Summerset chief executive Julian Cook at Summerset at
Bishopscourt retirement village in Dunedin yesterday. Photo
by Gerard O'Brien.
The biggest challenge for retirement village and aged
care operator Summerset is not finding customers but keeping up
While the dual-listed company wanted to continue to grow, it
did not want to grow too fast and compromise quality, so it
was about striking the right balance, chief executive Julian
Mr Cook was in Dunedin yesterday for the official opening of
the $15 million Village Centre at its Summerset at
Bishopscourt retirement village in Shetland St.
The Village Centre features a cafe, resident bar and social
areas, hairdressing salon, exercise room, library and IT
suite, all-weather bowling green and indoor spa pool.
It also houses the village's 41-bed care centre, and 20 care
apartments, where residents could receive DHB-certified
rest-home-level care in their own homes.
During the two-year construction of the village, about 200
people had been employed on site and it had injected $40
million into the local economy, he said.
Previously the company's chief financial officer, Mr Cook was
announced as Norah Barlow's successor in August last year and
assumed the position in April.
He was enjoying the role, saying it was a great business with
a really good team, and also a fantastic industry to be
One of the youngest chief executives of NZX-listed companies,
Mr Cook (39) has an interesting background, with degrees in
Latin, chemistry and finance.
He spent 11 years at Macquarie Bank before he decided he had
enough of the banking industry and wanted to ''do something
real and make a difference'', he said.
''Here, you see the people involved. You also get to see
these villages built and occupied and that's quite a good
feeling. That's pretty cool.''
Macquarie Bank's involvement with Summerset dated back to
2005 and he got to know Mrs Barlow and other staff, had been
around the villages and done work in the retirement sector.
He joined the company in 2010 as chief financial officer,
with responsibility for the finance, funding, legal and IT
At that stage, he had no ambition to be chief executive but,
the more time he spent there, the more he loved the business
and was keen to do something wider than being CFO.
Mrs Barlow, who led the company for 12 years, remained as a
director on the Summerset board. While the pair were very
different, during discussions, they always agreed on where
the business should be going, Mr Cook said.
Summerset was still a very young company - its first village
opened in 1997 - and there was still ''a huge amount to do''.
Demand was ''everywhere'' - in the country and the company
would follow that demand. It was a huge growth sector.
As well as the challenges of growing the business, they also
wanted to ''do everything right'' and, with each village,
they tried to make it a little bit better.
Summerset would build about 250 retirement units this year,
rising to 300 retirement units in 2015. It has 18 villages
throughout the country.
It was going through the consenting process for two sites in
Christchurch, in Casebrook and Wigram. Both would be large
villages with 200 units and between 50 and 80 care beds.
Connection with residents was important and Mr Cook had
started spending a day in each village every year.
While giving residents an update on the company, he could
hear what was happening in their lives, hear the good things
about Summerset and also learn what they could be doing
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said Summerset's new building was
''an investment in Dunedin, its people and its economy''.