An African step of faith for Aviva boss
By Kevin Gotts
2007: Aviva and former Norwich Union boss Richard Harvey is taking a step of faith in July by giving up his high profile job to spend a year doing voluntary charity work in Africa with his wife Kay.
After ten years in charge as group chief executive at Norwich Union and then Aviva, the world's fifth largest insurance company, Richard will be taking early retirement from his influential and well-paid City job at the age of 57.
"I've been incredibly fortunate to do a job I love for so long," he said. "But over the years I've become increasingly aware of the inequalities in the world. I want to get my hands dirty and make a real difference before it's too late."
Richard's vision is shared by wife Kay: "Since our teens, when we met, we have had the developing world on our radar. Richard's retirement has given us an opportunity to be able to spend a year out, and we believe it should be in Africa. We are still deciding where and are speaking with a number of organizations.”
The couple, who used to live just south of Norwich in Yelverton, and attended St Mary's parish church, will be following the lead of their daughter Jenny whose Christian faith inspired her to spend a gap-year in Uganda working with Aids victims. It was a visit to the village where she was working which started them thinking.
Richard and Kay's own strong Christian faith was another key factor in the decision they have made.
"All of our lives we have had an active faith," said Kay. "I have been working with the School of Urban Mission so I am able to teach English as a second language. Other voluntary work shows a huge variety of needs in the UK especially inner cities; however Africa is on our hearts."
Since moving to London a few years ago, the couple have mainly been involved at Holy Trinity, Brompton.
"There has been a lot of prayer support towards our decision making and I am sure they will be continuing interceding for us," explained Kay.
"We expect to go to South or South East Africa, possibly Kenya, Malawi or Zambia this September," said Kay.
"Richard has a lot of business acumen, should that be needed, but he is just as happy doing practical things like building. Besides being able to teach, organize, hospital visiting and keen on horticulture, we are just happy to use our skills as appropriate."
The couple will be making occasional trips back to England, with elderly relatives to think about, and they are considering doing a video diary because of the big media interest.
They have not decided what to do when they get back to England after the year.
"Richard may return to the City, but not to such a high profile position," said Kay. "There are huge tasks in helping Africa via business and he will want to make things happen."
Pictured above are Richard and Kay Harvey with daughter Jenny during her gap year working with Aids victims in Uganda.