Judges 2024 – TBC

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.

Please see below our Judges from 2023

Stephen Adair, Partner, Broad Chare Partners

View Stephen’s Biography

Joanna Allen, IFA, AYP Financial Planning Limited 

View Joanna’s Biography

Daniel Bloxham, Associate Director, Finance, Nigel Wright Group

View Daniel’s Biography

James Charlton, President of CIPFA North East

View James’s Biography
Keith Charlton, Fund Manager – FW Capital

View Keith’s Biography

Philip Clare, Partner, Muckle LLP

View Philip’s Biography

George Clark, non executive Director of Nexus

View George’s Biography

Alice Clewes, Chair of the North East England branch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation

View Alice’s Biography

Claire Connolly, CFO, Clearly Drinks Group

View Claire’s Biography

Graham Cornforth, Corporate Finance Director, Fairstone Group Ltd

Pic & Bio to follow

Sharon Coull, Finance Director, Drummond Central

View Sharon’s Biography
Jane Cuthbertson, Chief Operating Officer, Principalship – Tyne Coast College

View Jane’s Biography

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

View Mark’s Biography

Andy Donnelly, Managing Director, Donwood Glass

View Andy’s Biography

Brian Foreman, Branch Manager – Handelsbanken

View Brian’s Biography

Claire Foster, acting CFO –  Everyturn Mental Health

View Claire’s Biography
Tom Gilbert, Senior Controller Finance – Nissan

View Tom’s Biography

Barry Gill (FCCA) – Chair, ACCA Northern Counties Region 

View Barry’s Biography

Nick Green, Practice Lead, C-suite & Private Equity – Nigel Wright Group

View Nick’s Biography

Stuart Hall, Finance Director, Aspire Tech 

View Stuart’s Biography

Yangbin Ma – AAT

Bio to follow

Bill MacLeod, former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Member of ICAS

View Bill’s Biography

George Marsden, Head of Sales – Stratstone Jaguar Land Rover Newcastle
View George’s Biography



Tim Mallon, Director – Mallon:Tax

View Tim’s Biography

Jonathan Moreland – Managing Partner, Swinburne Maddison LLP

View Jonathan’s Biography

Charlotte Owen, Associate Director, Finance – Nigel Wright Group

View Charlotte’s Biography
Gareth Phillips, Group Head of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) at Fentimans Ltd

View Gareth’s Biography

Robert Phillips, Partner, Womble Bond Dickinson

View Robert’s Biography
Adam Rayner – Partner,  Muckle LLP

View Adam’s Biography

Steven Robinson – COO, Blu Sky 

View Steven’s Biography

Richard Slack, Professor in Accounting, Durham University Business School

View Richard’s Biography
David Smith, Executive Director Resources – Broadacres Housing Association

View David’s Biography

Fiona Standfield – Chief Operating Officer at Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle

View Fiona’s Biography

Ian Wilkinson – Chief Executive Officer of Perspective Financial Group and Managing Director of Perspective (North East) Ltd

View Ian’s Biography

Jeremy Smith, Partner, Womble Bond Dickinson

Biography to follow

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.


Daniel Bloxham – Associate Director, Finance - Nigel Wright Group

Dan is an Associate Director for the Finance Recruitment Team, whose remit focuses on Permanent Finance appointments throughout the North of England. Recruiting across a broad range of professional disciplines, Dan advises organisations on talent acquisition.
Prior to joining Nigel Wright, Dan has 13 years' experience of working with internationally recognised talent management and development framework, Investors in People. Advising on improving business performance through effective people management and development practices. Latterly, he has worked for Grant Thornton, specifically focused on people solutions through Account Management services.


James Charlton is the current President of CIPFA North East, which is the regional branch of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. He began studying with CIPFA in 2016 and qualified in 2018.  He has worked at Newcastle City Council since 2011, both as an internal auditor and more recently in the Financial Services division as a senior accountant.

Keith Charlton – Fund Manager – F W Capital

Keith is a qualified Chartered Accountant and a highly experienced investment professional, having worked in the venture capital sector since 2001 and having been involved in a number of investment opportunities over a wide range of sectors.  He is currently Fund Manager at FW Capital, responsible for investing the Northern Powerhouse investment Fund and supporting North East-based SME businesses.

Prior to this Keith worked and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the City Of London and had responsibility for delivering a full range of audit and corporate finance services to clients ranging from sole traders to FTSE listed companies.  Developing an interest in financial services Keith went on to work in financial services regulation with the Securities and Investments Board (now the FCA) and in the Listing Department of the London Stock Exchange.  Upon returning to the North East he served as Finance Director to several North East SME businesses and also provided fund raising, pre-investment appraisal/due diligence and financial management services to a number of local businesses.


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.

George Clark - non executive Director of Nexus

With over 47 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. A qualified Accounting Technician in 1980 and then full Chartered Accountant in 1990 and in 2016 was elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

In 2001 he became an Inspector with the Audit Commission delivering over 50 assessments across all areas of the public sector (Police, Fire, NHS and Local Government) across England. In 2011 this career was prematurely cut short when the Government abolished the Audit Commission.

