Hundreds of business leaders and British Armed Forces veterans gathered for the second ever Ex-Forces In Business awards ceremony at the London Hilton on Park Lane.
The British Ex-Forces in Business Awards celebrates the accomplishments of veterans across the UK workforce. The awards highlight the military skills and values that have enabled business success and recognise organisations that support the transition of servicemen and women into second careers.
Last night’s awards ceremony was a landmark event, being the largest ever celebration of military veterans in business, to promote the significant value that ex-military add to the UK economy.
The finalists were whittled down from over 400 nominations with the winners decided by a judging panel of military veterans, headed up by Admiral Sir George Zambellas, former First Sea Lord and now chairman of several companies.
Other judges include the CEOs of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin (UK), pathology service provider Viapath, governing body GB Snowsport and recruitment firm Staffline Group, as well as senior leaders from EY, PwC, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Cisco and Royal Mail to name a few.
Admiral, Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord between 2013-2016 and Head Judge for the Awards, said:
"I congratulate all those ex-forces men and women who, after many years focused on military delivery, have turned their hands so successfully to the business battlefield.
"Many of the skills needed are identical; leadership, fortitude, commitment and attention to detail.
"Some are new, especially in commerce and sales. But the ethos and values of ex-forces people always shine through, and I am proud to support them."
The awards were hosted by BBC news anchor and former RAF officer Susannah Streeter who welcomed keynote addresses from Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and a former army officer, and Lt. Gen. Sir Andrew Gregory, Chief Executive of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, and a former Chief of Defence People.
Throughout the evening, the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra played during the drinks reception, where guests enjoyed veteran-owned vodka and gin cocktails, while a party band had attendees dancing into the night.
Award presenters included naval secretary Rear Admiral Mike Bath, Air Vice Marshal Tamara Jennings, one of the highest-ranking women in the RAF, and two Chelsea Pensioners.
On proud display at the awards was the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 that Team BRIT, the first all-disabled racing team, will race in the BRITCAR Endurance Championship this Saturday at Brands Hatch.
In her opening speech, Ms Streeter said:
“Just one year on from its launch, the growth of this event has been extraordinary to the extent that tonight you are all part of the world’s largest celebration of military veterans in business. These awards are all about identifying new business role models for service leavers."
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, was the official charity partner for the awards, with the event raising nearly £40,000 for the charity through an auction and a direct donation from the event organiser, social impact business Disruptive Media Group.
SSAFA the Armed Forces charity is also the official charity for the event. Lt. Gen. Sir Andrew Gregory said:
“Congratulations to all of those businesses who were shortlisted for an award. SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity is very proud to be associated with this important event which celebrates veteran employment.
"As a former Chief of Defence People, and now Chief Executive at a charity which operates a mentoring scheme for service leavers amongst other vital services, I am very aware of the challenges that can be faced by service leavers during their transition, with employment a major challenge for many.
"It is very heartening to see so many employers acknowledging the skills and experiences of those who have served their country.”
TEAM LEADER OF THE YEAR
Dee Appleton Cairns, Countess of Chester NHS.
The judges chose Dee for her strong leadership in the NHS and her ability to transfer her military skills and values. Dee seeks out the strengths and potential in all members of her team and has a clear vision for how she can continuously improve the HR service within the Trust she works within to ensure her functions support the patient experience. The judges also highly commended Neil Winchester whose outstanding team leadership has driven rapid growth for his business unit within Dell.
INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR
Christopher Kenna, Brand Advance.
The judges praised Christopher for truly disrupting the branding sector with great innovation. He has carved his own niche and his company is experiencing impressive growth. Christopher’s efforts in the diversity and inclusion space are not only truly innovative but they are also bringing talent into the workplace that was unequally represented before such as BAME and LGBT candidates. The judges also highly commended Kevin Alderton for making a real impact and inspiring others.
EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR
The judges lauded Amazon’s very proactive veteran recruitment programme. Amazon is a great ‘enabler’ company, the judges said, and military veterans who work for them come away with finely honed commercial skills that benefit other companies too. Amazon has made targeting ex-servicemen and women as employees a clear and concrete policy. They set targets and exceed them, and the judges were also happy to see their support of military spouses.
INSPIRATION OF THE YEAR
Tim Evers, Sapper Support.
The judges were struck by Tim’s endurance and commitment. They praised his vision to create a unique helpline that saves people's lives, and his commitment, with a constant drive to help those in need. The judges also highly commended Craig Monaghan for his transition from a violent time in the military to running a strong community-based organisation.
MILITARY VIRTUES IN BUSINESS AWARD
Rachael Stevenson, Serco.
The judges noted clear evidence of Rachael taking the skills and military-based values that she acquired whilst serving and transferring them very effectively into commercial enterprise. Rachael has demonstrated leadership to her business area as well as immense drive, determination to succeed and a willingness to help others. The judges also highly commended Johanna Covell-Ritchie for her successful, hands-on approach to business.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Chris Gillan, Heroes Drinks Company.
The judges chose Chris as the winner for taking a risk and doing something truly entrepreneurial as well as something very different to what he did in the Armed Forces. They also praised his support of military charities through donating 20% of his profits. The judges also highly commended Ted Jones of Northcott Global Solutions for the impressive size, success and global reach of the business he has grown.
