Judges 2024

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, Partner, Broad Chare Partners

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Tom Ainscough, Chief Executive Officer – ZyroFisher

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Joanna Allen, FP – Greenarch Wealth Management

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Nick Collins, Executive Director of Finance – Newcastle University

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Claire Connolly, CFO, Clearly Drinks Group

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Philip Clare, Partner – Muckle LLP

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Sharon Coull, Finance Director, Drummond Central

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Brian Foreman, Branch Manager – Handelsbanken

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John Fenwick, CPFA, Director of Finance and Resources – Nexus

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Tom Gilbert, Senior Controller Finance – Nissan

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Stuart Hall, Finance Director – Aspire Technology Solutions

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James Kyle, Investment Director – Rathbones

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Bill MacLeod, former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Member of ICAS

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Claire Maith, CFO – Peter Vardy Ltd

Pic & Biography to follow

Bruce Parvin, Regional President, North East – CIPFA

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Gareth Phillips, Managing Director – CRL Foods

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Lynn Shearing, M&A Director, Bourne Leisure Ltd

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Paul Shields, Partner –  Johnston Carmichael

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Andy Smith, Chair – CIOT North East Branch

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Ian Wilkinson , Chief Executive Officer – Perspective Finance Group

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Stephen Adair, Partner, Broad Chare Partners

Stephen Adair is a 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 his high-level of professional qualifications, to provide high quality, tailored wealth management and comprehensive support in respect of the overlapping needs of the individual, family and business, which change from start-up to growth, succession or retirement.

 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. The 'St. James's Place Partnership' and the titles 'Partner' and 'Partner Practice' are marketing terms used to describe St. James's Place representatives.

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

Joanna Allen - IFA at Greenarch Wealth Management

Joanna is an independent financial adviser with over 20 years experience advising a range of corporate, sme and individual clients.  Previously worked within both an accountancy and legal practise. 

Passionate about advice for women and ethical investing and championing bespoke, chartered, independent advice.


Nick Collins has overall responsibility for the University’s financial planning, monitoring and control ensuring that robust financial plans are in place to meet the University’s strategic plans. Nick leads the Finance function covering Financial Performance, Corporate Finance, Financial Services, Procurement & Purchasing and Funding Assurance.

Nick is also responsible for the University IT Service and the campus Estates and Facilities.

Nick is an accomplished finance professional with experience across a range of sectors. He has a broad skill set that has been developed by driving complex change initiatives, leading large teams, strengthening financial control and operating in a listed corporate environment. Nick trained with PwC where he worked with a range of businesses before then holding a number of senior roles within Virgin Money plc. Most recently Nick was the CFO of a start-up bank.

Nick is a Chartered Accountant, Corporate Treasurer and holds a Masters in Physics from the University of Oxford.



Claire Connolly, CFO, Clearly Drinks Group

Having qualified with KPMG, Claire moved into industry with the French pharmaceuticals group Rhodia before joining Sage Plc. Claire held a number of senior finance roles at Sage including Finance Director for the UKI business before moving to G4S as Finance Director for their Utility and Outsourcing business. After divesting the business into private equity ownership, Claire took on the role of FD of the Energy Retail division of M Group Services covering five trading business before moving into her current role as CFO for the PE backed Clearly Drinks.

Philip Clare, Partner, Muckle LLP

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

Sharon Coull, Finance Director – Drummond Central

Sharon has worked across a range of industries both in the UK and overseas. Previously Sharon was Finance Consultant at 360 Growth Partners, a Newcastle based business focused on working in close partnership with SME's to accelerate business growth. Other roles range from Finance Director at Tyneside Cinema, various finance leadership roles at Sage PLC and prior to Sage Sharon was based in Dubai working in the mobile telecoms sector.


Brian Foreman, Branch Manager, Handelsbanken

Brian has 36 years of banking experience and currently heads up the Handelsbanken office in Newcastle, leading a team spanning both Corporate and Personal Banking.

Prior to joining Handelsbanken, Brian was head of SME at Barclays, but took up the 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, Nissan

Tom joined PwC in 2007 after graduating from the University of Nottingham with a French and History degree. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2010. His client portfolio was varied, working with companies 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, and now leads their Financial Reporting and Corporate Governance teams. During this very challenging time, finance has helped to support the business deal with impact of Covid, Brexit and also the move towards electrification.


Stuart Hall, Finance Director, Aspire Technology Solutions

Stuart is an ACA qualified accountant who oversees the financial operations and processes at Aspire ensuring that they are fit to support sustainable growth. He plays a vital role in safeguarding financial health and in ensuring ongoing compliance.



James Kyle, Investment Director, Rathbones 

James was one of the founding members of the Rathbones Newcastle office when it opened in the city in 2013. Prior to that he was a Director at UBS Wealth Management.

