Top business leaders join new advisory group to aid region’s recovery

Liv Garfield

An advisory group comprising some of the most senior business leaders from across the West Midlands has been set up to help aid the region’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Chaired by Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield, the Regional Business Council (RBC) includes Gymshark founder Ben Francis, NEC Group CEO Paul Thandi, Coventry City Football Club owner Joy Seppala, and Birmingham Airport CEO Nick Barton.

Senior representatives from Jaguar Land Rover, Lloyds, Cadent, Eon, Aston Villa, National Express, PWC, the Rigby Group, Kier and Deloitte are also part of the newly formed council.

The group, which aims to champion regional businesses and help kickstart the West Midlands’ economy, will help support investment and innovation in the region, as well as encouraging businesses to improve social mobility to maximise opportunities across the region.

Garfield said: “As we emerge from this pandemic, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape and improve society. Regional businesses can play a key role in helping to achieve this ambition, by tapping into the talent we have on our doorstep. Job vacancies in our region are 59% up on pre pandemic levels and we must use every lever to help young people seize these opportunities.

“We believe returning to the office is a step in the right direction, now restrictions are being lifted. It’ll give people in the workplace – especially young people in the early phase of their career, that in-person mentorship, those all-important learning moments, and face-to-face interactions that will help them to flourish.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Our region has some of the best and brightest business leaders of anywhere in the world, and they will be critical in ensuring the West Midlands bounces back quickly and effectively from the pandemic.

“That’s why I have set up this new Regional Business Council, to give our senior business leaders the forum they need to discuss the ongoing economic picture in the West Midlands and advise the Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) on what further steps we could take to ensure a fair and inclusive economic recovery from the pandemic that has job creation at its heart.

“The RBC’s first intervention is also a critical one, as we know how important office working is both for our regional economy and people’s livelihoods. Here at the WMCA we have begun encouraging our staff back into the office, and I hope other firms will follow the RBC’s call and start doing the same.”

Chaired by Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield, the full list of Regional Business Council members is as follows:
Christian Purslow, Aston Villa Football Club, Chief Executive
Nick Barton, Birmingham Airport, Chief Executive
Dr Kate Grant, Cadent, West Midlands Regional Director
Steve Hughes, Coventry Building Society, Chief Executive
Joy Seppala, Coventry City Football Club, Owner
Jane Whitlock, Deloitte UK, Midlands Senior Partner
Michael Lewis, Eon, Chief Executive
Jo Smith, Fortress, Managing Director
David Fennell, Gowling, Chief Executive
Ben Francis, Gymshark, Founder and Chief Executive
Francois Dossa, Jaguar Land Rover, Executive Director
Andrew Davies, Kier, Chief Executive
Jo Harris, Lloyds Bank, Manging Director and Midlands Ambassador
Dr Clive Hickman, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Chief Executive
Paul Thandi, National Exhibition Centre Group, Chief Executive
Tom Stables, National Express, UK Managing Director
Carmen Watson, Pertemps, Chairman
Fleur Sexton, Pet-Xi, Chief Executive
Matt Hammond, PWC, Midlands Regional Chairman
Sir Peter Rigby, The Rigby Group, Chairman
Stuart Croft, University of Warwick and Universities West Midlands, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive