2017 Winners

FTSE 100

Richard Baker, Whitbread plc

A deserved winner, Richard joined Whitbread plc as a Non-Executive Director in 2009, and immediately made a positive impact on the Group, energising the Board with his customer-centric approach and instilling a renewed confidence in the potential value of Whitbread’s brands, Premier Inn and Costa Coffee.

In particularly challenging markets, he convinced the Board to continue with its bold growth plans and investment programme during the recession, while others in the industry retreated, communicating directly with the Group’s staff and core customer base to bring them along on the journey; a decision which helped Whitbread more than double in size over a five-year period.

After taking on the role of Chairman in 2014, Richard invested considerable time in building a Board with complementary expertise, diverse business experience and good gender diversity, pushing through the appointment of Alison Brittain as CEO in 2015; a decision widely regarded as a bold and extremely successful choice.

Described as an engaging and analytical Chairman, who ‘seeks first to understand before being understood’, Richard has spearheaded innovation across both businesses, encouraging open and constructive debate, at the same time as improving the culture of the business and ensuring it was reinforced across the Group’s 50,000 employees.

His rare ability to combine outstanding customer insight with a strong appreciation of shareholder expectations and delivering long term value, makes Richard an extremely worthy winner of this prestigious award.

Lifetime Achievement

Baroness Sarah Hogg

The Judges are proud to announce Baroness Sarah Hogg as the overwhelming winner for the lifetime achievement award in recognition of her extinguished career spanning politics, prominent regulatory bodies and major UK companies, and for the highly-valued contribution she has made towards boardroom diversity and corporate governance.

As well as her recent achievements as Chairman of the Audit Committee at the John Lewis Partnership, on the Takeover Panel and FCA Board, and as Lead Independent Director of HM Treasury, she was the first woman to Chair a FTSE 100 business after becoming Chairman of 3i Group in 2002, and has held influential Board positions at BG Group, Frontier Economics, P&O Cruises, and The Times Newspaper, to name but a few.

Prior to her NED career she was Head of John Major’s Policy Unit from 1990 to 1995, providing unrivalled public-sector experience that she brought with her into the corporate arena, connecting the two worlds and promoting the place of British business in society. Other notable achievements to date include helping to set up the World Trade Organisation, against all odds, leading a committee on who should set the Libor post the interest rate scandal and contributing significantly to the boardroom diversity debate by advising against quotas for women on boards.

The judging panel specifically highlighted her role at the FRC, where she worked tirelessly to blend a federation of committees into a single unit, raising the profile of the regulator while never shying away from important debates. Described by the judges as refreshingly outspoken, direct, an exemplary negotiator and a champion of diversity, she has proved herself time and time again as a strong political and pro-business operator, making her the clear winner for this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Quoted Company - Official List

Derek Mapp, Huntsworth plc

When he became Chairman of Huntsworth plc at the end of 2014, the Group was facing the immediate prospect of declining profits and a Board in disarray. But within his first three months of the job, Derek immediately displayed exceptional leadership, spearheading a major re-focusing of the business, taking leadership of the daily running of the Group until his newly appointed CEO joined the team.

As well as appointing three new NEDs to the Board, Derek took charge of rationalising the Group’s businesses and its strategic priorities, consolidating property, legal entities and reducing the cost base of the Group’s agencies, allowing it to return to growth.

At the same time, he reengaged with divisional management, getting each of them to develop new plans for growth, while taking the Board meetings on tours around the Group’s individual businesses. Nominated multiple times for this year’s awards, Derek was praised for rigorously conducting both formal and informal Board evaluations, actively reviewing governance issues, and for his commitment to transparency.

A pragmatic, flexible and entrepreneurial Chairman who ‘says what he means and does what he says’, the judges were particularly impressed by Derek’s passion for diversity on Boards, both in terms of gender, diverse viewpoints and identifying the next generation of talent. Meanwhile his personal reputation and integrity with shareholders has meant he continues to effectively reconcile the interests of shareholders, employees and clients alike.

