View our 2020 judges below:

We pride ourselves on the integrity and diligence of our judging process. All judges are selected for their expertise and must have at least 10 years’ experience working in or around the finance sector.

Stephen Adair
Chartered Financial Planner, Broad Chare Partners

View Stephen’s Biography

David Balme

Photo & Bio to follow

Chris Blaxall

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David Chandler
Chief Finance Officer and Deputy Chief Officer – Sunderland CCG

View David’s Biography

Keith Charlton
Investment Executive – FW Capital

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Tracey Christy
Finance Director, Echo Events & Association Management

View Tracey’s Biography

Philip Clare
Partner, Muckle LLP

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George Clark
Retired Performance Specialist with the Audit Commission

View George’s Biography

Claire Conolly
Finance Director, Morrison Data Services

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Jane Cuthbertson,
Chief Finance Officer, Tyne Coast College and Multi-Academy Trust

View Jane’s Biography

Mark Dale
Principal Consultant, Professional Services,
Nigel Wright Recruitment

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Karen Eckstein
Womble Bond Dickinson UK (LLP)

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Brian Foreman
Branch Manager, Handelsbanken

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Tom Gilbert
Senior Controller, Finance, Nissan

View Toms’s Biography

Barry Gill
Chair, ACCA Northern Counties Region

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James Kyle
Investment Director, Rathbone Investment Management

View James’s Biography

Chris Lucarelli
Director, Cal Partners

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John McGee
Finance Director, Grainger Management Ltd

View John’s Biography

Richard Morgan
Associate Director – Finance, HR, Supply Chain & Prof. Services, Nigel Wright Recruitment
View Richard’s Biography


Karen Muir

Homes England

Bio & Photo to follow 

Charlotte Owen

Nigel Wright Recruitment

Bio & Photo to follow

Robert Phillips

Womble Bond Dickinson LLP

Bio & Photo to follow


Adam Rayner


Bio & Photo to follow 

Steven Simpson
Chief Financial Officer, Hollicom

View Steven’s Biography

Fiona Standfield
Witton House Associates

View Fiona’s Biography

Jim Dafter

Bio & photo to follow

Alan Johnston

Bio & photo to follow

Stephen Adair, Chartered Financial Planner, Broad Chare Partners

Broad Chare Partners are committed to building and sustaining long-term relationships to fully understand and support their clients’ financial aspirations and goals for the future.

As an equity partner of Broad Chare Partners, Chartered Financial Planner, Fellow of the Personal Finance Society and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Securities & Investment, Stephen uses his experience as a business owner and high level of professional qualifications to provide high quality, tailored wealth management support to individuals, business owners, trustees and their families.

Many of Stephen’s clients are professionals and directors of growing businesses, for whom he provides comprehensive support in respect of the overlapping needs of the family and the business, which change markedly from start-up to growth, succession or retirement.

Stephen’s previous experience includes Audit & Advisory at Deloitte, private client investment management for Brewin Dolphin plc and managing financial planning for Bank of Scotland Private Banking in the North of England.

Broad Chare Partners is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James's Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group's wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group's website

Broad Chare Partners is a trading name of Broad Chare Partnership LLP.

Chris Blaxall, CFO, NBS

Chris Blaxall is the CFO of NBS, that provides distinctive, innovative specification and information SaaS solutions to construction industry professionals through its cloud based platform.

Most recently he was responsible for all finance, HR and legal matters as CFO for Partnerize ( formerly Performance Horizon), a leading global provider of SaaS solutions for digital partner marketing, backed by Silicon Valley based investors.

Prior to that, Chris was involved as CFO in a number of technology oriented companies, including a start-up that he co-founded, which was successfully sold to a major public company.  Chris has also held senior positions at Deloitte, 3i Group and Derwent Valley Food Group (Phileas Fogg Snack Foods) where as CFO, he helped achieve a highly successful exit for all parties in a trade sale.

David Chandler,  CFO & DCO,  Sunderland CCG

David Chandler is the Chief Finance Officer and Deputy Chief Officer for Sunderland CCG.  He has worked in the NHS at a senior level for over 20 years and has experience in most sectors including acute care, community, mental health and commissioning with Gateshead, County Durham, Darlington and Sunderland.  He is also the chair of the Northern Branch HFMA Commissioning Forum.

