Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme mentor profiles

Meet the high-profile Birmingham alumni who will offer practical advice on employability and support to students as they prepare to enter the workplace.

Mike Coupe


Sector: Business

Current position: Director, J Sainsbury’s

Course: BSc, Physics, 1982

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now.

More about Mike Coupe

Group Commercial Director of J Sainsbury’s, Physics graduate Mike Coupe has worked for many of the country’s biggest supermarket chains in senior management roles, including ASDA, Tesco and Iceland, before his appointment as Board Director of the Big Food Group. He was made a member of the Operating Board at J Sainsbury’s in 2004, Executive Director in 2007 and began his new role in 2010 where he is responsible for trading, marketing, IT and online.

Martin Devenish


Sector: Business

Current position: Advisor and former Managing Director for Emerging Markets, Goldman Sachs International

Course: BCom, Industrial Economics & Business Studies, 1986

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Martin Devenish

Martin has recently retired as Partner at the global investment bank, Goldman Sachs, and is now retained in an advisory capacity. His focus is Emerging Markets, and his work regularly takes him to African countries and around the world. Martin completed his Bachelors of Commerce in Industrial Economics and Business Studies from the University of Birmingham  in 1986, and went on to spend four years at HSBC Asset Management, before joining Goldman Sachs in 1992. Martin is an active member of the University’s Development Advisory Council and a great supporter of the Access to Birmingham (A2B) scheme which offers scholarships and support to ensure fair access for the brightest and best potential students regarding their personal circumstances. He is also a ‘lay’ member of the University’s Council.

Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher

Sector: Business

Current position: Chief Executive of Towry

Course: BSocSc, Economics, 1982

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher is Chief Executive of Towry, the Wealth Adviser, which employs 765 people in 21 offices across the UK and managing £4.5 billion of discretionary client assets (as at 30 June 2011).

Andrew has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. During his earlier career Andrew was a senior adviser at the Carlyle Group. He was also Commercial Director at the Private Banking business Standard Chartered, where he revolutionised the bank’s fee-earning business and created the blueprint for the bank’s future functional organisational management. In addition, Andrew was a Partner in the consultancy practice of Coopers and Lybrand.

Prior to joining Towry, he was Chief Executive of Cox Insurance Holdings Plc. and the Group Chief Executive of Coutts Group.

In May 2006, Andrew led the acquisition of Towry Law by John Scott & Partners. Since then, under Andrew’s leadership, Towry has been transformed from a commission-based IFA to a fee-only wealth adviser, fully ready to take advantage of the market changes that the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) will bring.

The business has also grown tenfold since Andrew joined in 2005 to become one of the leading wealth advice firms in the UK and was awarded Corporate Chartered Financial Planner status by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) in 2008.

Andrew is on the Board of the National Skills Academy of Financial Services, which is the leading body for the development and delivery of education, skills and training solutions for the financial services sector. Andrew is also a member of the Personal Finance Society Leaders’ Summit Group, a cross sector think tank of CEOs, MDs and Directors of leading provider firms and distributors in the retail market. Andrew was Chair for the Leaders’ Summit Group in 2008.

He is deputy Chair of the University of Birmingham Centre for Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM) the UK’s first university-based, interdisciplinary research centre to focus on improving the financial capability and financial inclusion of the wider UK population. Andrew is also on the Development Advisory Committee at the University of Birmingham.

Towry offers fee-based independent wealth advice and independent investment management services to private individuals with investable assets in excess of £100,000.

The Company’s vision is to be the UK’s leading provider of wealth advice. Towry aims to achieve this by having professionally qualified employees delivering high quality advice and investment management services to clients supported by a robust operational infrastructure.

John Scott & Partners was formed in 1968 and in 2006 the company acquired Towry Law. The merged business was re-launched in 2007 as “Towry Law”. Towry Law acquired Edward Jones Limited in November 2009 and, following integration of this company, the merged business was rebranded as “Towry” in May 2010.

Towry is a private company: the principal shareholders are management and employees and Palamon Capital Partners, one of Europe’s leading private equity firms.

Towry has been listed among Private Client Practitioner’s Top 25 Most Admired Companies for 2011 and is appointed by Camelot to provide holistic financial planning advice to National Lottery winners.

Andrew Garner

Andrew Garner

Sector: Business

Current position: Executive Search and Career Management Consultant

Course: BCom, Industrial Economics and Business Studies, 1965

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Andrew Garner

Andrew Garner has helped fashion the make-up of boardrooms across Europe, Asia and the USA. His depth of knowledge and experience gained has been derived from a career which has had two distinct phases. Initially he worked at a senior level with Mars and Brooke Bond, and for the last 28 years he has become one of the world’s leading executive search consultants.

For seven years he was Chairman and CEO of Boyden World Corporation, during which time the company grew to 64 offices in 40 countries. He then established his own firm, Garner International, floated it on the LSE and later bought Norman Broadbent, one of the all time leading search brands operating across Europe and the Middle East.

In this current phase he has brought together a team to provide the most up to date techniques in executive search, mentoring/coaching, career guidance and 100 day 'on boarding'.

Andrew is best known for the work completed at PLC board level including NED appointments - most notably for one of the UK’s FTSE 10 companies.

His style and approach as both mentor and search professional has given rise to the development of strong relationships with significant business leaders in a diverse range of markets.

Valerie Hughes-D'Aeth

Valerie Hughes-D'Aeth

Sector: Business

Current position: Group HR Director, Amey Group

Course: BCom, Commerce, 1981

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Valerie Hughes-D'Aeth

Valerie's career began in retail as a Graduate Trainee and subsequently Human Resources Manager at Selfridges. She then moved to the Netherlands and worked for EDS in a variety of HR roles including European Recruiting Manager and Northern Europe HR Director. After 4 years in the Netherlands, she moved back to the UK with EDS, and spent a couple of years as European Compensation and Benefits Manager before becoming UK HR Director and overseeing a significant growth in headcount through a mix of direct hire recruitment, TUPE and acquisition.

After 12 years with EDS, Valerie moved to Xansa PLC and during her time at Xansa as Group HR Director, led a major award winning HR transformation programme which resulted in a new HRO service line for the organisation. She also drove the company’s growth through acquisition and leading edge HR practices to 10,000 employees.

In 2007, Valerie worked with the Xansa Board on the sale of Xansa to Steria, a French listed IT Services organisation with 20,000 employees, and on completion of the sale was appointed Group HR Director of Steria with responsibility for the integration of the two organisations and the overall HR strategy supporting all employees across 16 countries.

After leaving Steria, Valerie joined Amey in March 2009 as Group HR Director and has responsibility for the Group HR strategy.

Valerie has a B.Com degree from Birmingham University. She also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management and is a Fellow of the Institute of Personnel and Development.

Outside of work, Valerie spends most of her time with her family. She has 3 children and can regularly be found supporting them on a sports field. She also enjoys keeping fit and exploring genealogy.

Jane Lodge

Jane Lodge

Sector: Business

Current position: Non Executive Director and former Partner – Deloitte

Course: BSc, Geological Sciences, 1976

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Jane Lodge

A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Jane is a non executive director and chair of the audit committee of FTSE 250 company, Devro plc. Jane was a partner in Deloitte from 1986 to 2011. She has extensive experience in advising global businesses in a variety of sectors including manufacturing, financial services, construction and house building.

As a partner, Jane held various senior roles at Deloitte. She was head of the Deloitte Manufacturing Group in the UK, leading the firm’s development of business with manufacturing clients and representing the UK on the Deloitte Global Manufacturing Executive Group, and she also held the position of Practice Senior Partner in the Midlands.  She was the partner responsible for the firm's UK assurance and advisory training and development, and also spearheaded a global learning taskforce which is now used as the de facto standard for development and implementation of global learning programmes which have been rolled out to offices around the world.  She was a member of the Deloitte UK Board of Partners for a 2 year term. 

In October 2001 Jane was awarded the prestigious title of Midlands Business Woman of the Year and three years later Jane received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Birmingham and West Midlands Society of Chartered Accountants for her services to the profession.  In 2006 she was nominated to the Manufacturing Power 50 by The Manufacturer magazine sponsored by Barclays. Jane chaired the Audit Committee of the University of Birmingham for 7 years and was a member of its Council for 9 years.  A former council member of the West Midlands CBI, she is a member of the CBI Manufacturing Council.  Jane is a Board member of the Black Country Living Museum.

