New Chair Ollie Smedley pledges to protect Transform’s legacy

Transform has welcomed a new strategic leader to its ranks. Ollie Smedley – formerly the Deputy Chair of Transform’s Board – has stepped up into the role of Chair of the Board of Trustees following Mark Austen’s recent retirement after six years in the role.

Following a 30-year corporate career as a finance director, managing director and latterly as an executive coach, Ollie brings with him a wealth of experience in leadership roles across complex, regulated, consumer and service-led businesses. He joined Transform as a trustee in November 2019, a time when he was keen to change tack on his career, enabling him to take on different challenges and give himself capacity to give back to the local community.

Since joining the Board, Ollie said he had been privileged to witness the transformative power that stable housing and comprehensive support had made in the lives of the clients served by Transform. “Our colleagues are ‘life-changers', pure and simple”, he said. “You only have to speak to clients who are the biggest advocates of the services they provide. They underscore the impact of Transform's work.”

Transform was operating in a complex and evolving environment, Ollie explained. “In light of navigating the significant headwinds on the horizon – including regulatory, economic and financial challenges – I believe the Board of Trustees has a pivotal role to play in helping set the organisation’s strategic direction and ensuring the necessary oversight to contribute to Transform's continued success,” he added.

During Mark Austen’s time as Chair, Transform had made rapid progress in developing the infrastructure needed to tackle the difficulties faced in the pandemic as well as to face future challenges head-on, Ollie said.

“It is easy to view significant changes to the organisational environment – such as further regulation – as barriers but they are also opportunities,” he suggested. “Thanks to Mark’s strategic leadership, and the efforts of Transform colleagues, we have, for example, already begun to bring clients much closer to what we do, including our decision making. As that’s the direction of travel for social housing regulation we already have a great platform on which to build.”

A core focus of Ollie’s leadership will be to further foster the culture of collaboration, within both the Board and Executive teams – something he feels passionate about. “I believe that one of the Chair's key roles is to help maximise the potential of Transform's people – both our frontline colleagues and those providing backup services – enabling us to continue supporting more than 1,700 homeless and vulnerable people each year,” he said.

Transform Chief Executive Lawrence Santcross said that in addition to his experience on the Transform Board, Ollie would bring valuable insights to the role of Chair garnered from his leadership background along with his unwavering dedication to helping clients.

“Ollie has held senior roles at the board level in various sectors and has also served as a trusted advisor, mentor and accredited coach,” he said. “On top of that, he now boasts four years of experience in the regulated housing sector and has a proven commitment to our purpose of enabling clients to thrive and lead independent and fulfilling lives.”

He had been a stalwart supporter of Transform throughout his time as a trustee, Lawrence added. “Last year we celebrated 50 years of transforming lives and I and my fellow Executive Team colleagues look forward to working with Ollie as we head towards the next steps in Transform’s journey.”

What was particularly exciting about taking on the role of Chair of Transform at this time, Ollie said, was that, despite facing many external challenges, the organisation was in such a good shape. “I’m so proud of how Transform has developed and grown during the past few years and this has always been with the client absolutely at the heart of everything,” he said. “I am keen to build on Mark Austen’s legacy to enable Transform to do even more of what it does so well in the future.”

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