Keith Charlton, Senior Investment Executive, FW Capital

Keith has been active in the venture capital and investment sector for over 18 years. He currently works as a Senior Investment Executive for FW Capital, making and managing investments in growing SME businesses across the North Of England.

Prior to this, Keith qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the City of London, then worked as a Senior Executive in the Securities and Investments Board (now the FCA) and as a Listing Group Regulatory Adviser in the London Stock Exchange. Upon returning to his native North East he has provided fund raising, disposal, pre-investment appraisal/due diligence and financial management and consultancy services and acted in Finance Director roles for a number of local businesses. He has gained a valuable understanding of SME businesses and the difficulties they face raising funds, as well as first-hand experience of the key drivers of successful businesses.

Professional Qualification – FCA

Tracey Christy, Finance Director, Echo Events & Association Management

Tracey is an experienced finance professional with extensive knowledge gained from over two decades working within a range of different sectors including the NHS and Royal Mail.

She is currently a Director at Echo Events and heads up the finance team who cover a wide range of services for clients, from day to day back office finance functions, to more complex services, such as cash flow and working capital management, foreign currency risk management, and preparation of Management Accounts and EU Project Reports for International clients.

Philip Clare, Muckle LLP 

Philip is a Partner in the Corporate Team at Muckle LLP. He advises clients on a whole range of corporate finance matters, such as business acquisitions and disposals, public company transactions and corporate reorganisations. He frequently acts for clients buying or selling businesses and also regularly advises on company law and corporate governance matters.

George Clark, Retired Performance Specialist with the Audit Commission

With over 43 years public service experience. George spent 25 years at Newcastle City Council where he left as Chief Internal Auditor and Head of risk management and insurance.

Became an Inspector with the Audit Commission delivering over 50 assessments across all areas of the public sector. Currently applying his skills on Boards, Audit or Governance Committees of Gateshead Housing Company, NECA and Nexus chairing many. He is Independent Person for both Newcastle and North Tyneside Councils being consulted on all complaints against Councillors.

A Tyne Coast College Governor, where he is also Vice Chair of the Finance Committee, Chair of the Performance Review and Assessment panel and Chair of the Multi Academy Trust Members Board

Has worked with the Shanghai Municipal Reform project, with the Crown Agents and Chief Internal Auditors from Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, and Georgia. Had four tours of Bosnia to develop proper internal control processes and effective Internal Audit. Undertaken two projects in Macedonia developing anti-corruption hotlines and training programmes for the staff operating them.

He is a past President of CIPFA North East Region and was awarded the Dr Hedley Marshall award for outstanding voluntary service to CIPFA’s regions over a 21year period.

George has recently retired from being a Scout Leader after 27 years’ service to concentrate on spending what little spare time he has with his own grandchildren

Claire Conolly, Finance Director, Morrison Data Services

Claire is Finance Director Morrison Data Services a leading data services provider in the utilities industry.

Having qualified with KPMG, Claire moved into industry with the French pharmaceuticals group Rhodia then returned to the North East to take on a role within Sage Plc. Claire held a number of senior finance roles at Sage including Finance Director for the UKI business before taking on her current role where she divested Morrison Data Services from G4S PLC into private equity ownership.

Jane Cuthbertson, Chief Finance Officer, Tyne Coast College and Multi-Academy Trust

Jane is the Chief Finance Officer for both Tyne Coast College and the Multi-Academy Trust and her career to date has spanned both public and private sector organisations working in both a client and contractor environment.

Jane has a wide range of volunteering activity regionally and nationally. Regionally, Jane is a member of CIPFA in the North East and is a former President. Nationally, Jane is an elected member of CIPFA Council and is the Vice Chair of the Remuneration Committee. Jane is also an independent Council member for the Association of Accounting Technicians.

Jane holds an MSc in Public Services Management, is a Fellow member of CIPFA and is a member of AAT.

Mark Dale, Principal Consultant, Professional Services,
Nigel Wright Recruitment

Mark leads Nigel Wright’s professional services appointments across Accountancy, Legal market as well as Banking & Fund Management positions.

