Board of Director biographies

Find out more about our Board of Directors' roles, background and experience.

David Webster

Chairman of the boardHeadshot of David Webster

David became a Director of the Society in May 2019 and was elected Chairman of the Board in June 2020. Having spent 27 years in the mutual building society, latterly as CEO of Hanley Economic Building Society. David chose a career switch in 2016 to become CEO of Douglas MacMillan Hospice in Stoke on Trent. His current role is to oversee the strategic development of one of the UKs largest independent hospices, founded in 1973 and now responsible for the palliative care of around 3,000 patients each year.

David is a former Treasurer at Keele University, a former Chairman of the Building Societies Association, and in 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Staffordshire University.

Age: 64

Jane Nelson

Chief Executive Officer/Secretary of the Order/Executive Director

Headshot of Jane Nelson

Jane joined the Society in 1995 as Financial Controller and joined the Board of Directors in May 2000 after being appointed as Secretary of the Order. In October 2007, she became the Society’s Finance Director. She was appointed as Chief Executive Officer in July 2012 after being appointed as Acting CEO in March 2012.

Qualifying as an Accountant in 1991, she is a Fellow of both the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants as well as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Prior to joining the Society, Jane worked in a variety of Finance roles in the industrial sector thus gaining a wide range of experiences. She has been a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD) for 10 years and during 2011, studied for and took the exams for the Certificate level and Diploma level of the Chartered Director examinations, both of which she passed with distinction.

In 2011, she was also awarded the IoD’s Institute prize for outstanding performance in the diploma examinations after achieving the highest examination score in the UK.

She was appointed to the Association of Financial Mutuals (AFM) Board in July 2013, the AFM being the trade body that represents Friendly Societies and Mutual Insurers and she was heavily involved in 2015 in the reforming of the new AFM which is aimed on focussing on the needs, aims and challenges of the small and medium sized Mutuals. She served as its Vice Chair from January 2016, and at the AFM Conference and AGM held in October 2019, she was elected as Chair of the AFM Board. In October 2022. Jane stood down from the AFM Board after serving the maximum time allowed of nine years.

In December 2020, she was appointed as a member of the Finance and Investment Committee of The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, a UK charity looking to help and cure people with allergies. Its main purpose being to fund and support pioneering allergy research bringing the greatest scientific minds together, working for treatments and better medicine.

She has been involved with the Manchester Unity Housing Association and the MU Pension Scheme since 1995 and has served as Company Secretary to both these organisations since 1998. She served on the Board and as Treasurer of the Manchester Unity Credit Union from 2000-2008 relinquishing the post of Treasurer in September 2012. Within the Society, Jane is an active member of the Combermere District Lodge serving as Provincial Grand Master (Prov GM) in 2003 and again in 2010, and has served on the Committee of Management for over 20 years and as a Trustee since November 2003. Jane is a keen reader and traveller (now she can, post-Covid) and enjoys spending time with her family including her six grandchildren.

Age: 57

Barbara Needham

Grand MasterHeadshot of Barbara Needham 2023

Barbara joined the Society in 1973 when she married Peter, a third generation Oddfellow. She was then a member of the Good Samaritan Lodge in Goole. Her father-in-law was Secretary at that time and Barbara took this job over in 1996, a position she held until the formation of the Vale of York District Lodge in 1998. She had previously been the Secretary of four different Lodges in the District from 1981, and saw them successfully amalgamate into the Good Samaritan Lodge.

She is now the Assistant Secretary of the Vale of York District Lodge, and as well as being the administrator of grants etc, assists in the preparation of the Accounts for the Auditor, and runs a variety of clubs and activities for the District Lodge.

She took her Purple Degree in 1980 and was Prov GM of the former York and Scarborough District in 1983, 1984 and again of the District Lodge in 2015. She has served on the District Committee of Management for 39 years.

Barbara has served on the Group Conference Executive for 10 years, five of them as Secretary, a position she still holds. She has also been the AMC Secretary twice at Scarborough.

Outside of the Oddfellows, Barbara is a retired Head Teacher of an Infant School having been in teaching all her working life. She has a variety of qualifications in education (including National Professional Qualification for Headship) and was responsible for running the school including budgets, policies, allocating resources and staff effectively for the benefit of 130 pupils. She enjoys photography, the outdoors, and socialising with her family and friends.

