In five years, insurance litigator Kent Perry visited 57 countries, got a taste of James Bond on the overnight Russian Red Arrow train, worked on multi-billion pound insurance cases and became engaged to a life-long friend before returning to further his career at home.
After working at international firm Kennedy’s and the then Heaney and Co firm in Auckland, Kent upped sticks in 2012 and with a group of friends travelled through the United States for six weeks on their way to London in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
- Kent Desmond (Kent) Perry
- Entry to law
- Graduated LLB from Victoria University in 2009. Admitted in 2009.
- Associate at Heaney & Partners, Auckland.
- Speciality area
- Insurance litigation
With his accountant fiancé Melissa, Kent recently returned after several years in the UK insurance industry, as an associate specialising in insurance litigation at Heaney & Partners. The couple plan to marry next February.
“The last two months has flown by – moving back from London, setting up home, Melissa finding a job,” he says.
“Finding a job in London is difficult. There are so many lawyers there plus lawyers from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Canada all looking for work.
“I picked up a couple of temporary contracts through recommendations from friends to recruitment firms such as Totally Legal, Simply Legal, Legal Legal.”
Landing a job at multi-national “magic circle” firm Linklaters (which employs 2,000 lawyers across 20 countries), Kent was immediately put to work on the Libor (London interbank offered rate) manipulation scandal - a series of fraudulent actions connected to Libor and the resulting investigation and reaction.
“It was just breaking in Europe at the time. I was involved with a team working for a number of institutions. Linklaters had a massive project team and I was in the team responsible for document review.
“They were talking claims into the billions of pounds. That’s what the US Department of Justice and various regulators across Europe and the UK were hammering the banks for at the time. Banks were concerned that fines were going to be in the tens of billions of pounds.”
Something to get his teeth into
“But as exciting as document review is, I wanted something to sink my teeth into a bit more so managed to land a role at Berrymans Lace Mawer – a specialist insurance litigation practice focused on professional indemnity.
“About the size of Russell McVeigh, but medium-sized by London standards, with 12 offices in the UK and Ireland.
“I was involved in valuation claims, where a valuer is being pursued, usually by banks, for over-valuing property.
“What is interesting in the UK are a lot of old historic buildings which are notoriously difficult to value. So there are a lot of very interesting claims. When looking at a 16th century estate in North Yorkshire valued at X million pounds, there are not many comparable properties you can refer to - they don’t go on sale very often.”
After about 15 months, Kent was approached by a former colleague working at Lloyds Bank with a job on a project they had then - the alleged miss-sale of financial derivative products.
“That was another banking scandal that hit the UK in 2008/09. A personal insurance scandal more directed at small to medium businesses.
“Regulators called them complex financial derivative products, which they said were flawed or customers did not understand what they were purchasing. “Regulators required every High Street bank to do a full-scale review of every financial derivative product sold to small or medium sized enterprises from 2001 to 2013. It was a massive exercise.
“Lloyds was the smallest of the four High Street banks, but has still maintained a project team on this work coming up for five years. The team I was involved with sat to the side of that, very much involved in defending claims small to medium enterprises had against the bank for the alleged miss-sale of products.
“We would investigate claims and provide recommendations to the bank, which would decide how they wanted to proceed. I eventually ended up managing a team of 12 people for claims that went to the regulator and the financial ombudsman service.”
Engaged and going home
After nearly five years away Kent and Melissa, by now engaged, decided to return home.
“A lot of our friends from university over there were coming back. London is great but no-one sees themselves as living there for ever. There are odd exceptions but we were not among them.”
London gave the couple a springboard to see the world. “Over the last five years I have visited 57 countries, it’s staggering. I’ve managed to see a lot and done about 80% of Europe … Russia, Iceland, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands. It was a crazy time. Access to Europe, Africa and Asia was so good.
“We like Tuscany and Rome, and Bordeaux, because we love our French wines.
“Places that surprised us most were Moscow and St Petersburg (especially Russian food), Belgrade in Serbia and the Scandinavian countries.
“Over one New Year in Russia at minus 20 degrees and in snow, we travelled from Moscow to St Petersburg in the old 1930 Soviet Red Arrow overnight sleeper train. You had to jump to get between carriages. It felt like a James Bond movie.”
A keen squash player, Kent is also planning to get back into tennis. “I like grand slam tennis and Roger Federer is my sporting hero. I love rugby and always made time to watch the Bledisloe Cup and the rugby championships while in London.”
A pianist from the age of eight – “I did the Trinity College of London classical exams but that didn’t last long” – he plays “a bit of everything” on the piano. “I like classic rock – the Eagles, Springsteen, Muse, Coldplay and U2. I saw heaps of top bands in London.”
Keen on films, he rates 2015 film The Big Short - about the 2007-08 global financial crisis triggered by the US housing bubble – as explaining the complex financial terms involved.
“It all made sense and they did a good job of explaining why everything went wrong, while verging on black comedy. I like just about every movie Leonardo DiCaprio has been in, and Tom Hanks is impressive.
“We have Netflix, which is a great way to binge watch. And we’re getting into Mad Men for the first time.
“I like reading a bit of the old classics while we are travelling. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, (best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La in the Tibetan mountains). And I like crime and spy thrillers – Lee Child and Robert Ludlum.”
South Island jaunts
Having just taken possession of a 2004 Nissan Maxima, from a one owner family friend, Kent is looking forward to revisiting the beaches of Hawke’s Bay he enjoyed as a youngster.
“Travel has ignited a desire in me to see a lot more of New Zealand. We haven’t done a lot of the South Island, other than the key hotspots of Wanaka - my favourite - and Queenstown. And I haven’t been to the West Coast, so Melissa and I are talking about doing some small trips in the next couple of years.”
Donald Trump and Barack Obama are high on his dinner guest list. “I would ask Mr Trump what is going on - he would be interesting. I love politics and US politics is fascinating - I studied some American politics papers at university so their whole system fascinates me. It’s an archaic, complicated system, but fascinating.
“Melissa and I love our food and drink and I enjoy cooking so I would make a French onion soup, with a good lasagne and a nice Bordeaux red.
“I’m the first lawyer in the family and I can’t remember the exact moment it came to me that I wanted to do law. We did a project at primary school when I was about 11 or 12, on what we wanted to be when we grew up. Others wanted to be policemen or firemen and I wanted to be a lawyer.
“I guess I’ve known it for a long time. I’m pretty argumentative - arguing has always been in my nature.
“If I wasn’t a lawyer I would be a history teacher. I considered it at university. I love history, it’s another thing that fascinates me.