QBE INSURANCE CHAIRPERSON OF THE YEAR : Gary Paykel – Pragmatic leadership

It should come as no surprise to aficionados of the Top 200 Awards that the Fisher & Paykel name crops up once more. In the previous 16 years, the company – or individuals from it – have been nominated 12 times. Back in his early days as chief executive of Fisher & Paykel Industries, Gary Paykel was already drawing accolades for his contribution and no-nonsense approach to business. Now he takes out the QBE Insurance Chairperson of the Year Award for his contribution to both Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Fisher & Paykel Appliances.
Paykel is on record as saying that he cannot fathom how board members can function effectively without deep and intimate knowledge of the business that they govern. This basic tenet underpins his boardroom ethic, dissolving adversarial attitudes that can so often exist between board and management as both parties strive to do what is best for the company and its stakeholders.
Given his personal link to the company co-founded by his father Maurice back in 1934, it is hard to separate Gary Paykel from the company’s cultural DNA which was once described by Fisher & Paykel Appliances’ CEO and MD John Bongard as “style, integrity, care and innovation”. Add to that Gary Paykel’s keen understanding that the company’s family origins engender sense of belonging that now extends throughout its diverse workforce. Both Fisher & Paykel companies remain R&D icons within local manufacturing. Gary Paykel remains one of New Zealand’s most respected business leaders.


Gary Paykel’s performance as an executive impressed the Top 200 judges as long ago as 1993. Now he’s wowing this year’s judges in his role as chair of both Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and F&P Appliances.
Both of those enterprises, while New Zealand based, have significant operations abroad. They’re major exporters. They’re very creative and innovative, say the judges. They’ve got very good people policies. They genuinely compete on the international stage with new and creative products. And they’re both class enterprises.
Paykel has transitioned well from the role of chief executive to chair while remaining passionate about the companies. He is man with considerable vision and great ideas that are executed extremely well at the manufacturing and operational level. He’s committed to engendering innovation and creativity while remaining the down-to-earth guy who interacts comfortably with all levels of his workforce.
His companies continue to deliver very good results in very tough environments.


Ian Farrant’s CV reads like who’s who of New Zealand companies. This long-time professional director and chairman has helped steer many of our nation’s enterprises: Among them, The New Zealand Refining Company, Fulton Hogan, The Securities Commission, Skeggs Group and host of smaller private companies.
The Top 200 judges recognised his work back in 2002. Now they’re picking him again.
A well known and much respected member of the corporate community, Farrant gives back to the next generation of upcoming business leaders through mentoring. He is Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Directors and Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.


A lawyer by trade, Jim McLay is also well known as former MP, Attorney General, Minister of Justice, Deputy Prime Minister and, following change of government, Leader of the Opposition.
Since then, his diverse set of business interests has expanded to include wide range of director- and chairman-ships. He is currently chairman of Metlifecare, Just Water International and Pharmacybrands, and executive chairman of Macquarie New Zealand.
A decisive man with strong opinions and unafraid of robust debate, McLay is also willing to listen to others and take on board their ideas. The judges say he displays very good practice and appreciation of governance, strong organisational skills and high degree of integrity.

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