From Nigel Wright’s headquarters in Newcastle Mark’s client base is spread across North Yorkshire, the North East and Cumbria. As well as traditional, local recruitment activity, Mark delivers strategic, national, senior search campaigns which has enabled him to assist clients in recruiting senior leadership teams to create growth. Senior search at Director and Partner level for succession planning is also a key area of Mark’s work.

Mark is responsible for assisting several accountancy societies and governing bodies with events around the North East including the annual CIOT Tax Dinner and the NCASS balls.

A Durham University graduate, Mark has over 10 years’ experience in recruitment, approximately 5 of those with Nigel Wright.

Karen Eckstein, Consultant, Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Karen is a CTA as well as a solicitor with 30 years' experience in contentious tax and tax and accountancy related professional negligence cases. She also specialises in tax and accountancy risk management and provides risk management services to accountants as an outsourced product- to enable them to meet their regulatory requirements as well as improve their services to clients and overall risk profile.

Karen has a national reputation in the tax and accountancy arena, having been recognised on more than one occasion at the Lexis Nexus Taxation Awards, as well as receiving an award from ATT for her services to the Taxation world, she is the author of 'Managing Risk – a guide for accountants and tax advisers' , and is a well-regarded and received lecturer on tax and accountancy risk and negligence issues.

Karen has also recently passed the prestigious Institute of Risk Management exams, meaning that she is uniquely qualified to advise professionals in this arena.

Karen is in fact about to leave her role as a professional indemnity solicitor (where she has practiced for 30 years defending claims ) to focus on contentious tax and risk management for professionals- where her main passion lies- as well as enabling her to increase her lecturing appointments.

Brian Foreman, Handelsbanken 

Brian has over 30 years of banking experience and has recently set up a new office for Handelsbanken in the North East, recruiting a team spanning both Corporate and Personal Banking. 

Prior to joining Handelsbanken, Brian was head of SME at Barclays, but took up the exciting new opportunity with Handelsbanken late in 2015 to provide a more bespoke offering to businesses and individuals in the region. He is a fully qualified Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. 

In former roles, spanning 3 decades, Brian has headed a centre of excellence for Football Finance, a role that carried a national mandate, being recognised for his Professional Services to the sector at the 2010 Football Awards. Brian has also been heavily involved with both the HE & FE sectors during his time as Head of Education across the North East & Yorkshire region.

Tom Gilbert, Senior Controller Finance, Nissan

Tom joined PwC in their audit department in 2007 after graduating from the University of Nottingham with a French and History degree. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2010. His portfolio was varied, working with clients in a broad cross section of industries including financial services, manufacturing, technology and sport. His time at PwC also included a two year period in France on secondment. In 2016 he moved to Nissan in Sunderland, leading the Corporate Governance team there. Prior to joining PwC he also spent time working in hospitality in the French Alps.

Barry Gill, Chair ACCA Northern Counties Region

Barry Gill is a founder and director of, TIG Corporate Finance and Hindley Capital, as well as having a number of other business interests. He is an ACCA qualified member, has more than 20 years of accounting experience and is the current chair of the ACCA Northern Counties region.

Progressing through his career, Barry has gained exponential experience working with small and medium sized businesses, training with one of the top 10 national accountancy firms and gaining experience in some of the largest independent local firms.

Barry has experience in accounting, auditing, fundraising and M&A and also has experience working as a company finance director.

As a panel member for the ACCA Northern Counties Network, Barry was the winner of “Advocate of the Year” at the 2016 UK national ACCA advocacy awards and was shortlisted in the “Young dealmaker of the year” category at the Insider Media North East Dealmaker Awards 2016 and was also a runner up at the 2017 North East Accountancy Awards in the “Accountant of the Year” category.

James Kyle, Investment Director, Rathbone Investment Management 

James helped establish the Rathbones office in the North East when it opened in 2013 having worked as a Director at a global wealth management firm prior to that.  He has 18 years investment industry experience and specialises in the management of private client, trust, offshore and pension fund portfolios. 

James graduated in Law from Newcastle University in 1998, holds the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI) Diploma and is a Chartered Fellow of the CISI. James currently sits on the Appeals Committee of St Oswald’s Hospital charity and is a trustee of the Great North Air Ambulance Service.

