June 6, 2011

NEW ZEALAND: Still working and skiing, Boyd Klap, 84, says he is too busy for much tramping

WELLINGTON / The Dominion Post / Business Day / June 6, 2011

Honour for 'grand old man of insurance business.' Still working and skiing, Boyd Klap, 84, says he is too busy for much tramping any more.

By James Weir

The grand old man of the insurance business in New Zealand, "Boudewijn" Klap has been made a Companion of the Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours. But almost everyone in New Zealand knows him as "Boyd". His long career has seen him reach the peaks in the insurance business, formerly as Prudential New Zealand chief executive. He is now chairman of a recently set up insurance company, Partners Life, and was formerly chairman of reverse mortgage company Sentinel.

COMMITTED COUPLE: Boyd Klap and his wife Ria. The couple both grew up under German occupation during World War II. Chris Skelton/ The Dominion Post

But when he first arrived in New Zealand in 1951 as a "failed tea planter", he thought his name would have been impossible for Kiwis to say, so switched to Boyd. Mr Klap left Holland in the late 1940s, spending a couple of year as a Dutch Army lieutenant in Indonesia, but could see no future as a tea planter and an ex-colonial officer.

He started out as a dairy farmer in New Zealand, but with little prospect of ever buying his own land, he turned to insurance instead, first with T&G.

Though proud of his Dutch heritage, and still carrying an accent from the southern province of Zeeland, Mr Klap says he now feels "totally a Kiwi".

"Dutch people who meet me, find a more laid-back approach, a non-aggressive approach which is more Kiwi than Dutch," he says. He still values the Dutch approach to hard work and study, giving him the drive to achieve, but he loves the freedom of New Zealand.

Mr Klap is a proud member of the international "Over 80s" ski club and the exclusive South Island "One Ski in the Grave Club", too. He plans two ski trips to Queenstown this year, from his home in Wellington.

He has stopped tramping "because I'm too busy", but makes up for that by walking over the hills in Wellington, swimming regularly at a local pool and taking out his mountainbike.

He is firmly of the view that people who keep working after 60 or 65 live longer than people "who sit at home and do nothing".

His other main interest is as chairman of the Anne Frank Travelling Exhibition, at present touring New Zealand, which has already been seen by about 70,000 people.

Mr Klap feels an affinity with the story of Anne Frank, having been a teenager in Holland during the German occupation during World War II, when Jewish neighbours were taken away, never to be seen again. His wife Ria's family hid a German Jew during the war.

"We must learn from the Holocaust that all people and races are the same," he said. "I feel a strong commitment to this cause".

A three-month commitment to the exhibition, which started at Te Papa in Wellington, has turned into three years. "It has been one of the most amazing, emotional and satisfying experiences we have had," he says.

- The Dominion Post

© 2011 Fairfax New Zealand Limited