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David Carr

David Carr, chief executive of pension administrator and provider Hazell Carr, is not your typical executive. He has been known to take a six-month sabbatical to study philosophy and has polar exploration in his sights but the business he helped to establish is clearly not suffering.

He is one of three founders of Hazell Carr and, since its inception in 1997, the company has grown to employ 400 people in three offices in Reading, Cardiff and Stirling. In 2001, it was named the number one fastest-growing unlisted company by the Sunday Times Pricewaterhousecoopers’ top 100 Profit Track.

Carr says: “The success during the pensions review era was extraordinary. We were very lucky. It was a combination of being in the right place at the right time, offering the services that people want and pushing hard at the right time. We are delighted to be where we are.

“Originally, the company was an actuarial training business, which Graham Hazell and myself set up because we thought the training available to students was very poor. We felt it was an obvious opportunity using our specialism”.

In 1997, the three partners – Carr, Hazell and John Edwards – set up Hazell Carr, broadening the business to include pensions and processes. The company now offers actuarial expertise and help with all manner of pension administration and management for a variety of different pension schemes.

Carr says there is also the people-side of the business which he describes as: “An operation that provides expert people, such as actuaries and the technically able, to enter an office or institution that is struggling to cope. There is also the Sipp area, that is retail rather than wholesale.”

The firm was originally called Graham Hazell’s Actuarial Revision Course, or GHARC, but Carr wisely convinced Hazell that “Hazell Carr rolled off the tongue more easily”.

As for future growth, Carr says they will take the opportunities that arise but are not chasing growth for the sake of it.

“Being unquoted, we are interested in looking at opportunities when they happen. If that means we stay the same size for 10 years that would be great but if we grow rapidly again that would be great as well. We do not have shareholders or the stockmarket sitting on our backs saying you have to grow by this amount per year. It almost always forces you into false actions if you have arbitrary growth targets. We do not know what the future is going to hold, whether it is nought or 10 per cent growth next year.”

One area that Carr is excited about is the Sipp market and products for the high-net- worth market. “It particularly suits our ability to do complex administrative tasks and is one of the key areas we are going to be focusing on. A few years ago we had bought a number of Ssas portfolios from life offices and we were not a retail operation. It was an outsourcing- type concept but they were more interested in selling the books than actually outsourcing the outfit so we took the decision to take our expertise into the retail operation. We looked at the market for Sipps, designed our own and launched it towards the end of last year.”

But Carr is not entirely satisfied with the A-Day regulation changes largely responsible for the recent popularity of Sipps. “I do not think all the implications have really been thought through, particularly for people making retirement planning close to retirement.”

He says recent speculation about protected rights cash being included in a Sipp are “not terribly significant” and are “a complete red herring”.

Carr comments: “The amount of money in protected rights should be relatively small. There is no need to have all your cash in one vehicle. We are getting better and better at aggregating sums of different pots. To argue that you need to transfer money and incur different charges so it is all in one vehicle is just nonsense.”

Perhaps the reason that Carr seems so laid back about business growth is because he has his eye on ambitious tasks outside the office, such as trekking to the North Pole to raise money for charity. “We leave the UK on April 13. I had done a few things with the National Deaf Children’s Society before but all the previous events had been cycling in very hot countries – like Namibia and Cambodia the year before. When the charity was organising a trip to the North Pole they knew I had done some hard cycle rides in hot countries so, for some reason, they thought I would be bound to want to walk to the North Pole.”

The expedition will last two weeks and Carr reckons it will take to take between eight and 10 days to reach the pole. “If it looks like we are going to reach the pole but we have not quite made it in the agreed timescale, the organisation will be flexible. One of the challenges of crossing the polar ice is that it melts and freezes continuously and because it is not connected to land it can move around a bit. You can go to sleep five miles away from the North Pole and wake up 10 miles away because the ice has moved against you.”

He says he is enjoying the training and has already passed the fitness test which requires everyone on the expedition to be able to drag a 58-kilogram tyre.

“Theoretically, you have got a risk of meeting polar bears but polar bears do not tend to go that far north. Not so reassuring is that the few polar bears that do get close to the North Pole are very hungry as there isn’t much to eat up there. The organisers say the biggest risk is the ice splitting beneath you. If you are asleep in the tent and the ice splits it does not give you very long to get out of your sleeping bag and out of the water. You cannot survive very long in that water.”

Carr is hoping to raise £30,000 for the National Death Children’s Society so visit www.justgiving.com/davidnorthpole to sponsor him.

Born: 1960, Northallerton, North Yorkshire

Lives: London and Richmond, North Yorkshire

Education: State school in Richmond, PPE at Oriel College Oxford, actuarial exams

Career: 1997-present: chief executive, Hazell Carr, 1982-97: Hazell Carr Training, Friends Provident, Wyatt

Likes: Music (sings in London choir, plays piano, listens), travel (recent trips include Namibia, Cambodia, Sweden, Chile, Iceland, New York, Birmingham and Manchester), food (from Gordon Ramsay to Middlesbrough fish & chips)

Dislikes: Historical inaccuracy in supposedly historical films (for example, Mary Boleyn had a girl child before she had a boy), not being able to get on trains at Paddington without a ticket

Drives: Black cabs in London, Audi A8 in Yorkshire

Favourite books: The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the remaking of the English Church by GW Bernard and Matter by Iain M Banks

Favourite films: Trainspotting, True Romance, There Will Be Blood

Favourite albums: Matthew Passion sung in English and So by Peter Gabriel

Career ambition: To continue to give clients what they want. If you do this, you can make jobs and money

Life ambition: To maintain a rich mix of intellectual, emotional and physical enjoyment

If I wasn’t doing this I would be… in the gym getting fit for the North Pole

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