Keynote Speakers

Rachel Bridges

Business Writer & SME Specialist

Former Sunday Times’ Enterprise Editor

Rachel Bridge is an author and the former Enterprise Editor of The Sunday Times, where she interviewed hundreds of successful entrepreneurs for her How I Made It column. She also examined key issues for SMEs in the paper's Small Business and Startup pages.

Rachel started out at the Investors Chronicle and the London Evening Standard as a business reporter. Moving to The Times she became Australia correspondent and then France correspondent, before moving back to business for the Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Times and then The Telegraph.

Rachel has written numerous books, including Already Brilliant: Play to Your Strength in Work and Life which shares insights on building the career that you want and setting yourself the right goals. As a seasoned performer, Rachel turned one of her books, How To Make a Million Before Lunch, into a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe. The audience were taken on a whistle-stop tour of what the world’s most successful people were doing between 5am and 1pm. Her second show Ambition, a humorous take on achieving goals, was also taken to the Fringe a few years later.

In speeches, Rachel focuses on everything - the pitfalls, mistakes, challenges, rewards and lessons experienced by every entrepreneur. She looks at the different requirements that make a company successful, whether it’s fostering ‘intrapreneurship’ in a large organisation or creating effective structures for a small new business.

Rachel is a seasoned performer. She turned one of her books, How To Make a Million Before Lunch, into a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe. The audience were taken on a whistle-stop tour of what the world’s most successful people were doing between 5am and 1pm.

Keynotes focus on the pitfalls, mistakes, challenges and lessons experienced by entrepreneurs. Audiences include existing and aspiring businesspeople, those who need to understand small businesses and those seeking to foster ‘intrapreneurship’ within large organisations.

Nicholas Piachaud

Head of Advocacy and Analysis

Varkey Foundation

Nicholas is the Head of Advocacy and Analysis at the Varkey Foundation, where he manages engagement with global education leaders and policymakers as well as the foundation’s portfolio of polling and research in over 35 countries. Nicholas also oversees the programming and speakers for the Varkey Foundation’s major advocacy events.

Nicholas is an international advocacy expert with over 10 years’ experience working for international NGOs focused on human rights and education, and has lobbied and spoken at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the OECD, the European Union’s Commission and Parliament, and the UK Parliament. In his previous role at Amnesty International, he frequently appeared in international media from Al Jazeera to BBC World, CNN and Sky News, was quoted in major newspapers including The New York Times, and wrote op-eds for Newsweek and the International Business Times.

Today, Nicholas’s work includes the development and management of the Varkey Foundation’s programme of advocacy for high-level policymakers and philanthropists. This includes managing the Atlantis Group, an international advisory body of 26 former ministers of education and heads of government which is working to address key issues in global education. In his previous role at Amnesty International, he also developed and managed international campaigns that drove tens of thousands of engagements and appeals across the world. He studied at the University of Oxford.

Johnny Timpson

Group Chair

DWP Disability Champion for Insurance and Access to Insurance Working

Johnny Timpson is Scottish Widows’ financial resilience and protection specialist, he has over 40 years’ experience across a variety of individual and group protection technical roles and distribution models.

He is currently the DWP Disability Champion for the Insurance Industry and Profession, Chairs the Access to Insurance Working Group and is a member of the Money & Pension Service FinTech and Mental Health Advisory Group. He is also a member of the CII’s Insuring Women’s Futures Programme Expert Advisor Panel and London Insurance Institute Inclusion and Diversity Committee. In addition, Johnny is a member of the Resilience Task Force chaired by Baroness Drake and also the Income Protection Task Force where he sits on both it’s Welfare and Building Resilient Households Working Groups. 

Johnny is a former chair of TISA’s Consumer Protection Policy Council and member of the ABI Protection Committee plus until its close, he was a member of the Seven Families Project team where he lead its corporate relationship work stream.

Yvonne Smyth

Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion


Yvonne is the Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Hays plc, with over 23 years professional recruitment experience.

Yvonne spearheads Hays’ commitment to being recruiting experts by ensuring that our major recruitment linked activities and insights are designed to positively promote and create more diverse workforces and inclusive workplace cultures. Working directly with customers, in partnership with subject matter experts, community groups, and through colleagues, Yvonne has been responsible for creating and curating a suite of resources designed to inform, support and enable our customers to progress their D&I linked commitments and navigate their careers.

Yvonne is the national specialism director for Hays Human Resources, the largest HR specialist recruiter in the UK. She is responsible for the HR national strategy within this high growth and pivotal specialism consisting of over 70 consultants across 45 locations. Yvonne is also the national specialism director for Hays Legal and Hays Company Secretarial, a team of over 35 experts across 7 locations.

