Interview With Sir Kenneth Olisa, Chairman, Restoration Partners and HM’s Lord Lieutenant for Greater London

One of your biggest achievements was floating your company on the stock exchange. How did you go about that or get to that point?

It was the crazy time when the dot.com boom was nearing its zenith and we were approached by a public company shell with cash and no technology knowledge. On first view, it seemed a perfect match for us as we had deep technology skills and no cash!  However, the deal fell apart when we realised that the other party not only grossly undervalued us but they didn’t really care about tech.  However, having ‘tasted’ the idea of being public, we took control and, in effect, monetised our assets (shares in our clients which we had been paid in lieu of fees – which was why we had no money!) and took the direct route to the market.  We were admitted on the day that NASDAQ reached its peak and the dot.com bubble burst!

You’ve been quoted as saying you had an ideal childhood, what made it ideal and how did it contribute to your present success?

Two things – my mother’s love and the kindness of strangers.  The first imbued in me a determination to do my best at all times (or face the consequences!) combined with an overarching sense of social justice (my mother was a fighter for causes).  The second meant that people who saw something in me, went out of their way to help.  That list of what would today be called ‘sponsors’ included teachers, shopkeepers, instructors at St John Ambulance where I was a cadet and customers at the car wash where I worked on Saturdays.  The list is endless.  As a result I believe that I have a strong moral compass and an obligation to help others – to be their ‘kind stranger’.  That great golfer, Gary Player, is credited with saying that “the more I practice, the luckier I get.”  In my case, it has proved to be true that the more I do to help others, the more others will do to help me.

What would you say to a mature person who might be thinking about setting up their own business in today’s climate?

If you have the bug and even half a good idea – go for it!  This is the tech-driven Age of Disruption where no business has a God-given right to survive.  Just take a look at the High Street, or transport, or lodging to see what I mean. They have been Amazoned, Ubered, Teslaed and Airbnbed.  With technology ubiquitous and cheap to deploy, no business sector is safe from seismic change.  There are no effective barriers in the way of the next Bezos or Musk. It could be you!

Tell us about Restoration Partners, what is it and what does it do?

We are a boutique technology merchant bank.  We are modelled on those 19th century firms which combined creativity, a powerful network of contacts and access to capital to create wealth.  Our focus is tech – specifically information technology (IT) – and we combine deep sector knowledge and innovative minds to advise and assist disruptors to seize the moment.  Our advice is based on decades of experience and is delivered via a set of proprietary techniques which help MAD entrepreneurs (where MAD stands for mission addicted disruptors) to lead their teams to victory.  We are unusual in the world of finance.  Firstly, we aren’t about transactions – having helped to develop a client’s strategy we stick around to play a hands-on part in its execution.  Secondly, our rewards are linked to value-creating outcomes and not hours spent which means our interests and those of our clients are 100% aligned.  Our current clients include one of Africa’s largest Fintechs and a roll-up of some two hundred high street pharmacies seeking to take advantage of the Age of Disruption.

You currently serve as HM’s Lord Lieutenant for Greater London, how did this come about and how has it been going?

I was approached by the Clerk to the Privy Council to gauge my interest having come to his attention during the search process.  He recommended me to Her Majesty and the Prime Minister and they graciously appointed me to a position which dates back to the days of King Henry VIII.  The requires me (and the other ninety-seven, there being one for every county) to uphold the dignity of the Crown.  I do this by taking our lead from the Royal Family and promoting a good atmosphere and a spirit of co-operation by encouraging voluntary service and the business, industrial and social life across the 32 Boroughs of Greater London.  My objective is to increase social inclusion and you can read my strategy – Building bridges – on the Lieutenancy website.  It is an unpaid post and I share the responsibilities with some volunteer hundred deputies (signified by “DL” after their names) who are distinguished citizens of the capital.  Our ‘job’ includes receiving The Queen and the Members of The Royal Family when they visit London, presenting honours and awards in Her Majesty’s name and thanking charities and individuals who have gone the extra mile to support the needy and marginalised.   

The rest of this interview will be published online.