A day in the life of an economist – Kelvin Davidson
We welcome Kelvin Davidson back to the Infometrics Team. Kelvin is based in Christchurch and joins Benje Patterson in making our presence on the South Island that much stronger.
Having recently worked both in London and for Canterbury Development Corporation, Kelvin has extensive experience of property market analysis, both residential and commercial, and from an investment and development perspective. He has a thorough understanding of the issues and constraints faced by regional policy and decision makers.
We chat to Kelvin about his daily life as an economist and what circumstances have brought him to this point.
Bio – Kelvin Davidson
Studied at: Canterbury University
Resides in: Prebbleton (South West of Christchurch)
Jacqui: Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be (back) at Infometrics?
Kelvin: I grew up in Mid Canterbury (in town for a start then on a farm) and studied economics at Canterbury University, before working at MED in Wellington and an 18-month stint working on building/construction and transport at Infometrics in 2004/05. My grandfather was born in Scotland, so this ancestry then gave me the opportunity to live and work in the UK for an extended period, which I took and am so glad I did – I met my (kiwi) wife in London and, as they say, the rest is history! We moved back to NZ in late 2014 because we were expecting our first child and to be closer to our families. And now I’ve gone full circle back to Infometrics – I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into economics work again.
Jacqui: You were with Capital Economics in London for nearly 10 years. Tell us about your time there.
Kelvin: For almost all of my time in London I worked for Capital Economics (the UK equivalent of Infometrics), where I focussed on both residential and commercial property economics. The clients included some of the world’s largest property investors and developers, as well as global investment banks and fund managers. The business proved to be hugely successful and working in and around the markets of a global financial centre was fascinating. I loved living in London too – if you’re earning pounds, it’s actually not an expensive city and the concerts, sports events etc. meant there was never a dull moment.
Jacqui: What was the most interesting or challenging project you worked on?
Kelvin: There were interesting and challenging projects on the go all the time, but probably my highlight was being at the forefront in calling in 2007 that the UK commercial property market was overvalued and was vulnerable to a correction. That came true in spades, although the 45-50% drop in capital values was much deeper than anybody anticipated, due to the GFC that struck in 2008. That period taught me that property markets can rise and fall very quickly and sentiment plays a huge part.
Jacqui: And you also worked at Canterbury Development Corporation. With the rebuild winding down what are the challenges facing Christchurch over the next five years?
Kelvin: My time at CDC gave me experience of being on “the other side of the fence” (i.e. outside of a consultancy) and it was clear very quickly that there are many good people doing plenty of great work to help Christchurch fully recover. Yes, there have been delays, but the progress now is very clear to see. The rebuild spending has a few years to go yet, but there are certainly some challenges – we’re already seeing an oversupply of housing, huge pressure on transport infrastructure and there’s long-term issues around the ageing/retiring population and ensuring that new people can be attracted to the city and region to fill the jobs.
Jacqui: How do you see yourself helping Infometrics’ clients?
Kelvin: I’m hoping that my combination of global/property/regional experience should be of real value to Infometrics’ clients, and I understand that busy people in business want the key facts in a concise way. I think this is a huge strength of the service that Infometrics provides and something that I always try to focus on.
Jacqui: What are your major economic interests?
Kelvin: My major economic interests are firmly away from the academic side of things – I’m not a mathematician or econometrician, I was attracted to economics by a top-drawer high school teacher called Dave Hyslop who emphasised the basic concepts and how they apply in all our everyday lives. Listening to people talk about economics when they don’t even know they’re doing it gives me a bit of secret buzz. Yes, economists can be a little strange from time to time!
Jacqui: What is an intriguing fact about you?
Kelvin: Away from work, I’m a pretty typical kiwi male I guess – I value my family time at home with my wife Gemma and son Louie, watching sport and mowing lawns. I also love my cricket stats and history, and will always regret going for a swim as a 9-year old instead of staying at Lancaster Park to see Richard Hadlee take his 400th test wicket. Other intriguing facts? I have a soft spot for war history and have visited several battlefields (Somme, Passchendaele, Monte Cassino, El Alamein, Gallipoli), and I’m currently learning NZ Sign Language (as my son is deaf).
Jacqui: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Kelvin. It's great to have you back as part of the Team.