Kerry Blight spent most of his childhood in Sussex. After he left school, he decided he didn’t want to go to university. “I thought, what shall I do? I eventually went on to study for a professional qualification in Financial Services and looked to get myself into banking”.
He then started moving around within the banking industry as his career developed, which he describes as a fun opportunity to work in London and other places. “I started working for Williams and Glyn’s Bank, part of RBS Group, in the dark ages [chuckles] in 1979 in Brighton, and my career progressed from there. I used to make a joke that I knew I was doing well because I started making tea for all the senior people!” Kerry explains.
Kerry later came to live and work in Gibraltar in 1991. RBS was much smaller in those days, and he was one of the few who was offered this opportunity. “I got asked to come out for a 3-year contract. I think they might have forgotten about me.” Kerry jokes.
Kerry’s wife is English. They went to school together, meeting at just 10 years old. They married in 1984 and went on to have two children – Alexander, 23, and Marianne, 21. Both born in Spain, their parents encouraged their bilingualism. “Two guiris made sure their kids could speak Spanish!”.
And how is Kerry’s Spanish? “I didn’t speak a word when I moved here. I remember I had asked someone whether I needed to learn Spanish before I moved over, and was told ‘don’t be so stupid, Gibraltar’s British!’.
“I then remember one of the very first tasks I was given was to sign a letter to a client… and it was entirely in Spanish, so I thought, ‘Ah, I better learn it’. I sat my exams in the Escuela de Idiomas in Madrid, but didn’t let on at work that I could speak it. You should have seen their face when I did my leaving speech in Spanish!”
It seems Kerry’s work ethic has rubbed off on his children, as Alexander now studies full-time for his ACCA with a degree in Business under his belt, while Marianne works for Jimmy Choo in London after obtaining a degree in Law.
And what (on the rare occasion he gets any) does Kerry like to do in his downtime? “Two things people who know me can confirm: I’m an absolute nut for Chelsea Football Club [he has a season ticket in Stamford Bridge], and I love golf.
I also recently did the Camino del Santiago. It was utterly amazing. Some Spanish friends of mine started to talk to me about it, and it sounded really good so I started reading about it. I’m not religious, but thought it would be a great experience to do something like that with some friends – I then got hooked. I’ve now done about four different routes [not the whole thing!], starting a while away from Santiago, lasting about 6-8 days.
“It was outstanding; the exercise, countryside, and the comradery that you see. The first year I did it, when we were a day’s walk out, we came across a group of Italians who simply couldn’t walk any further – they were shattered. We stayed with them, talked to them, and kept them going, and we eventually got them through the day to Santiago. To see them fill with pride was lovely.
“When you finish, you receive a certificate. I was asked what my reasons were for completing the Camino – religious, spiritual etc., to which I replied, gastronomic! Galicia has some of the most amazing food.”
To round off our chat, I asked Kerry what advice he has for people looking to enter a similar field of work to him: “Hard work. I’ve seen a lot of talented people who don’t make the most of those talents; very clever people who just don’t put the effort in. I like to think I always have.
“Think ‘how am I going to progress? What do I need to do?’. Enrol for professional exams; learn a language, because it could open doors for you and help your career internationally; join a company and work your way up.
But all of that is under the same heading of ‘hard work’. It’s not just about turning up at 7 in the morning and leaving at 11 at night. Plan your steps. Develop yourself as a person, and as a professional.
And it never stops. When I left Credit Suisse nearly three years ago, I went and studied for the Financial Times Non-Executive Director Diploma for 6 months as I could see what was happening in Gibraltar in terms of the need for more corporate governance, and wanted to ensure I could provide that. Similarly, with the DLT industry, Gibraltar as a jurisdiction was moving rapidly, so I enrolled in the Oxford University Fintech programme.
Hard work – everything else hangs off that.