'Oil baron' ensures funds flow to charity

The Life: Kevin Roberts, managing director of Hydroserv, talks about his charitable work off hours and why he was recently crowned an "oil baron" by the oil and gas industry.

Kevin Roberts, the managing director of Hydroserv, is the new "oil baron" after the annual Oil Barons Charity Ball. Jaime Puebla / The National
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The Oil Barons Charity Ball is an annual gala attended by VIPs in the Emirates' oil and gas industry in support of the Friends of Cancer Patients Society. Kevin Roberts, the managing director of the hydraulic engineering firm Hydroserv, talks about his charitable work and explains his title of reigning "oil baron".

The ball began as a networking platform but in more recent years has focused on charity. What did it mean to be crowned this year's oil baron?

I'm very honoured and humbled. To be chosen an oil baron has to be the pinnacle of anybody's career here in the business. I started my business in 1989 in Sharjah, and when I sold it in 2009 we were operating in every country in the Middle East. Hydroserv is the offshoot of the company I established. I think the peers that chose me respected what I and my team of people in hydro-drilling did.

What kind of charity work have you been doing?

It's really supporting the Friends of Cancer Patients Society in the UAE. I started supporting this a few years ago. I donated Dh100,000 (US$27,225) in 2009, and I donated a vehicle last year to take children to [cancer] treatment twice a week. Previous to this they were using public transport and depending on family and friends.

Which projects are you working on now?

Some charities in southern Thailand. Thailand is quite close to me. I have a house there and have been living there a number of years. There was a terrible flood earlier this year. I had some friends organise some donations and emergency relief. I am also looking at a school project.

How so?

I wanted to get involved in some form of assistance for children in poorer areas in Thailand. One small remote school is closing and the next school is overloaded. I was actually there last [month] to look at the project and I've asked if I could take on the refurbishment of one school. Hopefully it'll help out 40 to 50 kids.

What will your role be?

Probably overseeing project management and hopefully making sure all the money I donate goes to the correct channels.

How has your project management experience at work helped with this initiative?

I think it's part of growing business and learning to identify people, opportunities, management time and finances to make sure you maximise what you decide to invest in charity.

Have you tried to encourage any industry peers or employees to help out with your charitable initiatives or get involved in their own?

I encourage whoever I know to participate in [charitable giving]. I'm very close to my team and make sure I support them and their families first and foremost, because without them there wouldn't be any business.