Recently Yvonne was featured in the SIA 2019 Global Power 150 Women in Staffing list, which recognises the female leaders and influencers in the global market space. Prior to joining Hays, Yvonne initially trained and qualified as a litigation lawyer with international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

Jennifer Thomas

Head of Internal Communication & Experience DLG

Board Trustee Working Families

Jennifer Thomas has risen quickly to the top as a corporate communicator, having beentalent-spotted for rapid promotion at every company she has worked for. Currently, Jennifer is transforming the profile and reputation of Direct Line Group (DLG), now as Head of Internal Communications, Experience & Sustainability and previously as its Head of Financial

Jennifer is part of the Group’s Strategic Leadership Team, responsible fordeveloping the Group’s internal communications strategy, including employee engagement,
the incorporation of the employee value proposition and corporate brand as welldeveloping and executing a new corporate social responsibility strategy. Jennifer was
involved in the IPO of RBS orchestrated by DLG and the biggest stock market listing of 2012.Jennifer had a former career as a UK Championships 400m runner and hurdler for England.

Sharon Bishop

Chief Executive Officer

Close Brothers

Sharon is an organizational leader, with a proven track record of delivering transformational yet sustainable commercial results. Her breadth of experience in successfully harnessing cultural change, strategy and proposition development, and complex technology innovation have been honed over 30 years in the UK Financial Services industry - including retail banking, mortgage lending, commercial and consumer finance.

Sharon is the CEO of the Premium Finance business within Close Brothers Group plc, an FTSE 250 company. This position reflects a 15-year journey across a variety of businesses and roles within the Group

David Sparkes

Head of Compliance and Training

British Insurance Brokers’ Association

David has over 35 years of experience in the insurance industry and since 2002 has focused on insurance broking compliance. During that time David led a group's firms through authorisation, as well as providing technical compliance advice to a number of firms, from the international to the very small, on UK regulations.

David is able to bring a 'regulatory mindset' to his role at BIBA (which he took up in August 2013) having spent a number of years at the Financial Services Authority where he focused on insurance broker supervision.

Lisa Powis


Fintech enthusiast

Lisa Powis has worked prominently in the Insurance Industry for over 30 years winning many Industry awards. She is known for the role of founder and CEO of the Fresh Insurance Group, a multi-niched Personal Lines Brokerage with over 80,000 policyholders, writing over £60 million Gross Written Premium. After sixteen years of impressive trading, Lisa sold Fresh to the Vantage Group in May 2018. 

Lisa  maintains an active interest in InsureTech, disruptive technologies and sits on a two advisory boards, Iotatech and PremFina. She is also part of Scale Up Group UK, helping grow global champions and has recently mentored Technology organisations with the Accelerator Academy.

In 2016, Lisa founded the charity ‘Painting Our World in Silver, dedicated to fight loneliness in the elderly population

Dinner Speaker

Emma Hayes

Chelsea FC Women Manager

Chelsea Football Club

Emma Hayes was appointed manager in August 2012, replacing Matt Beard after his three years in charge, and succeeding in leading the team to Women's FA Cup for the first time in 2015, quickly following it with the Women's Super League title to complete a historic and memorable double. She was the only female manager in that league at that stage and the previous season her side had finished close runners-up, thereby qualifying for the Women's Champions League for the first time.

Having won the Spring Series in 2017, Hayes' side completed a second domestic Double of Women's FA Cup and WSL title in 2018. We also reached the semi-final of the Champions League for a second time.  

Hayes's career in management spans over a decade and she earned huge plaudits after leaving her native North London for successful spells in America.

Hayes joined W-League side the Long Island Lady Riders in 2001, for a two-year spell during which she was the youngest female head coach in W-League in history. She scooped the National Coach of the Year award in 2002.

This was followed by a spell at Iona College, where Hayes collected another individual honour, being named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Coach of the Year in 2004, before leading her side to the 2004/05 MAAC Conference Championships. She returned to English football in 2006.

Hayes served as assistant first team coach at Arsenal Ladies, as the Gunners achieved unprecedented success, winning 11 major trophies during a three-season spell in north London, including three Women's Premier League titles, three FA Women's Cups and the UEFA Women's Cup crown. Her role in the Arsenal backroom staff was combined with her position as Academy director, overseeing the development of young players at the club, many of whom currently feature in the Women's Super League.

After a trophy-laden spell in north London, Hayes headed Stateside once again in 2008, holding a series of managerial positions at clubs in the Women's Professional League, beginning with a spell at Chicago Red Stars. Her time in Chicago as head coach saw her assemble a squad of US internationals and established European names, combined with the cream of American college soccer talent. She was also director of soccer operations, building the club infrastructure into a sustainable, professional franchise before her departure in 2010.

After spells as a coaching consultant at Washington Freedom and technical director at New York Flash, Hayes returned to the UK in 2011.

Hayes was made an MBE in the Queen's 90th birthday honours list in June 2016 and was presented with it the following December.

She promptly led Chelsea to another trophy, the WSL Spring Series title in the first half of 2017, and in October that year she signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract. In May 2018, just as the Double was being completed, she gave birth to a son.