Age: 70

John Mann

DEPUTY Grand Master

Headshot of John Mann 2023John was enrolled as a Junior member of the Pride of Bermondsey Lodge at birth and was subsequently initiated into the main Lodge in 1967 at the age of 16.

He passed through the chairs of the Lodge and District, being Provincial Grand Master three times, a Trustee of the South London District for four years, and a member of the South London Committee of Management for 12 years. In this time, John also attended the AMC as a Deputy representing the South London District 12 times.

John has also served as a Lodge Secretary for both the Pride of Bermondsey Lodge in the South London District, and the Combermere Lodge in Stockport, where he served on the Lodge and District Committees of Management, represented Stockport once at AMC, was Prov GM and attended various LADGC meetings.

John also served three years on the Benevolence Committee and holds the CAMU qualification. Outside of the Oddfellows, John worked for 27 years as a Pollution Control Officer with the local Water Authority, as well as various jobs ranging from working for Stockport County F.C. and Sale Sharks R.F.C., to being a taxi driver.

At the onset of the pandemic, John was furloughed from his job as a taxi driver, and eventually accepted redundancy. John is now retired and enjoys spending time with his three daughters and seven grandchildren.

Age: 71

David Ogden

IMMEDIATE PAST Grand MasterHeadshot of David Ogden

David was enrolled into his District’s Juvenile Lodge at birth and subsequently initiated into the Loyal Fleetwood Lodge No 1992 on 30 November 1965. He passed through the Chairs of the Lodge and then the District, serving as Provincial Grand Master in 1978. He has served on the District Committee of Management for 26 years, 15 of them as a Trustee.

He holds the CAMU qualification and served on the LADGC Executive for 11 years, seven of them as Secretary, and subsequently 15 years as Honorary Auditor. He served six years on the Investigation Committee, four of them as Chairman. Prior to his election as a Member Nominated Non-Executive Director in 2017, he was a Unity Special Arbitrator. He was elected Deputy Grand Master at the 2019 AMC in his home town of Southport, and was elected Grand Master at the electronic 2021 AMC. In 2022, David chaired the AMC in Scarborough.

Outside of the Oddfellows, he was a Divisional Superintendent in the St John Ambulance and a Regional Group Chairman of the British Junior Chamber.

David worked in domestic banking for 26 years prior to taking voluntary redundancy. He then worked for his local authority in European projects prior to moving to the role of Business Support Manager in the Youth Offending Team on its inception in 2000. David is now retired and enjoys spending time with his wife, two children and seven grandchildren.

Age: 73

Tony Luckett

Member Non-executive DirectorHeadshot of Tony Luckett

Tony joined the Society in 1994 after a recommendation from an active Lodge friend. He took an active part from the beginning, joining his wife and two children during the next five months. Nieces and nephews, along with his grandson have also been made members of the Society.

Tony became interested in all aspects of his local Branch and has served in all Lodge positions. He took the purple Degree in 1999 and has been Provincial Grand Master three times. He has been a District Trustee since 1997 and was awarded the District Merit Jewel in 2008.

He served on the Midland Group Conference Executive for five years, including serving as Vice President in 2009, President in 2010 and Past President in 2011. During this time, he was elected to serve as a Unity Special Arbitrator (2007) and the following year, in 2008, he was elected to the Benevolence Committee, on which he served four years, two of those years being Vice Chairman. Tony was elected to the Board in May 2012 and was elected Grand Master of the Order at the 2017 AMC. He was appointed Chairman of the Remuneration Committee in
2018 and Senior Independent Director (SID) incorporating Whistleblowing Champion for the period June 2019 to June 2021 inclusive.

Tony is self-employed and has been for over 38 years and runs his own small building company, employing three people. Tony’s company is a Member of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), as was his father’s and grandfather’s companies before him and is registered with Trust Mark and Build Assured (Warranty Builder). He sits as the local Branch Chairman of the FMB for the third time, served from 2010 to 2014 as the Chairman of the Midlands Regional Council for the FMB, and served as the Midlands Regional Vice President 2010- 2014.

In April 2014, the Midland Regional Council along with other restructuring changed its name to Central Area Board and Tony was unanimously elected as its first President in April 2014 and was subsequently re-elected in June 2015 and April 2016 for a third term of office, and is now serving his third term as Past President.

He also served as a Director from 2004-2016 of the Manchester Unity Credit Union Ltd, serving as its President for six years. During 2018, he was elected a Director of Oddfellows Support Services Ltd and as a Trustee of the M U Pension Scheme, becoming Chairman in 2019.