NEW SERVICE LEAVER OF THE YEAR
Matt Chapman, J.P. Morgan.
The judges were impressed by Matt’s attitude and the way he has modestly accelerated ahead of others. Matt began his post-military career in a junior role and has worked his way up diligently. Within two years he has risen from J.P. Morgan’s ex-military internship to balancing two extremely demanding roles within the company whilst also supporting its ex-military networking, recruitment and training. Matt is recognised as a rising star and an example to other service leavers.
RESERVIST OF THE YEAR
James Wootton, Agency Space.
The judges praised James’s commitment to his reservist responsibilities while operating in a demanding and pressured work environment. James has exceeded all expectations managing a crucial client and growing his agency’s remit, reputation and revenue whilst performing weekly reservist duties as well as a recent deployment to the Falklands. The judges also highly commended Alex Rennie and Malcolm McFarlane of FDM Group as brilliant ambassador for the forces.
RISING STAR OF THE YEAR
Darryll Boden, Eurostar.
The judges were impressed by Darryll’s journey from leaving the Marines with no formal qualifications to carving out a successful second career with great courage and determination. Darryll has made exceptional progress and achieved excellent results by applying the morals, process and ethos he learnt in the Marines. The judges also highly commended Rory Thompson for his great impact at Canadian Pacific Rail.
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVER OF THE YEAR
James Howarth, RS Components.
The judges praised James’s commitment to education, and in particular his outstanding and impressive switch from being a mechanic to being an educator. The scale of his success also impressed the judges, with 40,000 students engaged with in the last 12 months and over 100 volunteers recruited to inspire the next generation of engineers. The judges also highly commended Toby Gutteridge’s remarkable achievements in overcoming personal and physical adversity to start his own business.
ROLE MODEL OF THE YEAR
Ben Edwards, Facebook.
The judges selected Ben for his considerable efforts to be a great role model to other services leavers, working hard and selflessly alongside his day job at Facebook to help them in their transition journey. Ben has an unwavering enthusiasm for helping veterans. The judges also highly commended Ayub Kinyanjui of Knight Frank for acting as a strong example to other service leavers who leave the forces with a mountain to climb.
ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
Gillian Russell, Amazon.
The judges praised Gillian for her leadership of a very good programme of support for service leavers at Amazon. She consistently innovates and creates large events across the business to ensure service leaders are provided with every opportunity of employment at Amazon. The judges were also impressed by Gillian’s broader visibility in this area and how active she is in helping service leavers not just inside Amazon but outside too, with a wide, altruistic view on veteran support.
SERVICE LEAVER OF THE YEAR
Nick Wadey, Hi-Line Contractors SW.
The judges admired Nick’s inspiring story as an ordinary guy who has worked hard after being medically discharged from the Army and overcome adversity to succeed in civilian life. Nick has not only retrained and carved out a successful career as a tree surgeon but he has also raced and become a mentor for Team Endeavour Racing, which uses the sport of powerboat racing to aid veteran recovery.
EX-FORCES INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR
Step Into Health.
The judges selected Step Into Health for being an exceptional programme that is delivering clear success and is setting a real precedent. They praised the measurable results the initiative has generated so far and its practical rollout across the NHS, as well as its important role in achieving something bigger.
BUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR
Vern Davis, Sopra Steria.
In a very competitive field, the judges chose Vern for the huge business results and achievements that have been enabled as a direct result of his leadership. Vern is a truly transformational leader, the judges said, and has risen to the top of a challenging business while driving substantial revenue growth. Vern has not only achieved a great deal in business since leaving the forces but he is also a committed mentor.
CHAMPION OF WOMEN AWARD
Justine Hodgkinson, Advocacy Focus.
In a very close category, Justine was chosen as the winner for the culture transformation she has driven at Advocacy Focus and for her significant commitment to mentoring and advocacy. The judges noted the direct impact that Justine clearly makes on the people around her, as well as her ability to address issues that leaders in business are often too scared to talk about. The judges also highly commended Daisy Coleman for her inspirational story of overcoming adversity.
YOUNG LEADER OF THE YEAR
Camilla Howard, Compass Group UK&I.
Having left the Royal Air Force in 2015 following 11 years of service, the judges were impressed by Camilla’s ability to have already carved out a buoyant commercial career, and at a young age. She has transferred her military-gained leadership skills straight into building her teams up to reach their individual potential, and her military experience has also ensured she excels when under pressure. Camilla has progressed rapidly into a senior management role.
OA EMPLOYER RECOGNITION AWARD
Since first engaging as an employer with the OA in 2018, TSG Marine has implemented a highly successful military recruitment strategy that fulfils a project management skills shortage while raising awareness of the opportunities within the sector. With the help of the OA, TSG Marine has run six over-subscribed insight days and hired several former officers. The programme was established by Pete Eadon, a former officer who also secured his first civilian role with the help of the OA.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Richard Dorney, Strongmind Resiliency Training.
The judges were keen to shine a light on Richard as someone who has gone on a long and impressive journey, rising through the ranks and achieving success throughout his careers both in the military and in business. Following over 38 years in the regular Army, Richard has used his military skills to build a sustainable and growing business. The judges also highly commended Rod Brown for his outstanding entrepreneurial achievements throughout his career.