Mike Welton


Sector: Business

Current position: Chairman, Premier Oil Plc

Course: BSc, Civil Engineering, 1968; Deng, Honorary Degree, 2008

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Mike Welton

Chartered Civil Engineer and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mike Welton graduated from the University of Birmingham with a Civil Engineering degree in 1968. He is currently the Chairman of Premier Oil Plc, an independent oil company founded in the Caribbean in 1934. Mike was previously Chairman of construction materials group Hanson plc, Chairman of support services provider Global Solutions Ltd and Chief Executive of international engineering and construction services group Balfour Beatty plc. Mike is also a non-executive director of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, a government organisation established to examine high speed rail to the West Midlands and beyond which will revolutionise rail travel in the local area.

Sarah Cox

Sector: Public sector

Current position: Head of Business Planning and Programme Management, London 2012

Course: BCom, Commerce, 1988

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Sarah Cox

Having studied BCom, Industrial Economics & Business Studies, International Banking & Finance, Sarah went on to spend ten years in Group Life Development for Commercial Union. In 2004, she moved to work in the Cabinet Office as Director of Strategy, Planning and Performance and worked at the very heart of government and the civil service for five years, until she moved to work for London 2012 planning the 2012 Olympics. Her role includes liaison with ministers and stakeholders, and she will be part of the Cabinet Office Olympics Secretariat Games time overseeing strategic operational issues .

Dr Rowan Hillson MBE

Sector: Health and social care

Current position: National Clinical Director for Diabetes

Course: MBChB, Medicine, 1974

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Dr Rowan Hillson

Dr Rowan Hillson graduated from Birmingham Medical School in 1974. It was to prove the beginning of an exceptional career in health which has seen her practice in Birmingham, Liverpool and Oxford before joining Hillingdon Hospital in 1989. Remarkably, Dr Hillson manages to combine her keen interest in clinical practice, training and development, and research with writing and she has published a number of books on diabetes and other subjects.

In addition to her current role as National Clinical Director for Diabetes, Dr Hillson maintains her role as a Consultant Physician in diabetes and endocrinology at Hillingdon Hospital to ensure that her work remains rooted in current clinical practice. She is also a Royal College of Physicians MRCP PACES Examiner and has worked with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for many years.

It is Dr Hillson’s pioneering work with people who have diabetes that has gained her the most international recognition and acclaim – work which began over 30 years ago as a junior registrar. As a senior registrar, she pioneered Outward Bound courses for people with diabetes. In 1989 she established the diabetes team in Hillingdon and led the project to develop the Hillingdon Diabetes and Endocrine Unit. This centre, named Diabeticare, gained an international reputation and in 1997 Dr Hillson and the team won the national Hospital Doctor Diabetes Team award. In 2006 she was awarded an MBE for contributions to medicine and healthcare.

In her current role as National Clinical Director for Diabetes – the “Diabetes Tsar” – Dr Hillson is responsible for helping to improve the care of the 2.4 million people with diabetes in England.

Baroness Doreen Massey

Baroness Doreen Massey

Sector: Health and social care

Current position: Chair, The National Treatment Agency For Substance Misuse

Course: PGCE, Education, 1962; BA, French Language & Literature, 1961

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Baroness Doreen Massey

Health education specialist Baroness Doreen Massey has been a Labour member of the House of Lords since 1999 and is a former teacher and education advisor, graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA in French Language and Literature and a PGCE in Education. She was the Director of Family Planning Association from 1989-1994 and has published a range of books and training resources on health and sex education. She is currently Chair of The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, a board member of UNICEF, a member of the national Advisory Council for Alcohol and Drug Education and President of the Brook Advisory Centres. Baroness Massey has campaigned for statutory PSHE and sex and relationships education, and chairs the all party group on children.

Tim Smart

Tim Smart

Sector: Health and social care

Current position: Chief Executive, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Course: BSocSc, Economics, 1979

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Tim Smart

Tim Smart joined King’s College Hospital as Chief Executive in November 2008. He had previously held the post of Managing Director, BT Global Services UK. Tim has had a successful 30-year business leadership track record, in a number of roles both in the UK and overseas.

