Elspeth Kennedy QSO, MBE
(1931 - 2017)

For service to Stockbroking, Governance & Philanthropy

Pioneering businesswoman Elspeth Kennedy was born in Invercargill and lived in her Grandparents house along with her Great Grandfather. She remembers the multigenerational family home as a happy one where she was encouraged to read, and learn music.

It was Elspeths’ grandfather who taught her about money management. From an early age he would take her to the bank with a half crown to deposit. When the sum reached 100 pound, Elspeth invested it. Her Grandfather was a huge influence on Elspeth’s values as well as her business education. He was a compassionate man who wanted to make sure that people had warm homes. He managed this through the coal business that he ran and that Elspeth later worked in. After her Grandfather died Elspeth later moved to the Invercargill City Council, becoming credit control manager by the age of 20.

Elspeth was an accomplished musician and talented student in singing and ballet, producing some amazing stage shows. She was invited to train at Trinity College of Music in London. Although teaching and performing music had become part of her life, Elspeth wanted to find a way to use her skills in finance to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives. Her experience at the City Council working on large projects such as the Comalco aluminium plant and the Manapouri Power station had given her a sound understanding of corporate finance.

This experience created a life-long passion for the work of local government and the funding of infrastructure. Her chance to do this came after she moved to Nelson with her two youngest children to start a new life after her marriage ended in 1972.

She became involved in a capital raising project for the Richmond Borough Council. This entailed going to Wellington to make a pitch to Frank Renouf to raise the necessary funds through lending institutions. This was not only successful in its own right but led to an offer of employment as a local authority specialist raising capital for large scale infrastructure projects.

Over the next few years Elspeth commuted between Nelson and Wellington and then Renouf advised he wanted to put Elspeth forward as a member of the stock exchange – at the time requiring election of 75% in favour. The vote was close, but Elspeth became the first woman elected to the NZ Metropolitan Stock Exchange and travelled to London, Stockholm and New York doing bond issues. In 1994 Elspeth joined Francis Allison Symes where she was involved in developing a successful local government market and in 1987 was the first woman to establish her own stockbroking company - Kennedy Sharebrokers. 

During this time Elspeth also undertook a variety of governance roles. Prominent among them were serving on the boards of the Mount Cook Group, Ericsson Communications, Kingsgate International, Nelson Bays Regional Development Council, Government Computer Services Board and the Tourism Development Council(an advisory board to the then Minister of Tourism). In 1988 she was elected the first women President of the South Island Promotion Council.

Following the sale of her stockbroking business, Elspeth moved permanently to Nelson. After an approach from the community to assist with fundraising, Elspeth began what was to become a 16 year involvement in improving the care of the terminally ill through hospice services. 

Elspeth Kennedy was the chairwoman of the Nelson Tasman Hospice Trust from 1998 to 2015. She was instrumental in building the first hospice in-patient facility which has since grown to a 10 bed palliative care unit on Manuka Street. It was through Elspeth’s vision and leadership that the Trust is now preparing to open a new $11.5 million facility at the end of 2018 to cater for the growing needs for palliative care in the region.

Elspeth Kennedy was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1990, and in 2003 Nelson Mail Nelsonian of the Year. In 2008, she was made a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for her voluntary service to the community. Her grandfather, Robert Kennedy Parsons, would be proud of how Elspeth’s expertise in financial management and care for those around her have benefited her career and community.