Financial bigwig: Anton Ruddenklau outside KPMG's offices in Canary Wharf, London

If you lived in Queenstown in the ’90s, you knew, or knew of, Anton Ruddenklau. But who knew he’s since become a big spoke in the global financial services industry? While holidaying in London recently, Philip Chandler caught up with him for a chinwag

It’s amazing where some people end up.

In the ’90s, Anton Ruddenklau was a popular Queenstowner, working for the council in community development and ‘spin doctor’ roles and dabbling in theatre.

He was also the promoter for four Winter Festival balls, pulling the plug on the last one due to poor ticket sales and losing about $30,000. Two years earlier, he also lost $13,000 on a poorly-attended Arthurs Point gig.

But now the 50-year-old’s a big player in the City of London, earning the big bucks.

He’s a partner and head of digital & innovation, financial services, for accountancy giant KPMG in the UK, and global co-head of financial technology for KPMG International.

So how did that happen?

Essentially, he’s parlayed the creative skills he first honed in Queenstown.

After growing up in Nelson and Christchurch, he moved to the resort in the late ’80s, and recalls parapenting off the Crown Range with pioneer Ged Hay’s new business.

Joining the council as community development officer, his role widened after then-mayor Warren Cooper outsourced several functions.

In ’94, he and mates Justin Cochrane and Marty McLay watched the film Pulp Fiction, in Christchurch, inspiring them to start a local theatrical group whose first play, Shakespeare’s As You Like It, was performed in the Gardens.

That group, originally called Butter, morphed into Queenstown Shakespeare, which is now Remarkable Theatre.

Ruddenklau says he produced 33 shows in his time in Queenstown.

He first organised the WinterFest ball, at what’s now Mercure Resort, “because there was no ball happening that year”.

Then followed two Steamer Wharf balls – “the second year I made a little bit of money, enough to buy a TV”.

But in ’98, with the aim of making it bigger and better, he upped the ticket price and booked the Events Centre – two moves the market didn’t respond to, so he canned it.

However he did the right thing and refunded tickets – “some people said, ‘we really like what you’re doing, keep the money”‘.

Six weeks earlier, he’d married Englishwoman Michelle at Gibbston Valley Wines.

“We were one of the first to be married there because the next few years we were the photos they used to promote weddings.”

Ruddenklau promised he’d relocate with her to England after two more years in town, during when he organised millennium celebrations.

He says he had to start all over again when he hit London, initially working for an events company.

He was then taken on by KPMG – impressed by his ability, back to Queenstown, to beg for grant money for events.

After two years he moved to another accountancy giant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he became a director.

He then went back to KPMG in 2014, acquiring his current roles more recently.

Between those two firms, Ruddenklau says he’s consulted for many major global businesses.

And he’s become an expert in financial technology – “the fastest-growing part of the industry”.

With his charisma, intelligence and lack of fear, he’s comfortable talking to even the biggest players.

“As a reasonably senior partner in the firm, my role is to think differently and bring creativity to what we do in consulting – there are not many creatives in my space.”

Ruddenklau says he and Michelle, who have two young children, will split their time between England and New Zealand when he retires.

“Queenstown’s changed a lot since I was there, but, for me, it’s a really special place so I’d love to end up [six months a year] somewhere around there.”