FMA boss Rob Everett named as new venture fund chief executive

The long-running search for a new chief executive for a government-backed venture fund has ended, with Financial Markets Authority boss Rob Everett believed to have been appointed.

On Friday morning New Zealand Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP) confirmed the appointment of Everett as the Crown-owned company’s new chief executive, after the Herald broke news of the appointment.

Everett has spent the past seven years as chief executive of the FMA. He steps down at the end of October and will join NZGCP at the end of January.

“We are fortunate that his decision to leave the FMA coincided with our search for a permanent CEO,” NZGCP chairman David Smol said in a statement.

“Rob is highly regarded, with extensive business and government networks, financial markets experience and a proven record in organisational leadership.He is well-placed to lead the organisation to continue to build a vibrant early-stage technology investment market in New Zealand and support New Zealand tech start-ups, innovators and investors to become world-class.”

The appointment of a permanent chief executive for the fund has been difficult. It is now 14 months since its former head Richard Dellabarca abruptly left the organisation in August 2020.

Since then, NZGCP, previously known at the Venture Investment Fund, announced Daria Murray, who works at Kiwibank, would become its new chief executive. However, she never took up the role, for reasons both the fund and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund have refused to discuss.

The Government directed the Super Fund to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a fund to be managed by NZGCP and was meant to be given approval of key appointments.

At the end of 2020, the entire board of NZGCP resigned, with the exception of Smol, the former Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment chief executive, who had recently joined and who became the fund’s chairman.

In January, James Fletcher was announced as its interim chief executive, but he left recently to take a senior role at law firm DLA Piper.

Since then, James Pinner, who joined NZGCP in 2019 to establish the Elevate NZ Venture Fund, has been acting chief executive.

“The new Board, appointed late last year, has developed and adopted a strategic plan that sets operational and financial targets through to June 2024. We look forward to Rob delivering on this plan and bringing strong leadership to NZGCP’s programme of significant investment in the New Zealand early-stage ecosystem,” Smol said.

In March, the FMA announced Everett would be leaving the FMA “towards the end” of 2021.

While the appointment of a permanent chief executive is likely to be welcomed in the investment market, the appointment of a top bureaucrat – when the fund is already chaired by a former top bureaucrat – may not excite private venture fund providers which tend to invest alongside NZGCP in early stage innovative companies.

The Government “might as well have the auditor-general running it” one venture fund figure said of the news.

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