA.
Although a new member of the team, he has been impressed by what he has seen at the agency.
“Being part of a team of 13 is very refreshing. There’s a lot of energy in the office,” he said.
“People are energetic when they come to the office each day. Ross has set things so each of the business development managers can focus on their roles, and also fill in for each other when needed.”
When asked what he brings to the team, he replied: “I’ve leveraged lessons from being an athlete and a business person. I’ve not always been the captain, but I have led and been supportive to the team, and I bring that to the BDA.”
And his love of football continues. He is player-coach with PHC Zebras, and hopes that in coming months he will be injury free and able to resume defensive duties on the field.
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