Why I Support King’s

George Koukis

Donating time and money to good causes brings true fulfilment in life, says King’s donor and entrepreneur George Koukis.

Growing up in post-war Greece when food and money were scarce, George Koukis spent his formative years in a loving family which taught him the value of giving to others.

Seeking opportunity, George joined the migration boom to Australia in the early 1960s and settled in Sydney with his wife, Eva.

His business career has taken him from humble beginnings as the office boy at Qantas Airways, where he won the attention of senior management for developing the company’s first IT system, to founding Temenos, the world-leading Geneva-based banking software group. 

Since stepping down from his chairmanship of Temenos in 2011, George has directed his energies into investing in start-ups and his philanthropic activities. He has recently donated £1.875 million to establish the George Koukis Paediatric Rheumatology Service at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. George, who is a long-term supporter of King’s and Evelina London, has a personal connection with the hospital, as his daughter Joanne has juvenile onset arthritis and was treated at St Thomas’ for many years as an adult.  

Why do you give to King's?

I look for organisations with a long-term vision and inspired leadership. It’s not the physical assets or machinery that make an organisation, it’s the combined value of our ideas, dreams, aspirations and passion that makes it worthwhile, and the leadership to make that vision into a reality.  

I have supported a lot of causes over the years and feel bad when I see the hypocrisy in charities which waste money and don't help anyone. I look at their accounts and if I see them misbehaving, for example when gifts do not reach the recipients, I walk away. 

I have high standards and am very happy with King’s. It is not only delivering exceptional health services and helping people, but also takes education and research very seriously. I believe that King’s has the vision, ambition and leadership to make a real difference. 

What motivated your gift to the paediatric rheumatology unit at Evelina London?

It was a very personal reason: one of my daughters, Joanne, was diagnosed with juvenile onset arthritis in 1978 when she was just four years old. At that time the knowledge about juvenile arthritis was almost zero. I saw her suffering immensely. She couldn't run or do sports like other children and was in pain 365 days of the year. It affected her quality of life and her self-esteem.

That's why I'm interested in funding research into finding the causes of juvenile onset arthritis and associated conditions. I want to see young people become productive members of society by eradicating this illness.

Joanne is now closely involved with my philanthropy and she and I make decisions about projects together.

What advice would you give someone thinking about making their first charitable gift?

Making the initial decision to get involved is the hardest part. Reflect on why you're here and what legacy you want to leave behind. If you have the capacity to make a difference – by giving your time or making a donation – I strongly advise you to do it. You will never experience a greater reward or sense of achievement. Giving makes you feel stronger, almost invincible, and you make better decisions in other areas of life because you have greater clarity. I encourage everyone to test my theory!

Money is a more universal way of giving, but time is just as important because you will also become a good role model for children and young people. 

I'm worried about charities and universities, because there will be less government funding available in the next ten years than there has been in the previous decade. Unless individuals like us get involved we could be on the brink of catastrophe. So if you give your time, or your money, you will set a great example and help to create a better functioning society.

You have a wonderfully long-term vision. What are your aspirations for the next 20 years?  

Why not infinity? My thinking is very long-term! At Evelina London, for example, I am aiming to create an annuity that will enable more investment in research and education over a long period of time because so much still needs to be done. 

For me, the things that matter most are family and contributing to society through running a successful business or charitable project. In both worlds, long-term giving provides the ultimate fulfilment – we must all put something back.