Corporate governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled. Discover how we apply the guidelines and principles put in place, ensuring that the Society is able to reach its goals and objectives in a way that benefits its members and stakeholders alike.
What is Corporate governance?
Corporate governance is a complex and wide-reaching field, but in its simplest form, it can be expressed as:
"... the system by which companies are directed and controlled" (Cadbury Report, 1992)
One of the most important aspects behind corporate governance is the relationship between "stakeholders" - for example, the Board of the company (or for the West Brom, the Society) and the shareholders (or for the West Brom, the members).
If a business is governed well, it will attempt to take account of the interests of all stakeholders - and, as far as possible, look for solutions which are in the best interests for all concerned.
This does not necessarily mean that decisions will always be welcomed by certain stakeholders - but the decision will at least have been thoroughly discussed by board members who are determined to act in the best interests of the business.
How does the Society apply the principles of Corporate Governance?
The Board is committed to high standards of corporate governance and believes they are central to the Society’s culture and values. The widely accepted articulation of good practice is the UK Corporate Governance Code (the Code). The Society is not required to and does not comply with the Code, as it applies to publicly listed companies, but where it is considered relevant, the Society does have regard to its principles.
The Society is run on a day to day basis by its Senior Management Team, and governed by a Board which consists of both Executive and Non Executive Directors. As part of their role as members of a unitary board, non-executive directors should constructively challenge and help develop proposals on strategy.
The positions of Chairman and Chief Executive are held by different people.The role of the Chairman includes establishing and developing an effective Board to provide support and constructive challenge to the management team. The Chief Executive has overall responsibility for managing the Society and implementing Board agreed strategy. This clear division of responsibility helps to ensure that no one individual has unfettered powers of decision-making and influence.
Why is Corporate Governance important to our members?
Simply put - because the West Brom looks after your wealth, whether it be savings or mortgages. As such, we always want to do the right thing for our members.
Corporate governance is a means of ensuring that doing the right thing is achieved through a clear and unbiased decision making process, and that deciding the “right thing” has involved taking account of relevant stakeholders.
We want to be able to demonstrate to you that we are taking the responsibility of looking after your wealth seriously - and by having high standards of corporate governance, this will enable us to do this.
As a financial institution, we are not just judged by our members, but also by other institutions that we deal with. These other institutions want to ensure that we are a trustworthy business partner. Showing that we are a trustworthy business partner enables us to achieve better business deals - which can then be used to benefit our members.
The West Brom takes corporate governance very seriously - and we see it as being integral to our decision making process (not some type of ‘add on’ or ‘box-ticking exercise’). We assess developments in corporate governance, and apply those which are relevant to the building society sector.
Meet our Board of Directors
Julie Hopes MBA, ACIB
Appointed April 2016
Julie has many years of experience in retail financial services, with a particular focus on general insurance. An Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, she has Non-Executive Director roles with Co-operative Insurance and the Police Mutual Assurance Society. Julie is a member of the Risk Committee.
Mark Nicholls MA (Cantab), MBA
Appointed January 2010
Mark has considerable knowledge of financial services having been a Director of SG Warburg Group Plc and Managing Director of the private equity group of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Mark has held Non-Executive Directorships at Portman and Nationwide building societies and is currently Chairman of Rathbone Brothers Plc. Mark also has a longstanding commitment to the charitable and public sector. Mark chairs the Nominations Committee and is a member of the Remuneration Committee.
Group Finance & Operations Director
Appointed April 2017
Ashraf has worked in financial services for most of his working life, including the positions of Finance Director and Joint Managing Director at the Islamic Bank of Britain and Director of Finance at Alliance & Leicester Plc. Prior to joining the West Brom, he was Deputy Chief Executive & Finance Director at Nottingham Building Society. Ashraf is also Deputy Chair of the PRA Practitioner Panel. Ashraf chairs the Society’s Assets & Liabilities Committee.
Mark Preston BA (Hons), ACIB
Appointed May 2011
Mark has been involved in financial markets for nearly 30 years, most recently as Chief Executive at Exotix Partners. He was previously Chief Executive Officer for the Products and Markets Division of Lloyds TSB and Co-Head of the Bank’s Corporate Markets. Mark is Chair of the Risk Committee and a member of the Audit and Remuneration committees.
Martin Ritchley FCA, FCIB, Hon DBA (Coventry)
Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Director
Appointed September 2009
Martin is a former Chief Executive of Coventry Building Society and former Chairman of the Building Societies Association. He chairs the Remuneration Committee and is a member of the Audit, Nominations and Risk committees.
Richard Sommers MA (Oxon), ACIB
Appointed October 2009
Richard is highly experienced in retail and commercial banking and held senior positions with the Barclays Group, including Chief Financial Officer for Barclaycard and Risk Director of Retail Financial Services. He has also been Treasurer and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, a college in the University of Oxford, before retiring in 2016, and is now an Emeritus Fellow. Richard is a member of the Risk, Audit and Nominations committees.
James Turner FCA, FCSI, BA (Hons)
Appointed April 2017
James is the Director of Group Finance at Prudential plc. Prior to Prudential, James was the Deputy Head of Compliance for Barclays. He also held a number of senior internal audit roles across the Barclays Group leading teams that focussed on global retail and commercial banking activities. James is a member of the Audit and Risk committees.
Colin Walklin BSc, FCA
Appointed July 2011
Colin is Group Chief Operating Officer of Standard Life Aberdeen Plc with responsibility for Operations, Technology and Change Management throughout the group. A qualified chartered accountant, Colin chairs the Audit Committee and is a member of the Risk Committee.
Jonathan Westhoff BA (Hons) Financial Services, FCMA, CGMA, ACIB
Appointed May 2009
Formerly the Society’s Group Finance Director and Deputy Chief Executive, Jonathan was appointed as Chief Executive in May 2011.
After 17 years with Barclays Bank, he moved into the mutual sector in 2000, serving as Finance Director at Portman and Newcastle
building societies. Jonathan is currently Chairman of the Building Societies Association and a Councillor on the CBI West Midlands
Council. He chairs the Executive Committee and is a member of the Society’s Assets & Liabilities Committee.
Matters reserved to the Board
This comprises matters which ONLY the Board can decide upon. These may be decisions which involve large sums of money, fundamental strategic decisions or decisions as to key personnel. These matters can be delegated by the Board (to one of the Board committees, for example) - but the Board must first consider the matter before doing so.
The Board is supported by a number of Committees each with Board approved terms of reference. Details of those Committees and their key activities can be found here.
Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking statement
The Society's Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement 2016/17 can be found here.
Accessing further information
You may find the following links useful if you want to find out more about Corporate Governance.