Aster Group strengthens board and committees with new appointments
Award-winning housing association Aster Group has made a series of board and committee appointments as it continues to strengthen its governance arrangements with senior figures from a variety of backgrounds.
The group, which has annual revenues of over £200m and a portfolio of 30,000 homes, has appointed technology entrepreneur and business adviser Michael McCullen as a non-executive director and Julie Kortens, an experienced board member and former head of corporate services at Channel 4, as an independent member on two committees.
Meanwhile, former housing ombudsman Mike Biles has been appointed senior independent director, succeeding Phillip Owens and three members who currently serve on Aster’s committees have been appointed to new roles.
The appointees are all senior figures drawn from both housing and non-housing backgrounds. The full appointments are:
• Clive Barnett has been appointed as a co-optee to the overlap boards and a co-optee member and chair of the group audit committee. Clive spent over 40 years at RBS, latterly as managing director and head of housing finance.
• Mike Biles, who was housing ombudsman for 13 years until 2014, has been appointed senior independent director. He previously chaired the group audit committee.
• Julie Kortens has been appointed as an independent member on the group risk and compliance and group remuneration and nominations committees. Julie is a non-executive director with HM Courts & Tribunals Service and shopping centre group Intu Retail Services. She spent over 20 years at Channel 4, including eight as head of corporate services
• Michael McCullen has been appointed as non-executive director to the overlap boards and as a non-executive member on the group risk and compliance and group remuneration and nominations committees. Michael co-founded and was managing director of project management software company Asta Development and was a group board director of AIM-listed construction software business Eleco plc (now Elecosoft). He is an adviser to private equity firms investing in tech and chairs a venture capital-backed tech start-up.
• Tracey Peters has been appointed as a non-executive director to the overlap boards and non-executive director on the group remuneration and nominations committee, of which she was previously a member. She continues to chair the committee of customer and community network. Tracey is an experienced former HR director in the retail, leisure and healthcare sectors and was previously senior independent director of Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
• Caroline Wehrle has been appointed as a non-executive director to the overlap boards and non-executive member of the group treasury committee. She will also chair the group risk and compliance committee, of which she was previously a member. Caroline is global risk and compliance director at Diageo, the FTSE 100 drinks company, where she is responsible for ethics and compliance.
Meanwhile, Sally Higham, who chaired Aster’s group risk and compliance committee and was a member of the group remuneration and nominations committee, and Philip Owens (customer and community network committee, group audit committee, group remuneration and nominations committee, senior independent director) have come to the end of their respective terms. Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (group risk and compliance committee) has also stood down from her role with Aster.
Andrew Jackson, group chairman of Aster Group said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Sally, Baroness Watkins and Philip for their service and significant contribution to Aster over many years. Their input and advice has been greatly appreciated by the executive team.
“I’d also like to welcome Michael and Julie to the group and congratulate those who have been appointed to new positions. These appointments are the culmination of a thorough selection process and underline our commitment to robust, best-in-class corporate governance. As with all of our decisions at Aster, the long term sustainability and continued growth of our business was foremost in our decision making.
“Our new members and appointees bring a balance of skills and experience in business-critical areas like risk, compliance and digital transformation. These will support our boards and committees in making mindful, informed decisions. It’s also important to us that they are drawn from different backgrounds and sectors, providing the experience, challenge and rigour to ensure we continue to provide reliable services and build more high-quality homes across a range of tenures.”
Aster’s strong corporate governance has been recognised by the Regulator for Social Housing with a G1 governance rating and a V1 viability rating. The group’s structure is modelled on the UK Corporate Governance Code, which sets out best practice for governance.
Aster has focused on increasing diversity of all kinds in its business. Earlier this year, the group, which has three women in its seven-strong executive board, supported Vote 100, a campaign that marked the 100th anniversary of the first women in the UK being given the vote.
Andrew Jackson added: “Increasing diversity is a challenge for boards across business. We are responding by building an inclusive and diverse culture and reviewing areas like recruitment to ensure our business is reflective of the communities we serve. This work is ongoing, and we have much progress to make, but it is something to which we are committed.”
In the year to the end of March 2018, revenues at Aster increased by 7% to £204.7m – the first time turnover has topped £200m. Pre-tax profits rose by 12% to £49.6m.