He has 24 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 is a trustee of the St Mary the Virgin Estate Management charity and previously of the Great North Air Ambulance Service.


Bill MacLeod, former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Member of ICAS

Bill is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and was a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for 25 years until he retired in 2020.

During his career with PwC, Bill held the following roles:

  • Member of the Supervisory Board which is PwC UK’s governance body. As part of this role, Bill chaired PwC’s own Audit and Risk Committee.
  • PwC UK Ethics Partner with oversight of the firm’s professional ethics matters.
  • Newcastle office Senior Partner.
  • Audit partner – Bill has led the audits of a wide range of listed and private companies.
  • Earlier in his career, Bill worked overseas for five years spending two years in New York and three years in Dubai.

Since retiring, Bill has taken on a number of Non-Executive roles: -

  • Non-Executive director and Audit Committee Chair at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Lay member of Council and Audit Committee Chair at Newcastle University.
  • Non-Executive director and Finance Group Chair at NewcastleGateshead Initiative Limited.
  • Trustee at Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society.
  • Member of the Ethics Board of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

In addition, Bill chaired the International Advisory Board to Newcastle University Business School between 2015 and 2022.

“Bill won the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2023 North East Accountancy Awards”


Bruce is currently CIPFA North East Regional President, heading an active team of Executive Committee volunteers who manage professional development opportunities for members and students in the Region. Bruce also represents CIPFA on the North East Finance Leaders Group. His day job sees him leading on School Finance for Northumberland County Council. Having previously worked in a number of senior roles in NE Councils and educational settings, Bruce remains passionate about the key role of the public finance professional.

In his spare time Bruce is a qualified junior football coach and Club Chairman with Tynemouth United Juniors FC.



Gareth Phillips, Managing Director, CRL Foods

Gareth is Managing Director at CRL Foods, a rapidly growing contract manufacturer in the ready-to-drink markets based in Gosforth.

Gareth started his career in practice as an auditor with EY where he qualified as a Chartered Accountant before moving into UNW’s corporate finance team.  At UNW he advised on multiple deals in the region including MBOs, disposals and fundraises – in particular one for CRL Foods.  It was in 2021 that Gareth moved into industry for the first time as Group Head of FP&A at Fentimans where he drove a culture of business partnering and formalised within the Group an FP&A structure.

Gareth joined CRL Foods in 2023 as Finance Director and has since been promoted to Managing Director to lead the business through its next phase of growth.


Lynn Shearing, M&A Director, Bourne Leisure

Studied Accountancy and Finance at Leeds University before starting my career, almost 25 years ago, at PwC.  Remained at PwC for 18 years, predominantly working in the Newcastle Corporate Finance team.  Have undertaken various roles since leaving PwC, including: M&A Director at Parkdean Resorts, which was bought out by Canadian private equity firm Onex Corporation in 2017, for a reported £1.35bn, worked with FTSE 250 Greggs Plc as a consultant, worked at Womble Bond Dickinson as a Business Development Director, was a part time Board Member at Bernicia Group (sitting on the main board and commercial board). For the past two and half years have been M&A Director for Bourne Leisure, which was acquired by Blackstone in 2021, in a deal reportedly worth £3bn.  Bourne currently operates 2 leisure brands - Haven, the largest caravan park operator in UK and Warner Leisure Hotels, which operates a portfolio of 18 hotels, which offer adult only leisure breaks throughout the UK, having previously sold its third brand, Butlins, in 2022. I have 3 children (aged 17-19).     

Paul Shields – Partner Johnston Carmichael LLP

Paul joined Johnston Carmichael in October 2023, with over 25 years’ experience working in accountancy practices in the North East of England. Paul is a Fellow of the ICAEW and a qualified auditor and is based out of the newly formed Newcastle Office where he is the Office Managing Partner.
Paul has also held several volunteer positions and is currently a director of Not-for-Profit Entity, Open North Foundation which assist North East based businesses and individuals that were adversely affected via Covid-19 and the subsequent financial downturn.



Andy Smith, Chair, CIOT North East Branch

Andy is a private client tax manager, currently working at KPMG, providing tax advisory services predominantly to Owner Managed businesses.  He is also the current chair of the CIOT North East Branch.  In his spare time he loves road cycling whenever time allows!


Ian Wilkinson , Chief Executive Officer, Perspective Finance Group

Ian Wilkinson is Chief Executive Officer of Perspective Financial Group and Managing Director of Perspective (North East) Ltd based in Newcastle. He has over 30 years’ experience in both management in the financial advice sector, and the provision of financial advice to clients, including individuals, corporates and business owners. Under Ian’s leadership, Perspective continues to grow rapidly, and is regarded as the UK’s leading national client-centric financial planning and wealth management firm.