Simon Challies

Simon Challies

2011 Beacon Award

The directors of the New Zealand Shareholders’ Association have pleasure this year in presenting the award to Mr Simon Challies.

When we think about Ryman Healthcare we are reminded of the quote by Charles Revson – famous promoter of Revlon – “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.” Ryman provides accommodation and rest home care for the elderly, but in fact when coming to a Ryman Village, many find they have purchased a new outlook and a new lifestyle, in what is virtually a holiday resort. This vision for the business was provided by Kevin Hickman, but it is the detailed implementation that marks Ryman as a very special operation. Over the past eight years as General Manager and then Managing Director, Simon Challies has demonstrated outstanding leadership in realising the vision, and implementing the structure with such outstanding success for everyone involved.

Simon was brought up in Christchurch, where he was an outstanding school student, Dux of his school and (inevitably in Canterbury) a keen rugby player. He graduated LLB, and B Com (accounting) at University of Canterbury, and became a member of ICANZ, working for Spicers and Deloittes. Simon also developed his marketing skills in the Harvard Club of Australia, the Australasian extension of the famous Harvard case study approach to marketing. Outside of business, he has contributed to his community as treasurer and auditor of a number of sports clubs and charities.

When Simon first joined Ryman in 1999, it had a market cap of $135m and made profits of $6.2m. This year it made a net profit of $100m and the market capitalisation was almost 10 times greater than in 1999. Six times it has won the award for the best retirement village in the country. It now owns 22 villages, catering for five and a half thousand retirees, who are serviced by two thousand six hundred staff.

Unlike most companies, Ryman has grown organically, without requiring injections of new capital from its shareholders.This growth is complemented by its vertically integrated model including permanent design and development staff as well as continuing in- house maintenance programmes. Simon has led the development of staff skills, initiating programmes for the training of marketing and administrative personnel. Although the Ryman directorate is dominated by accountants, management expertise is across a broad spectrum of healthcare, recreational, and property services – and it shows.

Simon’s next challenge is Australia. This market has several players larger than Ryman. Most promote their secure villages as resorts. However we believe that Ryman’s ability to supply lifestyle cottages, apartments, serviced apartments, rest home and hospital care, can be successful in Australia. It will not be easy, but we believe Simon and the team he leads have demonstrated the skills and ability to succeed while still progressing the successful New Zealand operation.