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They’re the business!

They’re the business!


11 Jun, 2019

Last month, the second annual British Ex-Forces in Business Awards ceremony saw 900 business and military leaders gather for the world’s largest celebration of military veterans in business. As one of the Awards’ proud sponsors, QUEST is delighted to report on the events of the night and – above all – the 19 inspirational award winners honoured this year for their outstanding achievements in the workplace.

Each year, thousands of Service men and women leave the military, forming an attractive pool of talent in the civilian world. However, despite their years spent gaining skills and values that are transferable and valuable to businesses, transitioning and finding a place in the wider workforce can be challenging. While many hundreds of thousands have gone through a similar transition, Service leavers lack visible role models in business.

The British Ex-Forces in Business Awards programme aims to provide that visibility on a national scale by celebrating 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 Service men and women into second careers.

This year’s ceremony, which took place at the London Hilton on Park Lane, was the largest ever celebration of military veterans in business. The landmark event gathered business leaders, veterans, top employers and current serving officers to promote the significant value that ex-military personnel add to the UK economy.

The finalists were whittled down from more than 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 included 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 among others.

Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord 2013–2016 and head judge, 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’m proud to support them.’

The ceremony was 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. 

The ethos and values of ex-Forces people always shine through, and I’m proud to support them

Admiral Sir George Zambellas

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, has since raced in the BRITCAR Endurance Championship at Brands Hatch.

In her opening comments, 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. By showcasing the fantastic achievements of veterans in second careers, and the military skills and values that have enabled their business success, we can demonstrate to the world the huge value that veterans add to workforces and the wider economy.’

As well as presenting the much-anticipated awards, the event also raised nearly £50,000 for its military charity partners, SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity and the Officers’ Association, through an auction and a direct donation from the event organiser, social impact business Disruptive Media Group. 

Lt Gen Sir Andrew Gregory said: ‘We are proud to be the official charity partner of the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards. I congratulate all those nominated in the various categories, and especially those who collected an award; you should all be proud of what you have achieved or the support you are providing to veterans. The Awards are an excellent way to celebrate the linkages between the Armed Forces and businesses, large and small, and those who organised the process, culminating in a superb evening, have done a wonderful job. We are delighted that an amazing £39,000 was raised to help SSAFA continue its support to the Armed Forces community; on behalf of our clients, thank you all for your generosity.’

By showcasing the fantastic achievements of veterans in second careers, we can demonstrate to the world the huge value that they add to workforces and the wider economy

Susannah Streeter

Ben Rossi, CEO of social impact business Disruptive Media Group and founder of the Awards, added: ‘Role models are crucial in all walks of life, but visibility of veterans who have carved out successful second careers has historically been lacking. We knew there were a huge number of success stories out there, and by shining a light on them we can empower and inspire Service leavers, and educate employers on the value in this huge pool of talented individuals who leave the Armed Forces each year. It has been humbling watching this initiative grow so quickly and that is testament to the great passion people feel for the key message we promote, which is that there is a clear business case to employing and supporting the transition of Service men and women.’

The 2019 winners

QUEST extends its congratulations to all this year’s finalists, who are without exception fantastic business role models to Service leavers.

Here’s a full list of the winners:

  • Team Leader of the Year: Dee Appleton Cairns, Countess of Chester NHS FT
  • Innovator of the Year: Christopher Kenna, Brand Advance
  • Employer of the Year: Amazon
  • Inspiration of the Year: Tim Evers, Sapper Support
  • Military Virtues in Business Award: Rachael Stevenson, Serco
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Chris Gillan, Heroes Drinks Company
  • New Service Leaver of the Year: Matt Chapman, J.P. Morgan
  • Reservist of the Year: James Wootton, Agency Space
  • Rising Star of the Year: Darryll Boden, Eurostar
  • Outstanding Achiever of the Year: James Howarth, RS Components
  • Role Model of the Year: Ben Edwards, Facebook
  • Advocate of the Year: Gillian Russell, Amazon
  • Service Leaver of the Year: Nick Wadey, Hi-Line Contractors SW
  • Ex-Forces Initiative of the Year: Step into Health
  • Business Leader of the Year: Vern Davis, Sopra Steria
  • Champion of Women Award: Justine Hodgkinson, Advocacy Focus
  • Young Leader of the Year: Camilla Howard, Compass Group UK&I
  • OA Employer Recognition Award: TSG Marine
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard Dorney, Strongmind Resiliency Training.

To find out more about the Awards, visit Nominations for the 2020 Awards will open on 1 October 2019. Visit to sign up for updates.


The British Ex-Forces in Business Awards are sponsored by CBRE, FDM Group, Kuehne + Nagel, Galliford Try, Lloyd’s of London, the Officers’ Association, NTT Data, Santander, Savills, Sopra Steria and Standard Life Aberdeen. The media partners for the awards are BFBS, Real Business and QUEST magazine, while other supporters include Forces Recruitment Services, RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity, SaluteMyJob, Team BRIT and the White Ensign Association.

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