After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, I qualified as CA in 1976, having served my apprenticeship with Whinney Murray (now part of EY). I then joined Hurdman & Cranstoun, working in their European Co-ordinating Office, in Chancery Lane, London. and in their New York office at 140 Broadway from 1979-80. Before I went to New York, I had my first flirtation with corporate governance, writing an article entitled ‘The Objectives and Advantages of Audit Committees’, which was published in the 1979 Journal of Accountancy.

Soon after my return from New York I joined the Finance Division of County Bank, National Westminster’s merchant bank, providing specialist finance in various forms to both listed and private companies, including Wire & Plastic Products, a shell company that went on to become WPP plc, which is now the world’s largest advertising company.

After a brief but enjoyable sojourn with Touche Ross & Co, working in what is now the corporate finance team of Deloitte, I returned to Edinburgh in 1976 to join the investment team of The Standard Life Assurance Company, which was the Europe’s largest mutual life assurance company. Shortly after joining Standard Life, I set up their smaller company and private equity investment teams, backing several interesting companies, such as Stagecoach, which went on to become of the UK’s largest transport companies, and Newspaper Publishing, which published The Independent newspaper.

Shortly after the Cadbury Committee published its seminal report about the financial aspects of corporate governance in 1992, I was asked to take responsibility for how Standard Life managed its relationships with its investee companies and held their boards to account for a range of governance issues including strategy, board balance, remuneration, audit and social responsibility. As one of the very first people operating in this area it gave Standard Life and me the opportunity to play an influential part in building the foundations of principles-based policies and practices for what has now become ESG investing.

I fulfilled this leadership role with Standard Life for over 20 years until I retired from Standard Life Investments in 2016. During this period, I served on numerous committees, including the hugely influential Investment Committee of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the Standing Advisory Group (SAG of the PCAOB, the US audit regulator, and the Companies Committee of the Confederation of British Industries (CBI). In addition, I set up several important organisations in the eco-system, including the UK’s Corporate Governance Forum and the Global Auditor Investor Dialogue. Also, I was Co-Chair for many years of the Conference Board’s European Corporate Governance Council.

I now focus on thought leadership, writing, my relationships with the academic community, and my advisory and non-executive roles. Currently, I am an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh Business School, an independent non-executive of Mazars LLP, Vice Chair of the European Corporate Governance Institute, Chair of the Research Panel of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and a member of its Policy Leadership Board.

Last updated: December 2021