"Youth unemployment a big issue of our age" - Sir John Peace
SIR John Peace is a man of great modesty. And peel it away, beneath this highly successful businessman, is someone who is passionate about social issues. "Youth unemployment is one of the big issues of this age," he says.
A miner's son from the area, Sir John has risen through the ranks of corporate life to become the chairman of three top 100 FTSE companies – Experian of which he was a founder, fashion house Burberry, once a sibling company from the same GUS stable, and Standard Chartered Bank.
At the weekend, a service in Southwell Minster saw Sir John introduced to the Notts community as the new Lord Lieutenant of Notts.
Aged 63, he has come a long way from his coalfield comprehensive where he became head boy and a Queen's Scout.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Ask him about his roots and his private life and Sir John blushes. He almost flinches and apologies.
He is an intensely private person and interviews like this are uncommon. He does not seek publicity but knows they are expected in corporate life and have a useful role to play in promoting causes.
And Sir John has causes about which he is passionate, stemming in part from his upbringing in Shirebrook, near Mansfield.
His father broke his back in a mining accident and moved to work on the railways.
"It was a very humble background," he said.
Last year, as High Sheriff, he made Framework, the Notts charity for the homeless, his cause – helping to raise tens of thousands of pounds. Youth unemployment is another cause close to his heart – so close he has set up a charity to help.
He is leading the charity, Working for Youth (WFY).
"Young people must be given a chance, must be educated and must get training," he says.
Much of Sir John's work is done away from the glare of publicity. During his year as High Sheriff, he put a fund together for Framework to help create jobs for homeless people.
It worked and took him into Working for Youth.
"When I walked around St Ann's as High Sheriff and visited the police station where a lot of the troubles had occurred, the lack of hopes and dreams really jumped off the page," he said. "It really matters."
Sir John is evidently a man who is cool under fire. He is wise and is the man to have on your side in a corporate battle.
"I am very people focussed. I get on with people, I respect people.
"Team work matters far more than an individual does.
"In all of my businesses, anybody who doesn't work as a team doesn't last very long."
One person who has worked closely with Sir John described him as always intellectually curious and interested.
"It means he continues to grow as a human being and a leader of different organisations.
"He is always interested and interesting, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. He is known for being a wonderful mentor, a wise and kind counsellor.
"He wants to make the world, this country and our county a better place for all, and finds the time to really help.
"It isn't an act or a facade, it is genuine."
In a career going back more than 40 years, what has been Sir John's toughest decision in business?
Standard Chartered's clash this year with the US financial authorities must be high up there.
"Gosh, I've had a few crises over the years," he says.
"Look at Experian and the things we have gone through, growing pains, spending $3 billion in the space of two years to acquire American businesses, spending almost $2bn buying the Brazilian businesses.
"But what a fantastic success story Experian is today. It goes from strength to strength."
Today the fim employs more than 2,000 in Nottingham, 14,000 worldwide.
That success is down to Sir John and a team who created Experian, initially CCN, in the early 1980s.
"Working hard is a very important quality," says Sir John. "The work ethic is a key quality, why some economies do better than others.
"The work ethic in the UK is a lot better than we give credit for. That is a very important part of what makes someone successful.
"Usually, if you find someone has done well, you will find they work hard."
Sir John was a natural choice to become chairman of Nottingham Trent University between 1999 and 2009, in a significant period of change in its history.
He succeeded Sir David White who, with former vice chancellor Prof Ray Cowell, had taken it to university status from local authority control as a polytechnic.
The prospect of student fees, which meant students will shop around for their university, saw Nottingham Trent embark on an ambitious modernisation and refurbishment programme.
Sir John said: "Nottingham Trent University is a powerhouse and it had to continue to evolve when I became involved. Ray retired and I had to find a new vice-chancellor.
"I was keen to bring in someone who was a change agent.
"I brought in Prof Neil Gorman from the private sector. I worked with Neil to put in place a new strategy, a new way of doing business, looking at the courses we provided, making sure the students were employable, which is one of the great attributes of the university.
"What we did was simply make it extremely relevant to the new economy which was unfolding . The investment we have made in the campus is amazing.
"That was a big decision but look what we have done for the city."
Sir John also took on the chairmanship of the Nottingham Economic Resilience Forum set up to ensure the city was in a good position to take advantage of any economic upturn when it comes.
"I think Nottingham has a very good growth plan," says Sir John. "One thing we need to do if we are to get significant growth in the economy in the country, let alone the county, is export.
"The University of Nottingham is a fantastic brand in China and Malaysia where it has campuses. We should leverage it.
"The fact communication is made easy between China and Notts and that we have a clear understanding between students in those campuses is a wonderful opportunity."
Sir John had this message to politicians. "This is a time to come together. This is a time to put politics aside and say 'what can we do?'"
Sir John is a close family man who enjoys reading military history. During summer holidays, he will read two or three books "and that relaxes me a great deal".
Victoria, his youngest daughter, is making a name for herself in competitive dressage riding. "One of my great ambitions would be for her to compete for her country," he adds. "I would be very proud of that."