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Mark Holford

Mark Holford trained as a solicitor and worked in two practices before joining Thomas Miller as a claims executive and underwriter in 1978. He worked closely with the company’s IT Director to develop applications using pc and minicomputer technology. He helped to build Thomas Miller’s reputation as a leader in the use of IT in insurance.  He was the first person in his firm outside the IT department with a pc on his desk. He used Borland software to build spreadsheets for the company where he worked for 36 years. He can, says his wife, spot when the results of a calculation are wrong rather than just trust the technology. He is constantly searching for new applications for IT.

John Wallace

John Wallace helped automate the first branch of what was to become NatWest and led IT functions in the bank at the cutting edge for over 30 years. John joined National Provincial in 1951 after leaving school at the first opportunity, with a clutch of “pretty miserable O levels” and learned the trade stoking the boiler and taking spare cash to the Post Office accompanied by a colleague and a truncheon. Ten years later he was one of four staff working with Ferranti on a Pegasus serving five branches in London, After taking charge of systems development in the merger with NatWest in 1968, John ran subsidiary organisations providing services including archiving and payroll back to banks and other businesses as well as developing new products and introducing new technologies. Amongst his many firsts he includes the implementation of the world’s largest DB2 system, which uniquely provided the bank with a totally integrated view of each customer’s relationship with NatWest. John gave up banking 28 years ago as head of Group IT. Since them he has held multiple positions, including Chairman of CIO Connect. One of his most challenging roles was Honorary Treasurer of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, which earned him a standing ovation at his last Court meeting.

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Dr Rebecca Harding

Entrepreneurs want to change things all the time. So says Dr Rebecca Harding, economist and serial entrepreneur. Rebecca’s career has certainly involved breaking traditions and rattling cages. “I’ve always been a self starter who knows my own mind and has a clear sense of direction in my education and career,” she says.

When her comprehensive school did not offer A’ level German she joined lessons at the local boys’ grammar. Participating in drama clubs and student productions has also helped her throughout her professional life, she says. At Sussex University Rebecca gained a BA in Economics with German. The interdisciplinary nature of the course has proved very helpful in business life, she says. “It enabled me to study politics, philosophy, economics, sociology and international relations.”

 After taking a doctorate in Technology and HR, she began working in academe, which she describes as “a brilliant training for entrepreneurship because academics spend their time generating ideas and thinking of ways to solve problems.” At London Business School, Rebecca ran the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor — a survey of entrepreneurship worldwide. It helped her understand the power of data in helping people and driving success.

 In 2007, Rebecca founded her first company, Delta Economics, and began analysing why people start businesses and the challenges they face achieving growth. Her research showed that their motivation “is more about solving problems and innovating than making money.” It led to her second start-up, Coriolis Technologies, formed in 2017 to provide trade and trade finance data and analytics for the trade finance sector.

“Global trade is worth $21 trillion a year and the value of trade finance is between $15tn and $17tn: 90 per cent of it is still paper-based,” she says. “Digitising global trade is a huge opportunity.”

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Jeremy Brassington

The early experience of rejection gave Jeremy Brassington a drive which led through impressive exam results to studying chemistry at Oxford. Despite a well-received thesis on blood proteins, he found academic research unappealing, and instead qualified as an accountant.   Describing auditing as “the dullest subject on earth” he turned to banking, eventually focusing on tech venture funding and turning around failing businesses such as Oxford Molecular. “It taught me how not to run a business,” he says.

In 2003, Jeremy moved into Assistive Technology, redesigning an assistive listening device for the hard of hearing. Having had learning difficulties himself, he realised could help students with dyslexia, language problems and other disabilities.  “It was the first time I had run a business that was doing good,” he says. He managed it for the next 15 years, launching in 30 markets worldwide.

In 2019, Jeremy founded Habitat Learn, an Edtech group which combines automated note-taking and transcription with a smartphone app that helps disabled students take notes in lectures and is now pioneering digital education for all students. He hopes it will become a unicorn.

Andy Phillipps

Andy Phillipps was co-founder of Active Hotels in 1999, a start-up which became the largest online booking company in Europe.  Since then, he has become an angel investor, with many successful ventures and exits and has taught at Insead, the London Business School and Stanford.

Originally a material scientist with a PhD, and evidently formidably bright, Andy shares insights in a modest and charming style, addressing how to select investment opportunities, what CEO’s need from their angels and the difference between making decisions in science and business.