Before coming to King’s, Tim was responsible for all BT Global’s business with the UK government and large enterprises in the UK, including the NHS. He has worked in the Middle East, the Netherlands and the United States. He also has experience as a non-executive director of a US-listed financial services company.

Tim is a director of GSTS, a pathology company; a founding member of the Partner’s Board of King’s Health Partners (one of five Academic Health Sciences Centres in England); a Governor of South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and a member of the Foundation Trust Network Board.

Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen

Andrew Vallance-Owen

Sector: Health and social care

Current position: Former Bupa Group Medical Director and Bupa Foundation Deputy Chair

Course: MBChB, Medicine, 1976

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen

Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen graduated from the Birmingham Medical School in 1976 and is currently Chair of the Guild Trustee Board. During his time at the University of Birmingham, Dr Vallance-Owen was President of the Guild of Students (1974/1975). A trained surgeon, he then joined the staff of the British Medical Association - he was Scottish Secretary and then became Head of Policy and a spokesman for both the BMA and the medical profession. Dr Vallance-Owen has recently retired from BUPA, where he was accountable for the safety and quality of care of BUPA’s 11 million customers. At BUPA he maintained his external profile; he is a keen advocate of improved doctor-patient communications, measurement of clinical performance and shared decision making. Dr Vallance-Owen will continue to be actively involved in the fields of healthcare and education and will also be promoting UK healthcare plc in developing markets overseas through his chairmanship of UK Trade and Investment's Healthcare Business Group.

Alan Davey


Sector: Media and the arts

Current position: Chief Executive, Arts Council England

Course: BA, English, 1982

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Alan Davey

Chief Executive of the Arts Council, English graduate Alan Davey is well known for his passionate advocacy of the arts and has worked at the Department of Health, the Department of National Heritage and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. He is responsible for designing the National Lottery which has created more than 2,600 UK millionaires since it began in 1994. The Arts Council England invests in artistic experiences, including theatre, music, literature, dance and photography, to enrich people’s lives. He was a visiting Fulbright scholar at the University of Maryland and recently received an honorary Doctorate in Literature from the University of Birmingham.

Simon Halsey


Sector: Media and the arts

Current position: Chorus Director, City of Birmingham Symphony Choruses

Course: DMus, Honorary Degree, 2008

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Simon Halsey

Simon Halsey is one of the world’s leading conductors of choral repertoire, regularly conducting prestigious orchestras and choirs worldwide. Halsey holds the position of Chief Conductor of the Berlin Radio Choir, frequently collaborating with such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado and Marek Janowski. He has been Chorus Director of the CBSO Chorus for over 25 years, and works closely there with the orchestra’s Music Director Andris Nelsons. He is in his seventh season as Principal Conductor, Choral Programme for The Sage Gateshead and works on numerous choral projects each season at the venue, including regular concerts conducting the Northern Sinfonia.

Recent projects for Halsey with the Berlin Radio Choir have included performances of Bizet’s Carmen at the Salzburg Easter Festival 2012 with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. He furthermore prepared the choir for Tallis’ 40-part motet Spem in alium and Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus, in a programme with Mahler’s Eighth Symphony which concluded Musikfest Berlin, as well as for Jonathan Harvey’s grand new work Weltethos, which received its world premiere under the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle in October 2011.

Highlights of Simon Halsey’s work in Birmingham during the 2011/12 season include Symphony Hall’s 21st anniversary concerts in June where he will be conducting the CBSO and its Chorus in Elgar’s final, deeply personal masterpiece The Music Makers. In April 2012 at the Sage Gateshead, Halsey conducted the Northern Sinfonia and Chorus in a programme featuring works by Bach, Mozart and David Lang’s I Never.

Other recent highlights for Halsey have included a major choral project at New York’s Carnegie Hall featuring Mahler symphonies conducted by Valery Gergiev. Halsey himself conducted the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne in performances of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, as well as guest engagements with the Bavarian Radio Choir, Netherlands Radio Choir and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

Halsey has worked on countless major recording projects, many of which have won major awards including several Gramophone Awards and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. In February 2011 Halsey received his third Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance for the recording of L’Amour de Loin by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, having previously won a Grammy in 2009 for the recording of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and a Grammy in 2008 for the choir’s recording of Brahms’s German Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Rattle.

