David Pascall CBE
BSc Chemical Engineering, 1970
Retired with non-executive directorships
Everything which subsequently happened to me in a varied and successful career, in both the private and public sectors internationally, stemmed from my time at Birmingham University. I worked for BP for 25 years; first as a refining engineer including, as a commissioning engineer and Operations Superintendent in Hamburg, and then after BP sponsored me on the MBA course at INSEAD in France.I worked in a variety of senior positions in oil trading and finance before managing the major cultural change programme for the incoming chairman in 1990.
Whilst employed by BP I was seconded in 1982-84 to Lady Thatcher's Policy Unit in 10 Downing Street and subsequently chaired the National Curriculum Council for the UK Government in 1989/91. After BP and a number of other jobs, including Finance Director for Sir Rocco Forte in his hotel comeback, I moved into private equity for 8 years managing Guy Hands’ Terra Firma Captal’s office in Frankfurt. We did a number of deals including buying 280,000 flats and the whole German Motorway Service Station network.
Since retiring in 2008 I have held a range of non-executive chairmanships and directorships in health and education. Today I chair the mental health charity, Mind in Haringey, and a solar energy/hydrogen company in Portugal – an excuse to play golf in the Algarve.
What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
I studied chemical engineering at Birmingham and later, when I was 30, gained an MBA at Insead. My time in Government also complemented my mainstream business career. This wide experience enabled me to take on a fascinating and varied portfolio of directorships to keep me busy and fulfilled in retirement. These have ranged from serving on a hospital trust, to chairing a solar energy company. Chairing a mental health charity and giving back to people with mental health problems is particularly rewarding.
What was the best thing about your time as a student here?
The friendships and personal development which a university education at Birmingham gave me. I was also very active in union life and was Business Editor of the magazine Mermaid.
In what way did living and studying in Birmingham live up to your expectations?
I did not know what to expect and Birmingham was a rite of passage which enabled me to come of age. Mixing with people from north and south; with grammar school boys and public schools; through two years in Lake and Wydrington halls of residence gave me great experience for the future.
Did coming to the University of Birmingham change your life in any way?
Completely. As a student I was independent and personally responsible for everything which happened to me for the first time. The experiences above equipped me for life.
What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme?
Enjoy all the opportunities both academic and particularly social and personal open to you at Birmingham. Being a part of a campus university, with a network of halls of residence, is the ideal way to be a student.
Wise outlook from David...
“I have always been grateful for my education and personal development at Birmingham which compared favourably with others' experience at Oxford and Cambridge.”