Age: 63

Debbie Jex

MEMBER NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTORHeadshot of Debbie Jex

Debbie joined the Society as a Junior member of the Royal County Lodge in 1973 and later became the Lodge’s Noble Grand, as well as Noble Grand of the Reading Abbey Lodge following their amalgamation.

From 1993 until 2015, Debbie was Thames and Kennet Lodge’s Financial Secretary and she continues to be a member of its Committee of Management, as well as supporting the Lodge’s members as a volunteer Welfare Visitor.

In March 2015, Debbie became Reading District’s Prov CS after having worked part time in the District office since 2009. She became the District’s Provincial Grand Master in 2010, following a family tradition as her father held the same office in 1997, her mother in 1999 and her sister in 2011.

Since 2003, she has also been Secretary of the Jubilee Social Lodge.

Wider involvement in the Society has included her election on to the Southern Group Conference Executive Committee in 2013, where she was its President in 2019 and 2020, serving two years due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Debbie was elected on to the Benevolence Committee in 2014 for eight years, becoming Chairman in 2018. She was elected as a Member Nominated Non-Executive Director in 2022.

Debbie received a CAMU qualification in 1996, passing with Distinction, her Purple Degree in 1999, and in 2019 she was awarded both District and Lodge Merit Jewels.

Outside of the Society, she enjoys spending time with her family and five grandchildren, socialising with friends, gardening and bowling.

Age: 62

Dr Karen Rose

MEMBER NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTORHeadshot of Dr Karen Rose

Karen attended the University of Leeds where she gained a BSc degree and PhD in Chemistry. She then worked for 10 years as a Forensic Specialist in Gunshot Residue for the Forensic Science Service (2002 to 2012). Her main role was reporting complex casework and providing witness testimony in criminal courts throughout England. Following redundancy in 2012, Karen volunteered for a charity, Imago Community, before becoming employed as the Finance Assistant and later Hub Manager where she managed the staff and work on the Young Carers and Care Navigator helplines.

Karen joined the Oddfellows in 2007, when she took over as joint Social Secretary of the Earl of Cottenham Lodge, part of the Tunbridge Wells District Lodge, when her father retired after over 60 years of service. Both Karen’s grandfathers were members and Secretaries of their Lodges. In 2017, Karen was employed as Prov CS of the Tunbridge Wells District Lodge and has been a Deputy to AMC since 2018. Karen was an executive of the National Federation of Administrative Officers for one year. She has served on the Metropolitan Group Conference since 2018, with one year as an Executive Officer before becoming their Secretary in 2019. Prior to being elected as a Member Nominated Non-Executive Director in 2022, Karen was a Unity Special Arbitrator.

Outside of the Society, Karen has been a District Treasurer in East Grinstead for Girlguiding UK since 2007 and is a Unit Helper for two Rainbow units (girls aged five to seven years old) and also helps out at local Brownie and Guide camps. In addition, she has been a member of the Parochial Church Council at her local Church since 2010 and served as Church Warden from 2015 to 2021.

Age: 49

Alex Walker

MEMBER NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTORHeadshot of Alex Walker

Alex has been a member of the Society for more than 25 years, serving on North Gloucestershire District Lodge’s Committee of Management for 10 of these.

He is currently the District’s Development Officer, a role held since 2012, he has been Provincial Grand Master for his District and he has served as an AMC Deputy for eight years.

He has a strong member recruitment record and, in 2017, he was awarded the Oddfellows' prestigious Silver Gilt Recruitment Jewel.

Outside of the Oddfellows, Alex has been a Director of Unity Credit Union Ltd for over four years, managing its recent rebrand, social media activity and new website build.

Previous to his role at the Oddfellows, Alex worked for nine years in the insurance sector for TWG Services, achieving first place in the company’s Lean Six Sigma project and innovating several ideas that were adopted into practice.

He has also worked in the Trade Union movement for UNISON, driving member recruitment in Gloucestershire.

Alex has 13 GCSEs, a BND in ICT practitioners and system support, and numerous qualifications relating to security services.

In his free time, Alex enjoys travelling as well as cooking.

Age: 35 

Sheila Martland

MEMBER NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTORHeadshot of Sheila Martland

Sheila is a member of Ormskirk and Southport District Lodge and has a wide range of experience in supporting the Society at many levels.

