Bill Kermode joins Purposely to share his story as inaugural CEO of the NEXT Foundation.
His mission to give away a hundred million dollar fortune on behalf of a family committed to making a positive and lasting difference to the planet and people of New Zealand.
NEXT is a privately funded charitable foundation which is relatively unique for New Zealand. Rather than being a long-lasting foundation, set up to exist forever using an endowment model, NEXT has a mandate to ‘spend down’ $100 million over 10 years.
The money is committed to environmental and educational projects that will benefit future generations of New Zealanders. Bill has led NEXT’s investments as well as providing guidance to the previous philanthropic commitments made by Neal and Annette Plowman.
'They had an ambition for NEXT to leave a legacy of environmental and Educational Excellence for the benefit of future generations of New Zealanders. They wanted to show a way of giving that they hoped would be a model that some others would choose to follow'.
The Plowmans made their fortune from a laundry business, founded in 1910 by George Plowman. They successfully grew the business and listed it on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, before privatising the company in 1986, and selling to US firm Alsco in 1998.
Bill was appointed NEXT CEO in 2014 by the NEXT Board chaired by Chris Liddell, a successful businessman and advisor to the Plowmans.
Bill spent the previous two decades as a founding Director of Direct Capital, New Zealand’s most experienced private company investor, and Director of a number of private companies, including Ryman Healthcare, PF Olsen, NZ Pharmaceuticals, and EziBuy.
We discuss Bills move from the investment sector to philanthropy running a charitable foundation and the differences between the two worlds.
‘The biggest difference is around evaluation and measurement, knowing whether you're contributing and making a difference. In the commercial and financial world, there are well established norms and ways of measuring success. However, in the ‘for purpose sector’ it is not so clear and not so clearly defined.’
2024 will see the end of the ten-year giving term, with currently 80% of the $100 million committed to a number of initiatives and causes focused on the environment and education.
We discuss what next for the Plowmans philanthropy and what next for Bill himself.
‘The Plowmans plan to continue their giving and the next iteration of the foundation will be focused specifically on the environment - although I will not lead this, instead I will focus my efforts on the development of a Centre of Strategic Philanthropy.’
Bill and the NEXT team have had approaches from others wanting to learn from their journey and he describes how they have always tried to be supportive of others’ giving.This has led Bill and his team to launch the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy aimed at complementing the work of Philanthropy New Zealand. Helping New Zealand individuals, organisations and families who ‘want to do their giving in a strategic or a business-like way’.
‘It's about bringing likeminded people together to explore how they can make a significant difference to the issues they are passionate about with the potential to collaborate or if not then learn from each other and experts.’
In his spare time, Bill was also the Director of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship from 2016 until 2020, offering global social change-makers a path to New Zealand citizenship through New Zealand’s Global Impact Visa. He is currently Chairman of the Palmerston North BHS Educational Foundation Trust, and a graduate of Massey and Oxford Universities.