Currently providing his skills and experience to a number of bodies across the Tyne and Wear area;

  • Nexus - Non-Executive Director sitting on the Executive Board, Remuneration Committee and chair of Audit Committee
  • Independent Person for Newcastle Council being consulted on all complaints against Councillors.
  • Chair of Board of Governors Tyne Coast College and Trustee of Tyne Coast Academy Trust.
  • Treasurer of Heaton Stannington AFC in the Northern League
  • Treasurer of 61st Newcastle (St Francis) Scout Group

Internationally he has worked with the Shanghai Municipal Reform project, with the Crown Agents and trained Chief Internal Auditors from Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, and Georgia. Had four tours of Bosnia to lecture Cantonal Finance Ministers and their staff, on their role in Public accountability, develop proper internal control processes and train their staff to provide an 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 in 2011 was awarded the Dr Hedley Marshall award for outstanding voluntary service to CIPFA’s regions over a 21year period.

George in what little spare time he has concentrates on spending time with his grandchildren

Alice is a Partner in Hay & Kilner’s private client department with over 18 years’ experience.

 Alice is dual qualified as a Solicitor and a Chartered Tax Adviser and is also a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.  She advises clients on all aspects of private client work with key practice areas including Wills, trusts and tax planning; Probate and estate administration, Court of Protection and mental capacity.  Alice is currently Chair of the North East England branch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation whilst also continuing with her role on the branch committee to arrange the yearly education programme of seminars and webinars.

Claire Conolly - 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.

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.


Jane Cuthbertson, Chief Operating Officer, Tyne Coast College and Tyne Coast Academy Trust

Jane is the Chief Operating Officer for both Tyne Coast College and Tyne Coast 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 and Nominations 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 Group

Mark is responsible for the recruitment of senior professional services talent for clients based in the North of England.

Typical assignments cover roles within accountancy practices, legal disciplines and back office support roles for corporate clients, including Property, Company Secretarial, Compliance as well as Financial Services Risk and Regulatory disciplines.

Mark is responsible for permanent recruitment, and due to the diverse nature of the desk, has experience of contingent and retained search recruitment processes.

Mark has recruited for a number of international & regional clients across both the public and private sector including Big 4 & regional accountancy firms, North Yorkshire Police, Redde Northgate Plc, UBS, Cumberland Building Society, END Clothing, Inn Collection Group and many more


Andy has been Managing Director of Gateshead based Donwood Glass since 2005. During this time at the company, which employs 51 staff locally, his focus has been continuous improvement in all areas of the business as well as business growth. The day to day management of the company for nearly 20 years, has enabled him to develop a range of commercial attributes including sales, operations, marketing and logistics; leading on all aspects of financial planning, commercial analysis and forecasting.

Andy graduated in International Business with Italian from Liverpool John Moores University in 2001. Subsequently, Andy completed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and more recently in 2019 completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at Northumbria University.

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.

Claire is acting CFO in this Transformational role with the Mental Health and Wellbeing group of companies – Everyturn (formerly Mental Health Concern) and Everyturn
Services Ltd (formerly Insight Healthcare Ltd) – a specialist, non-profit partner to the NHS.



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.


Barry Gill is the current chair of the ACCA Northern Counties region. Barry is the founder and director of wesellanycompany.com, TIG Corporate Finance and Hindley Capital, as well as having a number of other business interests. 

Nick Green, Practice Lead, C-suite & Private Equity – Nigel Wright Group

Nick has over two decades of Executive Search experience and leads the C-Suite and Private Equity practice. He started his career delivering Executive Search solutions in London, followed by eighteen years in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Nick co-founded and built an Asian financial services firm and was personally ranked as one of Asia’s leading financial services Executive Search consultants.

Since relocating back to the UK, Nick has immersed himself in the Northern investment community and is networked with Corporate Finance and Private Equity firms, as well as their portfolio companies.





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.



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”


George is the Head of Sales at Stratstone Jaguar Land Rover in Newcastle. With over 8 years’ experience in the industry, George previously studied at Northumbria University in Business Management gaining a first class with honours. He has subsequently gone on to various positions within the motor trade and has a keen interest in the world of business and finance.



Tim Mallon, Director - Mallon:Tax

A Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser, Tim has worked in senior roles in a number of accounting firms.  He has spent over 30 years  in the North East  following six years working in London in the 1980s.  He is a former Chair of the North East England branch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.  Tim is well known amongst clients and other professional advisers for his clear, practical advice.


Jonathan Moreland - Managing Partner, Swinburne Maddison LLP

As Managing Partner of Swinburne Maddison LLP, Jonathan is responsible for spearheading the management and strategic development of the firm and leading the senior management team. In addition, he continues to practise in his specialist areas of employment law and dispute resolution and heading up these teams.

For over thirty years, Jonathan has been advising businesses and individuals in relation to employment law and assisting them in resolving disputes.  He acts for national PLCs, limited companies, LLPs, partnerships, charities and academic institutions, such as universities and schools.

As a business owner and employer himself, Jonathan prides himself on providing advice which is practical, sensible, and always commercially viable.