This has included as Noble Grand and Social Lodge Secretary, and at a District level as a Provincial Grand Master. She has also served on the District’s Committee of Management for 20-plus years, including as a Trustee for two years, and as a Deputy at AMC and at Group Conference Meetings. Wider involvement includes serving on the Executive of the Lancashire and District Group Conference (LADGC) from 2005 and serving as its President for one year. Since 2019, she has been the LADGC’s Secretary.

Since 2020, Sheila has been a Director on the Unity Credit Union Board.

Sheila retired from her professional career in teaching and youth work in 2019, having held roles as a Teacher of Geography, a Youth Work Manager and Service Manager for Targeted Services within Children’s Services. She has also been a Primary and Secondary School Governor.

Age: 68

Keith Ashcroft

Finance DirectorHeadshot of Keith Ashcroft

Keith joined the Society in December 2022 as an Executive Director and Commercial Board member.

Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 1994 with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW), his career has been spent largely in the financial services industry. He has worked in commercial and investment banking, commodity markets and family office investment and wealth management, with the last five years having been spent in the mutual friendly society space.

He is an experienced Finance Director and Board member having held such positions over the last 10 years.

Outside of the Oddfellows, Keith enjoys playing tournament Bridge, participating in both national and regional events held across the UK. He has represented both Kent and Lancashire in County competitions.

Age:54 

Bill Connolly

External Non-Executive DirectorHeadshot of William Connolly

Bill joined the Board in May 2007 as an External Non-Executive Director. As part of the revised governance arrangements that were agreed at the 2018 AMC, he was appointed as Chairman of the Board, a position which, in agreement with the Society’s Regulators, came to an end in June 2020. He also serves on the Commercial Board, the Governance Committee and the Remuneration Committee, having chaired the latter two Committees prior to the changes brought about at the 2018 AMC.

Bill spent all of his working life at Royal Liver Assurance. He was appointed Assistant Secretary in 1999 and was invited to join the Society’s Executive Team at that time. In 2003, he was appointed as Group Secretary and he also occupied the post of Secretary to all of Royal Liver’s Subsidiary Companies and the Pension Trustee Companies. Bill became Royal Liver’s Chief Executive in January 2010 until he retired on 30 September 2011 following Royal Liver’s transfer of engagements to Royal London.

Whilst working for Royal Liver, Bill was involved at a senior level in the Association of Friendly Societies, the Association of Mutual Insurers and the Association of Financial Mutuals. He is also a former President of the Insurance Institute of Liverpool.

Age: 67

Peter Darragh

EXTERNAL NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTORHeadshot of Peter Darragh

Peter joined Oddfellows Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee in 2021, having been co-opted to this role as a result of the transfer of engagements of the Kingston Unity Friendly Society (KU) and was duly elected as a Director of the Oddfellows at the 2021 AMC. Peter previously spent 11 years as a Non-Executive Director at KU, holding various positions during his tenure there, including Chairman for four years.

Most of Peter’s career has been spent as a lawyer working at senior levels in both private practice with a regional and a ‘magic circle’ law firm (respectively) and in-house for a financial
technology and an insurance/investment company. His main current role is as principal consultant for a legal and technology risk consulting firm, working with clients across a broad range of industries and jurisdictions. He also provides investment consultancy to a family office and has roles with various charities in Belfast which focus on community regeneration and address issues relating to deprivation.

Peter has a young family and enjoys sports, and currently serves as Vice-Commodore of County Antrim Yacht Club.

Mike Perry

External Non-Executive DirectorHeadshot of Mike Perry

Mike is a Financial Services Executive and Non-Executive with a proven track record in business start-ups and turnaround, and has extensive understanding of risk profiling key strategic corporate decisions within a regulated environment.

He holds significant experience within the financial services industry and has FCA-approved person status operating at board level. Mike is a highly effective relationship builder internally and externally with an outstanding track record of delivering results. He has excellent knowledge of all areas of board requirements, including Business Development, Marketing, Corporate Governance, Corporate Planning, Operations, Finance, Risk and Budgeting.

Mike was the CEO at specialist insurer PG Mutual from 2011 until the end of 2021 and now runs his own consultancy firm, Mutual Respect.

Outside of work, Mike enjoys a round of golf, motorsport, socialising and walking in the Lake District with his wife, Sue. He is also a volunteer at The Lister Hospital in Stevenage offering peer support to pre and post renal transport patients.

Age: 61

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