In addition to the three Grammy winning recordings, Halsey has made four recordings conducting the Berlin Radio Choir: Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem recorded on Coviello Classics, XL, a disc of choral music including works by Tallis, Bach, Kodály and Harvey recorded on Harmonia Mundi; Christian Jost’s Angst and Simple Gifts, featuring works by Britten, Copland, Barber and Tippett, both on the Coviello label. With the CBSO Chorus Halsey has most recently recorded Julian Anderson’s Four American Choruses for NMC and English Choral Favourites for EMI.

Other landmark recordings include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk; Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on EMI, in a live recording with the CBSO Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle and Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with CBSO Sir Simon Rattle Dame Janet Baker and Arleen Augér on EMI. Simon Halsey’s book and DVD Master Class Chorleitung was published by Schott Music in 2011.

In January 2011, Simon Halsey was presented with the prestigious Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse, Germany’s Order of Merit by State Cultural Secretary André Schmitz in Berlin. This is in recognition of outstanding services to choral music in Germany, having positioned the Rundfunkchor Berlin as an internationally renowned chorus and also acted as an ambassador for choral music in Germany.

Phyllida Lloyd CBE


Sector: Media and the arts

Current position: Director of plays, opera and film including Mamma Mia! on stage and screen

Course: BA, English, 1979; DLitt, Honorary Degree, 2009

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Phyllida Lloyd

A leading British director and an English graduate from the University of Birmingham, in 2008 Phyllida Lloyd directed the UK’s highest ever grossing film, Mamma Mia, transforming her stage version, seen by a global audience of more than 45 million, to the silver screen. In 2011, she directed The Iron Lady, the award-winning biopic of Margaret Thatcher. Phyllida spent five years working in BBC television drama after graduation before winning a bursary from the Arts Council of Great Britain to be a Trainee Director at the Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich and a flourishing directing career followed, including staging the English National Opera’s production of Wagner’s Valkyrie at Glastonbury music festival. Awarded a CBE in the 2010 New Year’s Honours for services to drama, Phyllida is also a supporter of the University’s new auditorium build.

Cilla Snowball CBE


Sector: Media and the arts

Current position: Group Chairman and Group CEO, AMV BBDO

Course: BA, French, 1981

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Cilla Snowball

Group Chairman and Group Chief Executive of advertising and communications company AMV BBDO. French graduate Cilla Snowball has worked in advertising roles since leaving the University of Birmingham in 1981. Her career began as a trainee with Allen Brady & Marsh, before moving to Ogilvy & Mather as an Account Manager. She then joined AMV in 1992 and has held a senior management position for the past nine years at AMV BBDO, the largest advertising and communications Group in the UK. Named as the 50th most influential person in the media sector by The Guardian, Cilla was awarded a CBE for services to the advertising industry in January 2009. As well as sitting on the board of Business in the Community, Cilla became a ‘lay’ member of Council in 2010 and is on the Remuneration Committee.

Baroness Patience Wheatcroft


Sector: Media and the arts

Current position: Former Editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe

Course: LLB, Law, 1972

If you are interested in working with this mentor, you can apply now

More about Baroness Patience Wheatcroft

Former journalist and successful businesswoman, Baroness Wheatcroft graduated from the University of Birmingham with an LLB Law degree and went on to work on several national newspapers, most recently as the Editor-in-Chief at Wall Street Journal Europe. A prize winning reporter, winner of the Wincott Award for Senior Financial Journalism and London Press Club Business Journalist of the Year, Baroness Wheatcroft launched Retail Week, a specialist trade magazine in 1988, and is a former Business Editor of The Times and a former Sunday Telegraph Editor. She is a Conservative life peer, a visiting fellow at Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation and a member of the British Olympic Association Advisory Board. She is also on the Board of St James’s Place plc and Fiat SpA; a member of the UK Advisory Board of Huawei Technologies and of the Strategic Council at Pelham Bell Pottinger and is a Trustee of the British Museum.