College: Croydon College

Location: London

Position on the board: Chair of Finance and Resources, Remuneration, and Search Committees

Occupation: Former banker, now chair/non-executive director

Hobbies: Collecting wooden bowls and watching rugby

Why did you decide to join an FE board?

I had previously been a school governor, and I was involved in the economic regeneration of Croydon. I wanted to use my skills and interest in education to put something back.

I have held numerous chair/non-executive director roles over the last 20 years, which currently include Ploughshare Innovations Ltd, Courier Facilities Ltd, Hyde Housing Association and ASC International Schools.

I felt that I could bring experience from these roles to benefit the college board. Our members are enthusiastic, committed individuals from all walks of life. They have specialist expertise but may not have held a role like this before.

What skills and experiences have helped you in the role?

My background as an executive director, CEO, chair and non-executive director has given me a good understanding of how to strike the right balance between challenge and support. In turn I seek to help others use their experience to do the same.

At Croydon, new governors are offered a mentor (can often be me) to help governor colleagues with considerable external expertise learn how to be an effective board member. This might be coaching on how to ask open questions, when to push a point at a meeting and when to ask to follow it up with the Executive outside formal proceedings.

As chair of the Finance and Resources Committee, what is your role?

I ensure the effective planning and deployment of all College resources – people, property, cash, revenue and capital expenditure. Off the back of the strategy for the College, I oversee the preparation of the medium-term plan and the budget and then monitor performance against it.

In what way does your governing board contribute to the success of the college?

First, in working with the Executive, we define and agree the strategy. Secondly we ensure plans are in place for delivery and thirdly we monitor educational and financial delivery against the plan. We identify variances and test the adequacy of Executive proposals for improvement.

What advice would you give to someone who is about to attend their first FE board meeting?

Read the board papers, note what you think are the big issues and before the meeting test these with your mentor or another governor. Prepare one or two open questions that you would like to ask if nobody else does. Feel no pressure to say anything at all but make sure you speak to all colleagues to say hello before or after the meeting.