Charlotte Owen, Associate Director, Finance - Nigel Wright Group

Charlotte is responsible for the leadership of the Public & Third Sector, Temporary Finance and Business Support teams across the region from offices in Newcastle and Wynyard. She also takes responsibility for senior management to Director level recruitment. Charlotte is experienced in providing expert consultation and high-quality resource solutions for multiple assignments and has also led on executive search campaigns throughout her career.

Charlotte runs leadership networks that allow her to bring the right person to the role whether specialising in business transformation, shared service or organisational change.



Gareth Phillips – Group Head of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)  – Fentimans

Gareth leads FP&A at Fentimans, the premium botanical drinks brand founded in 1905 and based in Hexham.

Gareth started his career in practice as an auditor with EY, where he became a Chartered Accountant and worked with a diverse portfolio of clients across the UK.  He then moved into corporate finance with Newcastle-based firm UNW and advised on numerous deals in the region; primarily MBOs and disposals, together with debt and equity fundraisings.

In 2021 Gareth joined Fentimans and has introduced and embedded within the Group an FP&A structure as well as a business partnering mindset.

Robert Phillips, Partner, Womble Bond Dickinson 

Robert is a corporate finance partner with over 25 years’ experience of advising clients on private and public company mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, domestic and international joint ventures and corporate governance. 

In over 20 years working in the North East corporate marketplace as part of an award winning regional firm, Robert has advised on some of the most significant transactions in the region and worked with some of the region’s best known entrepreneurs. Robert’s specialisation is working with owner-managers and shareholders around strategic direction and maximising value when exiting their companies and also on the reverse side of those transactions, acting for corporates acquiring new businesses and companies as part of growth strategies. 

Robert has been named Insider’s North-East corporate lawyer of the year on three separate occasions – and worked on 4 of the awards’ ceremony “Deal of the Year” in the North East Region. 

Following outstanding client feedback Robert was named as a star lawyer in the ‘Acritas Stars’ global database 2017 and 2018 

Womble Bond Dickinson is a Transatlantic Law Firm created by the coming together of leading regional and national firms – to give businesses and individuals  nationally and locally a regional presence and footprint – with national and now transatlantic reach and expertise.

Adam is a partner in the corporate team at Muckle, a commercial law firm in Newcastle with a national reputation. Adam advises on a range of corporate finance transactions and company law matters, specialising in business sales and acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures and private equity and venture capital investments.


Steven Robinson - COO, Blu Sky 

As COO at Blu Sky, I have a passion for helping high growth companies scale with financial freedom.

Having always worked with SMEs, I have almost 14 years working in the sector and have been a chartered accountant for 7 years.

Since joining Blu Sky I have developed a specialism in working alongside businesses raising investment, as well as growing service businesses.  




Dr Richard Slack is Professor in Accounting at Durham University Business School. Prior to his academic career, Richard, a graduate of St Andrews University, worked at Price Waterhouse and is a qualified chartered accountant (ACA).

Richard’s practice and policy relevant research focusses upon how information is portrayed by companies and its usefulness to capital markets. This research has addressed voluntary disclosure areas such as sustainability and climate change to mandated disclosure under IFRS, specifically examining accounting for research and development costs under IAS 38. Richard has a long track record in published research in leading international accounting journals including Journal of Accounting and Public Policy and British Accounting Review.

Externally, Richard is Deputy President of the Northern Society of Chartered Accountants and in his academic role, has served as visiting professor at Universities of Sydney and Florence; is member of the Advisory Board of the Financial Accounting and Reporting Special Interest Group of The British Accounting and Finance Association and is an external examiner at the University of Galway. Richard is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and currently teaches financial accounting and reporting on the BSc Accounting degree at Durham.

David Smith is a Chartered, Certified and Public Finance accountant with more than 20 years’ experience in central and local government and the housing sectors. After six years in the civil service, and more recently eighteen years in the Big Four, David now works for Broadacres Housing Association. As Executive Director of Resources David is responsible for finance and treasury management, legal services, procurement and facilities. He champions value for money and financial transparency.

Fiona Standfield – Chief Operating Officer – Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle 

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, undertaking operational, training and management roles both at home and abroad, including Home Shopping Sales Director, and culminating as Business Implementation and Delivery Director on a UK-wide IT Programme.

Since returning to the North East, Fiona has developed a portfolio career working across all three sectors. This has included her own consultancy practice – providing language services, project management and business development support to SMEs and social enterprises – and interim change leadership roles as Director, Newcastle Science City and North East Programme Director for Safe Families for Children.  She is currently Chief Operating Officer at the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle where her responsibilities include, among others, governance, finance, property, safeguarding, education, human resources, health & safety and data protection.

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

Through her voluntary positions, as well as a judge for the North East Accountancy Awards, Fiona enjoys supporting Durham University Business School and is a Trustee of the University’s Bede Chair of Theology, is a Trustee of Vindolanda, a Trustee of the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, is Chair of a Northumberland-based theatre company (November Club), and is a member of the Charity Advisory Panel for Age UK Northumberland.


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.