Chris Lucarelli, Director, Cal Partners

Chris is a Chartered Marketer, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Director of Cal Partners, a marketing, digital marketing and business development consultancy working exclusively with professional services firms.

A law graduate from Northumbria University, Chris qualified as a practising solicitor in 1995, becoming a law firm partner recommended in both the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners directories.

As the Chartered Institute of Marketing's top international award-winning post graduate diploma student in 2007 and recognising the growing impact of marketing in professional services, Chris made the transition to senior marketing and business development roles at a top 100 national law firm and leading barristers chambers. Given the increasing integration of digital in professional services marketing, Chris gained a post graduate diploma from the Digital Marketing Institute.

Chris is an Executive Committee member of the UK wide Commercial Litigation Association and a member of the North East Board of the national employability and entrepreneurial charity, Young Enterprise.

John McGee, Finance Director, Grainger Management Ltd 

John is a Chartered Certified Accountant with an MBA from Durham University Business School. 
He has a background in the offshore oil and gas industry having worked in Scotland and the Middle East for many years. 
Presently he holds a number of finance director roles with companies based in the North East of England and is is a former President of Northern Counties ACCA 

Richard Morgan, Associate Director - Finance, HR, Supply Chain & Prof. Services, Nigel Wright 

Richard leads the Accountancy, Supply Chain & Procurement, Professional Services and HR business units at Nigel Wright and is part of the operational business leadership team. Richard’s specific recruitment focus is C-Level appointments across the North, predominantly CFO, FD, CEO and COO positions.
Richard also assumes a market figurehead position for Nigel Wright, sitting on regional committees, developing a strong professional services / advisory network and leading the delivery of several keynote industry events

Originally from Wales and a graduate of Cardiff University, Richard moved to the North East in 2004, he spent three years training as an Accountant before making the switch into recruitment in 2007.

Steven Simpson, Chief Financial Officer, Hollicom

Steven is a versatile, highly commercial business leader with over 20 years’ experience in building successful North East based manufacturing companies. He is currently a director of a Public Relations agency and a Running Events company, businesses that he co-founded in the last 18 months.

In his early career, Steven qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PWC and in 1996 was given the chance to participate in the Management Buy in of Sunderland based, VC - backed Voyager Foods, joining initially as Finance Director. After 3 years he was promoted to Managing Director and led the company to North East Company of the Year in 2002 before successfully completing the sale of the business to Irish conglomerate Kerry Foods a year later.

Steven joined Gateshead based Responsive Engineering as part of a Buy in Management Buy Out in 2006. With the Chairman and CEO he embarked upon a programme to grow the business, both organically and with the acquisition of a neighbouring engineering company. After a sustained period of rapid growth in sales and profitability recognised with numerous business awards, in 2014 Steven successfully led the sale of the company to Reece Group a fellow North East England based group of companies. Steven exited the business in 2016 following its relocation to Armstrong Works in Scotswood Road

Fiona Standfield, Witton House Associates

Educated at the Universities of Leeds, Caen and Oxford, Fiona began her career as a fast-track Civil Servant in Whitehall, subsequently teaching Modern Foreign Languages and working in the House of Commons, before joining Royal Mail plc.  Fiona enjoyed a thirteen-year career with Royal Mail plc, undertaking operational, training and management posts both at home and abroad, including Home Shopping Sales Director and culminating in Business Implementation and Delivery Director on a UK-wide IT Programme.

Since returning to the North East, Fiona has developed a portfolio career, which has included her own consultancy practice – providing language services, project management and business development support to SMEs across all three sectors – and interim change leadership roles as Director, Newcastle Science City and North East Programme Director for Safe Families for Children.  Fiona is currently working for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle as their Chief Operating Officer.

A former chair of an NHS Mental Health and Learning Disability Trust, Fiona is also employed by the Ministry of Justice as a Specialist (mental health) Lay Tribunal Member and an Appraiser.

Fiona enjoys voluntary positions as the North East Institute of Directors Ambassador for Skills, a Trustee of Vindolanda, Chair of Northumberland based theatre company November Club, Chair of the North East Expert Reference Panel for the charity Safe Families for Children, and a member of the Local Governing Body of Northumberland College.