Meet the people behind Aster

The Overlap Board

  • Bjorn Howard Executive director, Group CEO

    Bjorn became Aster Group’s CEO in 2009 and has been instrumental in driving growth. He led Aster’s successful merger with Synergy Housing in 2012 increasing the group’s housing business to over 28,000 homes.

    Bjorn has worked in the housing, care and support industry for over 25 years and has extensive board-level experience in both executive and non-executive roles. He has served as a non-executive director for an NHS Trust, educational organisations and as a government appointee on a housing association board.

    Bjorn holds a master’s degree in management and is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and Chartered Management Institute. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Directors.

    Committees: Customer and Community Network

  • John Brace Group resources director

    A chartered accountant, John joined Aster in 2000 as finance director for Sarsen Housing Association. Since then he has been involved in the creation of Silbury Group and Aster Group as well as several mergers, most recently, the successful merger of Synergy Housing with Aster in 2012. He has also led many successful funding initiatives including Aster’s first bond issue in 2013.

    John is chair of the National Housing Federation’s Regional Committee in the South West. He is also vice chair of Cottsway, a housing association based in Oxfordshire.

  • Andrew Jackson Group chairman

    Andrew brings an extensive knowledge of financial affairs, risk management, internal control structures and performance monitoring to the role of chairman. He has served on the Overlap Board and chaired the Group Audit and Group Risk Committees.

    A chartered accountant, Andrew has held executive and non-executive directorships in a number of industries including energy and construction working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority and Alfred McAlpine.

    He has previously served on Aster Group’s property maintenance and asset management division board.

    Committees: Group Treasury Committee, Group Remuneration and Nominations Committee.

  • Phillip Owens Non-executive director, senior independent director

    Phillip is a solicitor and until his retirement, was a director, company secretary and senior management consultant for two consultancy firms serving the housing and public sector. During this time he played a leading role in the transfer of housing stock helping to create over 20 new housing companies and management organisations.

    In local government Phillip has had departmental responsibility for legal, human resources, corporate governance and direct services in local authorities in London and the South East. He was chief executive of top performing Kennet District Council and has held non-executive posts as a director and Audit and Risk Committee chair of the former NHS Trust Wiltshire and Swindon.

    Phillip has been chair of Aster’s Property Division and the Governance Review Steering Group.

    Committees: Customer and Community Network, Audit Committee, Remuneration and Nominations Committee.

  • Mike Biles Non-executive director

    Mike has a doctorate in law and was housing ombudsman for England for 13 years until 2014. This role has given him an extensive understanding of all aspects of rented housing from complaint handling and dispute resolution to customer service, support and building good relations between providers and customers.

    Mike has taught Land Law, Landlord and Tenant Law and Housing Law extensively. He has also published articles in this field and has chaired and spoken at numerous industry-related conferences.

    Mike is a visiting professor in law at Southampton Business School where he has also held the post of Head of the School of Law. He has been a lawyer member of the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and a member of the management committee of a registered social provider.

    Mike is an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Housing. He was a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

    Committees: Chair, Group Audit Committee, Co-opted member of the Customer and Community Network, Group Risk and Compliance Committee, Remuneration and Nominations Committee.

  • Sally Higham Non-executive director

    Sally is a multi award-winning social entrepreneur and CEO of the early stage social venture, RunAClub.com.  She has considerable experience in supporting new ventures and building strong strategic advisory relationships at a national level across public, private and third sectors undergoing change processes.

    Sally is a social strategist committed to supporting communities, education, youth services, charities, social enterprises and social housing to grow.  She delivers keynote speeches on both using technology to create social change and social entrepreneurship and has formed a networking forum (Championing Women) of male and female leaders across multiple sectors, to support women in their careers.

    In her additional role as Non Executive Director for Bromford Housing Group Board, Sally is a member of their Audit and Assurance and Remuneration and Nominations Committees.  She is also the current Chair of the Impact Management Steering Committee led by Access, the Foundation for Social Investment and has also been Chair of ASK, a Wiltshire parenting charity.

    Committees: Chair, Group Risk and Compliance Committee, Group Remuneration and Nominations Committee.

  • Andrew Kluth Independent member

    Andrew is a career finance professional specialising in the Treasury arena. He has held a number of senior roles, primarily in the debt finance function within British Gas, Vodafone and National Grid and is currently Head of Treasury at UK Power Networks. In his early career Andrew helped finance Eurotunnel before working on the demerger of Centrica from British Gas and the separation of the Gas Distribution Networks from Lattice Group.  Andrew has worked on several large acquisitions globally including Mannesmann at Vodafone and Keyspan Corp at National Grid. 

    Andrew has held a number of other non-executive posts including as a director of Aerion Fund Management and roles relating to his work as a trustee for various pension schemes.

    Committees: Chair Group Treasury Committee.

  • Steve Trusler Non-executive director

    Steve is the accommodation sector leader at Laing O'Rourke where he is responsible for leading the Group’s strategy and business growth in the residential market.

    Steve previously held senior roles with major housing companies: Wates Living Space, Alfred McAlpine and Lovell.

    With over 30 years’ experience in housing, he is a passionate supporter of innovation and is committed to ensuring housing supply and affordability remains high on the Government’s political agenda.

    He is a governing board member of the Chartered Institute of Housing and a member of the Greater Manchester Planning and Housing Commission.

    Steve is a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and a distinguished member of the Chartered Institute of Housing

    Committees: Chair of the Remuneration and Nominations Committee.

  • Mary Watkins Non-executive director

    Mary was made a life peer, Baroness Watkins of Tavistock, in 2015. She has worked in community, in-patient mental health and acute settings, providing emergency and non-emergency healthcare since qualifying as a general nurse in 1976.

    A professor of nursing and currently emeritus professor at Plymouth University, Mary has also held positions as the university’s dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Work, pro vice-chancellor (health), and deputy vice-chancellor.

    She has been published widely in the field of nursing education and leadership, was inaugural editor of the Journal of Clinical Nursing, and represented the nursing profession on a range of Department of Health working parties. She is also nurse advisor to the BUPA Medical Advisory Panel.

    Mary has also held trusteeships in mental health charities, been chair of two academy schools, and carried out non-executive work for a housing association. She has taken a keen interest in the development of the Housing and Trade Union Bills since her appointment to the House of Lords.

    Committees: Risk and Compliance Committee.