We are delighted to feature an interview with Tony Hooper, the head of treasury and tax of Pennon Group plc, which owns South West Water and also waste management group Viridor.
Why did you get into treasury and tax?
I qualified as an accountant around 1984 and showed a mild interest in tax in advance of South West Water Authority’s privatisation. Not stepping back quickly enough resulted in me being awarded Group Taxation Manager post for the newly privatised South West Water Plc in September 1989.
Over the next decade or so I worked closely with the Group Treasurer on tax structured opportunities involving finance leasing, loan relationships and/or enhanced yield investments.
The micro bottom-up approach instilled in me by tax training and applied to treasury related activity was sufficient for me to be offered the Group Treasurer position when the previous incumbent retired during 2001.
The rest is history as they say.
Who has been the most influential role model for your professional life?
I guess on balance Margaret Thatcher who certainly had a vision and provided me with a most interesting and varied career in tax and treasury by privatising South West Water Authority. Thanks Margaret!
What do you see as the biggest trend affecting the tax world over the next 10 years?
This difficult to predict. Who could have predicted the post Lehman era impact on tax – backlash from NGO’s, reputational issues ascending all the way into the Board room.
If the economy picks up, as one would expect over the next 10 years, we might well see a return to tax management involving tax planning ideas – but not tax avoidance type schemes.
What is your pet hate when dealing with advisers?
My pet hate(s) when dealing with advisers include:
1. Regular re-runs of uncontentious issues where outcome is known.
2. Desire to discuss issues into the evening and signing at midnight (or later).
3. Having to indemnify counterparty’s legal costs.
4. Losing VAT on 3. – sticking tax!
In a movie of your life story, which actor would you like to play you?
The most capable actor in my view would be Tony Robinson (AKA Baldrick) who I met once at one of the Queen’s garden parties. He seemed genuinely interested in finance – but then it was a captive event.
What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in tax and treasury?
My dream job outside of tax and treasury would be as a red coat at Butlins.
What is your biggest extravagance?
Annual visits to 5* hotel(s) in Venice to appease my wife for long hours in the office and occasional lost weekends.
What do you do to relax?
Since our children have grown up my wife and I relax by walking, visiting National Trust properties and eating at “fancy” brasseries/restaurants around Devon & Cornwall (head office and home is in Exeter).
What is your favourite holiday destination?
Venice – an unimaginably romantic place which cannot be equalled anywhere else in the world.
What piece of advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Never under estimate your potential, always say “yes I can do that” and establish the work/life balance early and stick to it!
We hope you enjoyed this interview as much as we did.