Quoted Company - AIM

Roger McDowell, Avingtrans plc

After joining Avingtrans in 2008 as a NED, Roger quickly took over the role of Chairman when his predecessor retired, inheriting the business in a particularly challenging position, with gearing approaching 80% and insufficient funds to progress the Group’s planned expansion in China.

Roger acted quickly, replacing the Group’s CEO and taking the decision to raise the necessary funds for the Chinese expansion through a placing shortly before the global financial crisis took hold; a wise move which subsequently supported the business through the lean years that followed.

A Non-Executive Director who actively looks for companies that are going through change, Roger is not one to back away from complex turnaround situations, and is respected for his ability to find consensus where other have struggled, most notably around the landmark sale of the Group’s aerospace division Sigma in 2016 for £65m.

Under Roger’s leadership, the market cap of Avingtrans has rocketed from £8m to £55m, putting the business in a robust financial position, recently allowing it to return cash to shareholders while maintaining sufficient funds for further buy and build opportunities.

Trusted in the City and highly regarded by shareholders, Roger has been described as ‘unflinching in his mission to see the right thing done’, with progressive, forward thinking views on Board composition, advocating the promotion of a new younger generation of NEDs, while creating an environment where everyone’s voices are heard.

The Judges described him as ‘an active investor in small cap businesses’, who is ‘immersed in the AIM world’ with ‘a wide-ranging CV, strong experience and a progressive view on governance issues’, noting that what he has achieved at Avingtrans and on the other Board positions is ‘simply extraordinary’.

Unquoted/Private Equity Backed

Jonathan Milner, SyndicateRoom

In a closely fought category, Jonathan’s depth of experience, analytical thinking and life-long contribution to the UK life science sector, made him the standout winner among the judges this year.

As Non-Executive Director of SyndicateRoom, Jonathan brought his significant entrepreneurial experience and knowledge to the Board, focusing the executive management team on its core business, encouraging them to carry out fewer, but better quality projects, delivered brilliantly. Thanks to his active role, SyndicateRoom has delivered on its strategic vision and returned to high growth, doubling, and then trebling revenues during particularly challenging times.

Known for asking ‘all the right strategic questions at the right time’, Jonathan has consistently demonstrated a passion for good governance and has clear views on how Boards should be configured. Regularly challenging assumptions, he changed the format of Board meetings to give strategic issues and performance KPIs equal footing, encouraging engaging and open conversations, while never letting egos cloud good reasoning.

The Judges were particularly impressed by Jonathan’s unwavering support for innovative life science businesses that are both impactful and positive for society, as well as his personal focus on working with exciting young management teams that he can help develop, describing him as ‘inspiring’, ‘humble’, ‘driven by strong principles’ and ‘exactly how a NED should be’.

Not-For-Profit/Public Service Organisation

Valerie Owen, Swan Housing Association

Within this extremely strong category where all the nominees demonstrated huge passion for their individual causes, Valerie stood out to the judges for her commercial foresight, focus on good governance and her unwavering strength in a crisis.

Joining the Swan Housing Association in 2013 shortly after the organisation was downgraded by its regulator on governance issues, Valerie oversaw a complete restructuring of the Board and Independent Committee members, refreshing its risk management practices, and putting in place new reporting processes to improve transparency within the organisation.

At the same time, she spearheaded a complete change of culture across the organisation, personally engaging with staff at all levels, instilling a sense of team spirit and collaboration, while leading the Board in developing a new corporate strategy for the future.

As a result, within just two years she effectively transformed the organisation, winning praise from the regulator and securing the highest HCA governance ratings in 2015. Under her leadership, the Group has gone from strength to strength, issuing £60m of bonds directly following the Brexit vote to secure long term financing for the organisation’s activities, while increasing its turnover to more than £100m last year with a surplus of £11.3m, at the same time as growing returns from its commercial activities.

 Described by the judges as an ‘unsung hero’ for her fundraising efforts, charitable endeavours, and her passion for social investment, Valerie is an extremely deserving winner of tonight’s award.